Monday, October 20, 2014

Confessions of a Chocoholic

S.L. Smith and Jake are the winners of the audio version of A Well-Kept Family Secret. Carolyn Injoy, please contact me at Thank you all!

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I admit it, I’m a chocoholic. Consequently, I turned (fictional) Sandi Webster into a chocoholic, too. It’s comfort food, and both of us use if frequently.

You might wonder what this has to do with setting the tone for a book. Well, frankly, I’m not talking about a tone for a story. I’m referring to how a reader perceives what an author has written in any given scene.

Sandi could say that she’s out of chocolate and misses her comfort food. That wouldn’t be very poignant, would it? In Old Murders Never Die, she was stranded in a ghost town, which meant no stores to run to, and she ran out of chocolate.

Here’s how it began:

“I reached for my chocolate. There was no more chocolate. I searched through my backpack, but it was all gone. My heart thumped a couple of extra beats and I wondered if this was the way a smoker might feel if they ran out of cigarettes and there were no more. Anywhere. Well, I’m a bigger person than that. I could live without chocolate. Piece of cake.”

Sandi can’t get the lack of chocolate off her mind.

“Chocolate is something you take for granted until you don’t have any. I always kept my cookie jar stocked with chocolate chip cookies, and I always kept some lovely light brown candy in a drawer in the kitchen. Chocolate ice cream sat waiting for me in the refrigerator at home. I sighed. That refrigerator was hundreds of miles away.”

Am I setting a tone yet? Keep reading as Sandi’s partner, Pete, realizes there’s a problem.

Looking up, I saw Pete watching me with curiosity. “Did you lose something, Sandi?”
“Chocolate.” Me without chocolate was something like my mother without her hormone pills.
He took a step back. He knew. If he had any chocolate, he’d probably run out the front door and toss it to me as he ran by, and I doubted he’d be back until I eaten every last bite.
I started to laugh. I’d just had a vision of my face with melted chocolate all over my mouth, and it wasn’t a pretty picture.
He followed suit and chuckled, although cautiously.

Is the reader now more involved than he/she would have been had Sandi just said she was out of chocolate? It’s becoming an issue in this context.

Pete finally asks Sandi what it is about chocolate that makes it so important to her. Her answer?

“I can’t explain it,” I replied. “If I’m in a bad mood, chocolate will perk me up. One time when I was frightened, I ate a whole box of Bordeauxs, a specialty candy. They kept me going. There’s a type of chocolate called ganache. It’s chocolate mixed with heavy cream, and it’s… It’s a taste that can’t be described. Chocolate is sweet, but not like other sugary candy. As it melts in your mouth, it leaves its own unique flavor bouncing off the tongue and back again. I’ve read that dark chocolate has some healthy attributes, but unfortunately I prefer the light chocolate. It’s kind of like a nerve tonic for me.” I put my hand to my mouth, checking to be sure there wasn’t a trail of drool on my chin.
Talking about it was stirring up the craving again. I closed my mouth and my eyes and tried to summon up the scent of cocoa, at the very least. I couldn’t do it.

You wouldn’t think chocolate would be so important, would you? Sandi could have been missing anything, but in this case it was the tasty treat. It set a tone for the scene. Even if you don’t enjoy chocolate, this should have made the reader realize how important it was to Sandi, and again, set the tone for those moments.

There’s a purpose to this post, and it’s more than just tone. Check out the picture below.

 If a competition took place between Fictional Sandi Webster
 and Real Life Me, I just won at a Hershey Store

Sandi and I have chocolate in common, but I get to set the tone for her issues. Writers have all the fun.

Have I made you run for a candy bar? If not, I haven’t done my job – that is, unless you don’t like chocolate.

Until next time, think about things before you say them or write them. Are you setting a tone for a conversation or a book?

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If you enjoy audio books, A Well-Kept Family Secret is now available to listen to.


  1. I'm a chocoholic also but I can't remember giving that trait to any of my heroines, although I might have. However, I am a stickler for drinking black coffee (no sugar) and I did give that trait to my heroine in Amorous Ambush (and quite possibly all of my heroines). I won't go into detail but she did tease the hero when he put milk and sugar in his coffee. This little humorous "debate" between the two of them continued later in the book.

    1. It's amazing how we can take our own habits and give them to our characters. You'd think we'd want to exclude ourselves, but somehow we end up in our books, at least to some extent. : ) Thank you for commenting, Pat!

  2. Good post, Marja. I always keep a tin of Hershey's special dark kisses on my desk at work -- although at certain times of year they may be mixed with mint or coconut ones.

    1. A woman after my own heart. I have a dish with Dove milk chocolates on my desk. I must have set the tone in the blog because I've been receiving emails about people who now NEED chocolate. LOL Thank you for commenting, Heather!

  3. Great post, Marja! I love chocolate as well. I just came back from buying five more bags of candy bars to give out for Halloween. My husband and I put a big dent in the ones I had already bought.

    Enjoyed this! I'll have to check out your novel.

    Susan Bernhardt, author of The Ginseng Conspiracy

    1. Thank you, Susan! And I get it. My husband and I buy at least a couple of bags of candy for Halloween and only have two or three kids stop by in our neighborhood. : )

  4. Thank you for the terrific gift. Have started listening. Must admit voice does sound like what I expected. Everyone has a comfort food & totally agree about use of chocolate in your book. Made me laugh.

    1. I'm glad I could give you a gift and a laugh, Jake. I hope you're having a good week and that you're well-stocked with chocolate. Thank you for stopping in!