Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Character Profile Questions: Breakfast


Warning!  This post may cause hunger in, well, just about anyone with a stomach.  It may be hazardous to anyone currently on a diet.
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The way we start our day says a lot about who we are.  This is also true of our characters.  Their actions at this time of day betray their personality and, in part, their aspirations for the day.  Or it can simply say something about where they live or their personal economic circumstances.  This is why it helps to consider the answers to these questions as you write and develop your characters.

So here are the questions I want to look at. Following that, I'll list some of the different breakfast personality types, and say what I think those breakfast choices say about the person as a whole.

What, if anything, does your character, eat for breakfast?  How do they consume this first meal of the day?

Grab-N-Go Dining
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This is a general category that may be further broken down into subcategories. This broad categorization refers to the method in which a person consumes their breakfast.  By grabbing it and eating it on the go, the character lets us know that they are in a great hurry in the morning.  Perhaps this is a one time incident that shows they're running late.  Perhaps your character does this regularly because they have to be at work early, or maybe they simply put everything off until the last minute.  Whatever the reason, the fact that they grab-n-go potentially says a lot about this character.

Coffee and a Nibble
Lot's of people grab a coffee and a pastry these days. You get a quick jolt of energy that's easy to consume in the car.  The nibble may be a sweet roll, a bagel, or even a piece of fruit.  The exact choice of nibble indicates personal taste, or may simply say whether this person is making an effort to stay healthy or not.  Many may even forego the nibble altogether and simply have the coffee.  I have been guilty of this one plenty of times myself, though I know it isn't a healthy way to start the day.

Energy Drink/Sugary Beverages
Some people prefer to start out the day with an extra rush of energy.  They may or may not have a nibble with their energy drink.  I have seen a lot of people completely sub in an energy drink for a more traditional breakfast.  Similarly, I've seen people have only a sugary drink as a stimulant for the morning.  The main motivation for people who do this tends to be similar to those who are simply having a cup of coffee.  They are more focused on getting a boost of energy than with nutrition.

The Nutritional Dash
Some people grab a milk or a fruit smoothie and fresh fruits or bran muffins for a quick, on-the-go breakfast.  This says your character either enjoys these things, or is making a conscious effort to get some nutrition in to start the day.  Or both. There's no rule saying you can't enjoy these things.

Of course, there are other possibilities for the quick breakfast, and your character may behave differently from day to day depending on the circumstances.  It's your job as a writer to know how and why they start with a rush.


Sit Down Dining
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This category also says a great deal about someone's personality.  This means, for starters, that your character enjoys a leisurely morning.  The reasons for this say a lot, so the sitter can be lumped into a couple of different categories.  I'll enumerate those before proceeding to the actual food consumed.

2a. The Reader-Eater
This category shows your character as a solitary diner.  Maybe they like a quiet start and are grateful for the chance to catch up on reading.  Or perhaps they simply have no one to eat with and read or surf the internet to fill the time.  These are great details that could easily be used to your advantage.

2b. The Family Meal
If your hero/heroine is family-oriented, they may have a family breakfast.  Not only does this reveal a lot about who they are, the dialogue and general interactions here are a good opportunity for character development.

Now, on to the food!  These meals have more room for different kinds of foods, so the foods in this category allow more room to show cultural background along with personality.

The Simple Sitting Meal
Some people still only have a cup of coffee and maybe something small to eat, like a croissant or muffin.  Cereal and pop tarts could fit into this group.  In these cases, the meals are small, relatively fast, and can be ingested relatively quickly. People who do this have opted not to grab-n-go, but they still don't have a lot of time to dedicate to breakfast.  Maybe they simply need a couple of quiet minutes before going to work.  Or perhaps their tastes are more attuned to a simple meal so early in the day.  Who knows?  It's your job as a writer to figure that out.

The Elaborate Healthy Meal
This is a meal that takes some time to prepare, or has too many components to be eaten as quickly.  There may be a combination of fruits and vegetables, along with eggs and other breakfast items.  This is a more filling meal, and it still counts as a nutritious meal.

The Large Comfort Food Meal
A culture may be known for its comfort foods.  These are the heavier comfort foods that everyone enjoys from time to time.  They may not be the most healthy, but they're good for your mood.  When you sit your character down for such a meal, perhaps they are distressed, or perhaps they simply enjoy such foods.  You can show culture, personal preference, and reaction to events in the context of such a meal.  Food represents more than something you have to do only for survival.  It's part of where you come from and who you are.  Use that if you can!
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No Dining
I'll be quick with this last category as I feel I've gone on too long already.  I have that problem when it comes to food.

Some people skip breakfast altogether, and it's still valuable to at least ask why. Some simply don't feel like they have the time.  Some people may feel like they shouldn't eat breakfast due to concerns over diets and weight.  And some yet may be so financially strapped that they need to cut out meals when they can.  If you have a character who skips breakfast, it's worth your time to know why.

I know I've gone too long, and this is a lot to read through.  Thanks to anyone who had the patience to get this far.  I hope I gave you something to think about.

5 comments:

  1. I've always wondered why answering questions about favorite foods in a character sheet could bring any important detail. Now you're answered my question. :)

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  2. Food isn't a big focus in any of my books, although I do show some family dinners in the third one.
    In real life, I've a granola bar or bagel person in the morning.

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  3. I've been accused of having my characters eat way too much.

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  4. I'm a breakfast skipper and it's really because I don't get hungry until around noon every day. There might be another subconcious reason...but as far as I know, that's why :)

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