Posts Tagged Harry Potter
Today, a friend of mine was hashing over a story idea with me for a novel he wishes to write in the near future. Without giving away much of anything, there’s a part where the protagonist, after facing a tragic defeat in love, begins to imagine various alternate scenarios where he might come off as the winner. While the protagonist is aware that these various attempts to change his fate are imagined, he is unable to distance himself from the illusions. I, in my turn, threw in Dumbledore’s dialogue from the King’s Cross scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Dead silence followed this ejaculation from the other end of the line. My friend has not read the HP books and, if he has seen the movies, it was probably without much reflection. I try not to hold this against him.
I went on to explain to him, “Perception is reality. How you perceive things adds to your experiences, which is what shapes you. If your character should imagine various alternate scenarios in search for romantic success and continue to fail, can it not add to his growth even if the incidents didn’t really happen?”
He seemed to like the concept very much and we discussed it further. I mentioned to him the Wickham-Darcy controversy in Pride and Prejudice [another classic he has not read but I don’t complain] and described the scene where Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter, discovers Wickham’s true nature, and realizes what a gross error in judgment she has made. And her epiphany is not in the clarity she receives in finally learning what a villain Wickham is but in learning her own failing. That she had let a bruised ego direct her away from properly assessing Wickham’s abuse of Darcy. That her pride in the ability to discern the characters of others was not as deserved as she had assumed.
“But the crux of this conflict is,” I explained to my friend with the level of excitement I always feel when discussing Austen’s works, “if Elizabeth had not initially got her evaluation of Darcy so wrong, would she have learned to appreciate his goodness as strongly as she did later? Maybe if she perceived reality correctly the first time – if she had always known the truth – he would be just another rude guy but who has his heart in the right place? Maybe reality alone was not enough to make her fall in love with him? She needed to experience the lie to become fit to love him. Maybe sometimes a character needs to experience the lie in order to appreciate the truth. The unreal in the now can contribute to creating a desired reality for a later period.”
Hah! Now I’m counseling others on writing. Go figure.
The courtship between books and food is a long and withstanding one. It is the reason behind the ready success of book cafes; why poetry recitals are held in coffee shops; why Starbucks provides such a great number of power points to facilitate its author-patrons. It is why book clubs meet over wines and crudités, and authors mention different food elements in their stories. Here, I am not only talking about recipe books or stories with chef-characters.
Authors so often effectively explore food culture in their books because not only is food a requirement for survival but food habits is a telling glimpse into a character’s personality, background and even to a certain extent psychology. Little signs such as the way a character takes his coffee or the addition of hummus in the buffet at a party may add complementary or contrasting effects to the profile the author is trying to build. I recently read a book where the author elaborately used a variety of food elements in his world-building to set up the sexual symbolism that drove the base of the plot. Food can be present in stories as an active element as well as an inactive element, such as when a character bogged by emotional or physical stress just goes about the daily task of maintaining sustenance without any attention to what they are eating or the absence of food when a character starts to skip meals while grieving. Just as the infinite range of appetizing dishes available in this world, an author’s imagination can take flight in any direction they fancy with food.
As I was working on the manuscript of the current novel I am writing, where the protagonist is the owner of a popular pastry shop, I was considering what an integral part of books food is. I was thinking not only of how I wish to use food in developing the character, setting, and plot of my novel but also how I want my readers to be prompted by what they read into wanting to live it in their physical plane, i.e. I want my readers to want to grab that yellow butternut squash cupcake with the cheese frosting and experience the novel as they read. And as thoughts tend to do, mine trailed onto how certain books prompt my own food cravings. How reading a certain character eat something makes me want to taste it. How I have begun associating certain books with certain food in such a permanent way that the food dependency has now reversed and when I eat a particular dish, I am even reminded of that book.
The following are works of my favorite authors, writers whom I hope to emulate in my devotion to being a novelist, and the food cravings they inspire: Read the rest of this entry »