It has been shown that cooking or baking help to relieve stress, depression and anxiety in people’s lives. Marian Keyes, an Irish author, turned to baking when her depression became too much. The focus required to cook, the precise nature of preparing food, help the mind to focus once again.
For writers, this is an invaluable skill; even if you can only make a couple of different dishes, the act of following a recipe can help you take your mind off your writing – and the struggles you’re having – until you’re ready to return to the keyboard. For me, baking is both enjoyable and rewarding, even if I only throw together chocolate chip cookies or brownies. While a lot of time goes into baking something, particularly if you’re doing it from scratch and not using a home-bake solution, it can help you unwind. It also leaves you with something nice to eat at the end, which certainly make the writing process a little bit more fun.
If you’re a novelist struggling to get to know your characters and the world they come from, consider creating a meal from your work in progress. While I don’t recommend attempting to recreate an entire scene from George RR Martin’s work, focusing your attention on something like a low-budget meal for a struggling family in London, or a cake that would suit a character’s birthday, can not only direct you towards thinking more about who would eat what in your story, it also encourages you to do something relaxing and rewarding as part of your research for writing.
Action Time! If you’re going to follow through on that exercise, why not go all out and plan a whole week’s worth of meals for your protagonist and his/her family?
Even if you don’t make every item on the list, and I don’t necessarily recommend you make everything on your list from scratch, you can at least get an idea about how your protagonist’s day is structured. It’s easy to forget, while sitting at a desk far away from the kitchen, that in the days passing in your story your characters have to eat something eventually.
To take full advantage of the situation, why not put your character in your position? How well can they cook? Would they be able to put together a full, three-course meal for someone? Are they even in a position to consider it?
The centrality of food to our lives is important, and shouldn’t be ignored in storytelling. Even if it just means having a character go down to the local bar or pub every night, or having the same character slaving away to make dinners for everyone out of whatever they can afford that week, it helps to create an atmosphere in your work, and a routine that can establish critical plot points. You should attempt to write a scene in which food or drink – the preparing, or the consuming of it – is of utmost importance, even if you don’t necessarily include it in a final draft. Something so rooted in the ordinary is a necessary consideration for every author, even those who write stories that are far from normal life.
If you found this post helpful, why not turn your attention back to where you faced problems in your book? You might find that with some extra information about your characters and the homes they come from, you can move on more easily.