WFMAD Day 16 – In the Kitchen

NPR recently did a segment on the best meals shown on film.

If your book doesn’t have a scene of someone eating something, you might want to consider one. Most people eat at least three times a day – often more – and a meal can carry every imaginable kind of metaphorical weight. It’s a great way to show fault lines in relationships or to bring people closer.

It is also a wonderful way to avoid the dreaded “talking heads” chapters in which you need to have characters talking, but can’t figure out what they should be doing. The trick is to make the meal fit into the larger story arc naturally. Make sure it is motivated beforehand and that it triggers something later in the story.

Ready… “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” Ernest Hemingway, Movable Feast

Set…. You might want to eat a snack before this one.

Today’s prompt:

Do not write about a meal. (Ha! Got you!) Write a scene in which your characters prepare a meal OR write about a memory you have of a meal being prepared. Try to focus in on tiny details in the kitchen that will give clues about the the people in the scene. It is natural to have lots of smells and tastes in a scene like this – remember to add in sound.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble!!!

11 Replies to “WFMAD Day 16 – In the Kitchen”

  1. Thanks for this! The way food is used is one of the things that makes Eric Luper’s Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto so noteworthy. Thanks, too, for making a point I intend to make to my students this semester as I teach “Writing About Food.”

  2. Hey Laurie,

    Great post, and yes now I’m in need of a snack!

    Hmmm…writing questions. The main one floating across my brain that won’t go away is…what if you’re at the point of getting “good” rejections (aka feedback, compliments on writing, invitations to submit other future material to them, etc.) but they just “didn’t fall in love with it”? How do you keep going or improve your writing in those vague circumstances?

    I suppose getting good rejections is better than getting the form ones, but it also means I’m not seeing what I can improve. It’s just a matter of “it’s not for them.” Have you ever encountered this, or what would be your advice to writers who are?


  3. How do you make nonfiction as readable as fiction? Some nonfiction is like a regurgitation of facts…but you make it flow like it’s all from your own experience, or muse, or something more fictional.

  4. I have two characters making jelly the old-fashioned way, starting with calf’s feet. Vivid and shows more about the characters and historical setting. Including this scene added to my novel.

  5. I love writing about food. It can (usually) bring a lighthearted feeling to the chapter you are writing. At least for me it does. It’s an easy way to avoid character’s dialogue too, because they are focused on preparing, or already eating what they’ve prepared. 😀

  6. My character talked to herself outloud about the ingredients she was needing to make her product. It was more difficult to do than when I have two characters interacting. I wanted to see if I could do it. It turned out pretty good. Need to work on it some more.
    Whew! I think I have caught up with the group. Yippee-ki-yo-ki-yay! Get along little doggie…

  7. I need some absolution. I haven’t done much writing, well, fun writing, for a week now. I got caught in the end of semester crunch. I did write a blog post Saturday, but other than that, nada. I know it’s just 15 minutes, but I can’t seem to find it right now. Help!

  8. Still here. Still writing. Still poking my feeble stick at moving the universe!


  9. That was a fantastic exercise! I spent far more than 15 minutes on it, more like a couple hours including time spent revising and polishing, but I think this is my best piece of writing for this year’s WFMAD so far!

    Yesterday, I blanked when you offered to answer our questions, once you found the time to do so. (stage fright?) But the piece I wrote from today’s prompt has inspired a difficult question.

    When the characters demand that you write on a topic that you’re not comfortable with, how do you find the courage to not stifle them? In this case, it is important to the story, but it makes me squirm. Furthermore, how do you find the courage to show it to others, let alone ponder the possibility of publishing it once its polished?

  10. I started to write a scene with my characters preparing a dinner, but it quickly shifted to memories and . . .
    Meals only half prepared.
    A parent leaving us with the oven on, burners going.
    Meat burning.
    Stomachs growling.
    Empty refrigerator.
    Cereal with water.
    Hoping she will come home.

    Thirty minutes of writing completed for this prompt.

    Your prompts and challenges have made me dig deep. I did not expect this. I did not plan for this.
    I am facing a fear I did not know I had.
    And for this, I thank you.


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