I followed a link on Twitter to a fascinating story about the breakfasts enjoyed by fictional characters and what those meal choices reveal. James Bond, in “From Russia with Love” enjoys two cups of black coffee, no sugar, with a three and a third minute boiled speckled brown egg from a French Marans hen, served with whole wheat toast, a selection of preservers and a pat of deep yellow Jersey butter (see link below). The specificity of the menu is what draws the reader in. It’s not a 3-minute egg, but a 3 & 1/3 minute egg. It’s not a boiled egg, but a boiled speckled egg from a French Marans hen.
The details tell the story.
Details about clothing, home décor, grooming rituals and other habits and choices can be useful tools for writers. These details can illuminate a character, bringing the reader an intuitive level of understanding.
A woman leaving her sleeping lover in his bed to find the dental floss in his bathroom before returning to his side; the disarray in a man’s closet, packed tight with old sneakers and sports equipment; a spotless but entirely unused kitchen; shopping bags filled with never-worn new clothes; and a year’s supply of canned food in a cabinet next to large boxes of batteries — are all short-cuts to character profiles.
We read those descriptions and we KNOW something pivotal about those characters.
MONSTERS, in this sense, are like everyone else. Everyone knows the “in-human” serial killer, cannibal with a yen for a nice Chianti, but there are more subtle tells that can help explain the motivations for the actions of both a human monsters and a supernatural creatures.
Let’s take a look in the closet of a contemporary vampire. Is it filled with black leather? Vintage eveningwear? Armani, Versace, Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen or Dolce & Gabbana? Each of these designers signal another set of ideas for the reader. What about the contents of a werewolf’s refrigerator? BBQ sauce and beer — the ingredients for a classic werewolf family party?
Monstrous personal details reveal the inner life of characters in all sorts of fiction. Breakfast menus are a great way to peek into the inner life of the personality living in a story.