Writers Toolbox: Taste

“A writer needs three things: experiences, observation and imagination, any two of which, at times, any one of which, can supply the lack of others.” William Faulkner

OBSERVATION: TASTE    Using taste as a descriptor can be challenging. If your m.c is a chef or a foodie, it is an easy tie-in, but taste adds to the reader’s understanding.

What if your character has never tasted fresh crab? What if the reader has never had crab or lobster and it is a part of the main character’s life.  The author needs to think of fresh waves to let the reader experience that taste.  The taste can apply to buffalo, wasabi or crunchy tarantulas. Maybe these tastes bring back memories to the m.c.

So-o, here’s an easy, fun writing research moment. Go on a tasting adventure with co-operative friends or better yet, your writing group. The possibilities are endless and oh, so savory.  Go to a restaurant and each order something different, share a portion with each person and then think of the best, accurate description.  What could you compare that flavor to? How can you write a description so the flavor drips off the reader’s tongue?

Or take a group to a street fair or county fair and sample the variety of foods available and think of ways to include it in a story.

If you live near a city like Philadelphia, which still has ethnic neighborhoods with shops and small grocery stores, go spend an afternoon walking around.  Philly’s Italian market is overwhelming with smells of garlic, rosemary, olive oil as well as sights and sounds of varied dialects both from Italy and around the world.  Where could you go in your area to get a different flair for meals?

No, you cannot go on a writer’s tasting adventure every week, you would soon be too heavy to fit in your writing chair, but it is inspiring to take a different way to do research. Other sources, you can look into (without the danger of overeating) are magazines.  Read the cigar descriptions in  Cigar Aficionado. You may not want to have your character smoking a cigar, but the authors are very creative in describing a cigar’s smell and taste. You can learn from their style.  Check out food or travel magazines as well especially if you need descriptions of foods from distant places. You can’t always jump on a plane and fly to ??to savor and detail their cuisine.

Watch Andrew Zimmer’s Bizarre Foods. He is descriptive and creative in his descriptions of what bugs taste and feel like as he crunches them down.  His description and details about the cooking and eating of guinea pigs made me run from the room.

Yum, exploring and labeling flavors can be a fun adventure. When can you use it?  A character experiences a new taste, which connects him to the setting.  A flavor triggers a memory which helps define him. Tasting can be very sensual.

Use it to build tension in a scene. Where can you use it to set up the atmosphere or add a taste of background?

Use tastes to add to character development, provide background to a setting, and certainly, to spark a reader’s interest.

Tune in next Wednesday to explore the next sense–touch. Oh-h so exciting! No, it is not just for romance writers.  Stay tuned….



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