Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Character traits

All this week, Jeff and I have been facing the dreaded "what the hell's for dinner" dilemma. the house is filled with exotic cookbooks, I genuinely love to cook, and Jeff makes a mean Mexican dinner, but lately, I have just not felt like making anything other than reservations. So what gives?

I blame my characters.

I'm currently writing a new novel and one of the characters is a would be chef. He's obsessed with making diner food more delicious. He studies types of basil like fine wine, he 's happiest with pots and pans. Food for him is a kind of desperate nurturing. By the time I spend all day with him in the kitchen, well...I'm ready to hang it up for a while.

This isn't new.

My characters also usually love to drive. They speed recklessly, they drive across country without stopping, they fall in love on drives, or betray each other in a car. They wash their cars and tuck photos of the ones they are obsessively in love with in the glove compartment. And me? Car Phobic. Have not driven since I was 16, and even though I renew my license every year, I can't imagine ever feeling as comfortable as my characters in a car. (Lucky for me, I live in NYC area, so I don't have to.) If I ever had to drive, I would drive ten miles an hour, hunched over the wheel, my knuckles white, certain I was going to crash into someone and kill them, or injure myself in some horrific way. My characters would scoff at me and laugh and beep their horns or shout at me from their windows.

I used to say that writing allowed you to live other lives. (I even titled a novel that--Living Other Lives.) Now, I know it does--the lives you may not want to live at the moment.


Jessica Keener said...

I'm ready to have your chef spend some time at my house. I can almost imagine asking him, but that's because you've already made him feel so real.


Unknown said...

Your characters have very useful skills. They can cook you dinner and chauffeur you around. Write some that are in love with cleaning and doing laundry, and you'll be set!

Clea Simon said...

I think the driving thing is extremely interesting - I love how you are examining your phobia through your characters (not consciously, but still). Now you just have to have your characters order takeout!