Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Lime Marmalade teaches us about Character Development


A few years ago I traveled to London, England to visit my friend Kate and go to her 40th birthday party. Kate and I met in West Africa in the late 80s. So I hopped over the pond and we had a marvelous reunion. Kate is a nurse so she’s one of those caring, nurturing types. For the first few days I stayed in the attic bedroom, it was very Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – it even had the wooden stairs that you pull out of the ceiling from the second floor.
The second day I was there Kate woke me up from my jet lagged induced coma. Sun was streaming in through the small attic window, which I had tried desperately to open at about 4 a.m. (but apparently they lock down everything in London).
Kate: Here’s some tea and toast with marmalade (she plopped it down on the table beside the bed).
Me: Oh, no, I don’t like marmalade.
Kate: Eat it anyway and shuuuuddddduppppp about it!
With that Kate turned, her long flowing robe spun in the breeze, and stomped down the attic stairs. Okay, there was no breeze. It was hot and stuffy and there was no air in that attic. Did I mention she’s a caring and nurturing nurse?
So I ate the toast with lime marmalade and loooooovvvvved it.
I loved it so much I wanted it the next day. But it seemed Kate had scrapped the dregs of the jar for me that first day and there was none left. I offered to buy a new jar but Kate didn’t want sugary marmalade in the house for her to be tempted by once I’d left. I knew enough not to buy a glass jar with the stickiest substance in the world in it, and then pack it in my suitcase to take home. Surly, I could find it back in Canada.
When I got home I scoured the supermarkets for it. Lots of lemon and orange marmalade but no lime. It had to be lime. I went to the British store and found it. I had to sell a kidney to pay for the outrageous cost of it being imported from England, but it was worth it. I took that jar home and had toast with lime marmalade until it was done (which took months). Then I was done and haven’t eaten it since.
Characters revels themselves through action and dialogue. Put your characters into situations that stretch them and make them feel uncomfortable. How they cope with the situation – through action and dialogue – reveals their character to the reader. In Dead Bird through the Cat Door, the second in the Megabyte Mystery Series, characters Cyd and Jane are faced with lunch with the evil culprits and are served such Scottish fare as blood pudding and haggis. How they react shows more about their character than me telling you what type of kids they are.
What did my obsessive search for Lime Marmalade tell you about me as a character? Maybe I was just trying to stave off scurvy?

2 comments:

Angie said...

That's so true about characters and showing the reader what they're like. Now I want to try lime marmalade.

Lori Hahnel said...

Mmmm...maramlade.