What Lime Marmalade teaches us about Character Development

When I signed up a while ago for Elana Johnson's Great Blogging Experiment it never occurred to me that the earth would continue to revolve around the sun and the due date of September 24th would arrive. The experiment is to have as many bloggers as possible weigh in on character development. Neither did it occur to me when I signed up that I would be sick on this day (due to the inhaling of communal air on the bus, at work, at grocery stores etc.).  So my contribution is an early blog post that many of my current bloggowers may not have seen (in the parlance of sitcom re-runs 'it's new to you'). 


I would encourage you to check out the great blog experiment and get full up on character development! 
   
Here's my offering: 


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. 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 and there was none left. I offered to buy a new jar but Kate didn’t want sugary marmalade in the house to tempt her 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 which will be out this fall, 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?


Comments

Jen Daiker said…
This post was so fun and hilarious! Now you have me wanting to try lime marmalade even though I can't get my hands on it! Completely uncool!!

I love you for it though, this was extremely creative and an excellent play on characters. Food and writing mixed together, always a wonderful combination!
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Jen. Sorry I created a craving for you that you can't easily give in to. Yes, how characters relate to food gives the reader a sense of who the characters are.
Elana Johnson said…
I must have some of this marmalade, stat! And I think it's the little things that really show us the most.
Red Boot Pearl said…
What a great post! I can't even imagine what lime marmalade would taste like...I'm not exactly a fan of orange.

Awesome comparison.
Jan Markley said…
Elana: Thanks for doing the Great Blogging Experiment - it's a great success. You're right, the little things about a character matter.

Red Boot pearl - I wasn't a fan of the orange either, but lime is a world of its own!
Michelle McLean said…
oooo lime marmalade sounds delicious! Great post! The way a person (or a character) reacts to a situation shows a lot about who that person is.
Lime marmalade is lovely! I'm sure part of its allure is the trip and the friendship you share with Kate. I left my family in England when I was 8. I started going back every few years (about 15 years ago) when I can afford to. I have the same affection for pickled onion and Chessier cheese sandwiches...I know they are best when eaten with my Grandad late at night, but I search high and low for those two key ingredients here in the states...and yes price doesn't matter on some things...
Melissa said…
This was so creative but I sort of don't like how badly I want me some lime marmalade now... so no thanks for that but thanks for such a brilliant post!
Jan Markley said…
Sharon: Sounds like you have some wonderful memories of your grandfather. I'll have to try the Chessier Cheese sandwich next time I'm there.

Thanks Melissa and sorry, you're not the only one who I've led to crave lime marmalade!
Lynda Young said…
Great post! I love this take on compelling characters
haha! LOVED this post! and man, by the end I WANTED lime marmalade!
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Lynda! Thanks as well Christine - you're not the only one who wants lime marmalade now!
N. R. Williams said…
I'd like to try that lime marmalade. Maybe when I'm rich I'll buy some. I enjoyed this post.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author
Very original post! I wonder if I can persuade my husband that we need to make another trip to England so we can try this.
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Nancy, you'll love it if you try it!

Thanks Sandra. I think a trip to England is well in order!
Elena Solodow said…
Wow, what great examples! I love how you wrote this.

What I want to know is why you never ate it again, hmm?
Nicole Zoltack said…
Great post. I love your take on the blogfest. Now I'm hungry.
LTM said…
lime marmalade sounds amazing... :d

and thanks for the tip, Jan! You make an excellent point. :o)
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Elena, Nicole & Leigh. I think I just got tired of it Elena, moved on to a whole different genre of jams and jellies! Yes, Leigh it is amazing ...!
Julie said…
I love your story and what it means to compelling characters. Hate to say it, but you write fun blogs when ill (not that you should make it a habit or anything. :)
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Julie! Next time I'm sick I'll pull out an old blog post! Welcome to Three Dead Moths ...!
I might be from England, but I never could stand the taste of marmalade. :P
Jan Markley said…
Stina - that's funny, because we think all Britts love marmalade. I didn't like it until I tried the lime ... sublime!
Ishta Mercurio said…
This is a super illustration of charcater. And I live in Canada, where they're proud of their British ties... I wonder if I can get lime marmalade here?

Thanks for the post!
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Ishta. You can get it here in select places, but it's usually way more than it is back in Britain!