Time to Eat


One of the many things on the Don’t List of Writing is food. After you finish a first draft (especially a NaNowriMo draft), conventional wisdom says to go back and take out all scenes that include eating. That can be a very difficult task, but it’s smart. Most scenes with eating are there just to fill space. They are written when we’re not sure what else should happen. In Julia, I still have scenes with food, but that food really has to earn its keep: fried chicken and potato salad at a memorial service helps solidify the setting as in the south…and I don’t describe it paragraph after paragraph.

Recently, I received free copies of two YA fantasies. I read them this weekend (still trailing in my Goodreads Challenge, but I’m closing in) and I couldn’t help but noticed the amount of eating that happened. The first mention I could handle…after being in a coma for two days I’ll let you eat, but every couple of scenes they were back in the dining hall/grabbing coffee. Really? There is no other place where these characters could be having a conversation? Nothing else they could be doing…like something that showed me plot advancement rather than told me through conversation?

And it wasn’t just eating; there was a whole lot of cleaning going on. These female MCs took a lot of showers. Now, as a person who likes being clean, I appreciate their attention to hygiene. However, I don’t know why I have to know that they took a 10 minutes shower…or a 30 minute shower…or that she woke up and took a shower. I get it.

The other cleaning that pulled me from the story was of the more domestic variety. To be nice, when they were nervous, and when they were mad the female MCs all went on cleaning binges. Really? In college, I cleaned my dorm room to procrastinate writing my papers. But were those binges worth writing about? A brief paragraph to show my personality, maybe. Scene upon scene? No.

So, can I make an executive addition to the Don’t List of Writing? Cleaning in its many forms.


9 thoughts on “Time to Eat

  1. Kim

    If your MC is obsessive compulsive and a total perfectionist, cleaning would consume most of his/her time. You could have a lot of fun with a character like that.

  2. The food tip is good to know, and I see your point on cleaning. After all, who enjoys cleaning in real life – at least enough to read about it? Another point that should be common sense is when a writer mentions their character using the bathroom. I’ve actually seen this in writing. Um, ew?

  3. I clean when I’m angry. One of the reasons my husband likes to push my buttons lol It’s a control issue and is linked to OCD. That said, I’ve written both food and cleaning/hygiene into my novels but it works. Like in the first one she wanted to kill the guy, so to meet him first (to get a date and have him alone), she spilled coffee on him. While having lunch in a mall food court, in the second novel, she bumped into the son of the woman she’s living with and zoned into an internal monologue about her childhood for most of the conversation. She also cries a lot in one shower scene, but comes to the conclusion that a killing partner might not be a bad idea now that she’s pregnant… I think you can write food, and even cleaning, but there has to be a point to it. It has to carry the action forward either through dialogue (which gets repetitive if it’s all you do) or through internal monologues. I don’t care for my first novel too much because it was dialogue heavy. As an emerging writer, I didn’t understand how to carry the story through action and scenery rather than character conversation. Now that I’ve really become more serious about my writing, when I read I notice little things in the technique that really bring the story around and am able to implement it into my own writing. Perhaps the authors of these YA fantasies you read are just immature as writers and will have more depth in future novels.

    • Those sound like good uses of food…they’ve earned their place. I wasn’t trying to make a blanket statement that all food was bad. I think you’re right about the maturity of the authors I was reading.

      I’m curious about your story now…pregnant serial killer?

      • Yup, she got knocked up by the lead homicide detective in my currently unfinished book one lol

        Keeps the story fresh, ya know? Now she’s facing a life of crime, the uncontrollable urge to kill more people, a psychopathic partner (who doesn’t last long because, let’s face it, he’s an ass) and the joys of motherhood. What more could a girl ask for? She’s a great character, really, particularly because she doesn’t have a name. Just a seemingly endless list of alias’ 😉 My husband read some of book one and said she’s a very likeable character, ya know, when she’s not offing people.

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