As I sit here eating butter-cinnamon-sugar bread, which is very tasty by the way, I’m reminded of the characters in our books.
They fight crime, solve mysteries and save damsels in distress, and yet sometimes we forget that they have daily needs, just like real people. Eating comes to mind, along with sleeping. Protagonists even need to simply relax once in a while.
You can only wear a pair of jeans or a shirt so many times before your closet is empty and the laundry needs to be done. The same would apply to your protagonist.
Maybe they don’t have time to cook, but there’s usually a fast food joint around every corner, unless they’re driving across the desert.
Many readers appreciate being in the moment with the characters, but we don’t want to overdo it. Just the facts, Ma’am, even if it involves a one sentence description of the food or location where food is found, or the fact that there’s nowhere to grab a bite.
Some of these same characters have pets to take care of, or ants in the cabinet and on the counter top. These are things they need to deal with in addition to solving crimes. If we were detectives we’d still have everyday situations to deal with, whether we liked it or not.
The phone may ring, and we can choose to answer it or ignore it. Our fictional characters have the same choice, but they have to remember that the call may have something to do with the case they’re working on. Should they ignore it? Personally, I have trouble ignoring a ringing phone. I have to remind myself that in certain scenarios, ignoring the ringing telephone might further the story.
Your character hasn’t had enough sleep? What if they’re doing a surveillance and they fall asleep. They may miss the most important event of their case. Although, sometimes this type of thing works to further the story just like answering or not answering the phone.
If your bad guy loses sleep, he might become a lot meaner or creepier. Of course, the lack of sleep might cause the protagonist to become meaner, too, which isn’t always a bad thing.
In The Bogey Man, Sandi Webster takes Chris Cross on his first stakeout. To make himself more comfortable, he takes snacks and plenty of things to drink. Big mistake. There’s a time to eat and drink, a time to tough it out, and a lesson to be learned.
Sandi is a chocoholic (like her creator) and in Old Murders Never Die, she runs out of candy. She considers this a disaster, as does her partner, Pete. Eating chocolate is a daily event in her life, and in times of stress it’s essential to her diet. Trust me when I say it’s essential.
Think about what you do on a daily basis and decide if it’s something your characters should be doing, too.
Keep your reader in the moment. Let them feel hunger or pain or drowsiness along with your characters. It doesn’t hurt if the reader can feel joy and laughter, too.
Let them take the ride of their lives with your characters.
I think I need another slice of that butter-cinnamon-sugar loaf. After all, I have to eat to keep my strength up, right?
Until next week, enjoy your week and your daily activities. Think of some things as necessary evils and others as fun necessities.
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