Saturday, April 6, 2013

World Building A to Z: Fashion and Food

This month I'm sharing stuff I've noticed in world building and setting from a variety of stories. The lifestyle aspects of world building- fashion and food- are often fun to learn about.

Fashion:  I wrote a post titled Clothing and Status where I point out that fictional characters (and real people) don't always dress according to their socioeconomic status. So while the rich and poor sometimes dress the part, that doesn't always have to be the case. Other things to consider: What materials are clothes made with? What styles are considered appropriate for any given demographic? What does a character's wardrobe tell you about them? Who makes a character's clothes?

Is fashion important in a given world? If you're the assistant of a fashion magazine editor in Lauren Weisberger's THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, then yes. If you're running away from zombies in Robert Kirkman's THE WALKING DEAD, perhaps not so much.  

If you're an English aristocrat in Downton Abbey, absolutely. I
n a Rosie the Riveter moment, Lady Sybil (love her!) shows off her fancy couture pants. At a formal dinner, Matthew and Robert are stuck wearing tuxedos, but not the proper colors for the occasion, and someone comments, "You two look like you're dressed for a barbeque." Epic diss!

Food: What do people eat for everyday occasions and for special occasions? 
What's considered comfort food, food eaten when you have limited resources, and food that is considered exotic?

If you're writing kidlit, what is the role of food in your story? A children's book editor once told me that the consumption of good food or drink in kidlit is the equivalent of sex. You have to build up the longing. 

Some examples of food lusted for in kidlit: Turkish delight in C.S. Lewis' THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, butter beer in the HARRY POTTER books, marmalade sandwiches in Michael Bond's PADDINGTON books,  chocolate in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and dumplings in Grace Lin's DUMPLING DAYS. 

What food or drink have you seen in a story that you'd like to try? (For me, it's butter beer, and whatever the servants in Downton Abbey are cooking up for all those fancy dinners!)

What trademark details in food and fashion have you noticed in stories?

28 comments:

Shannon Lawrence said...

I want to try butter beer, too! It sounds good. Some friends went to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando and tried their version of it, which was butterscotch flavored.

Clothing and food can be so important in a piece of fiction/television/movie, etc. It's an element we're familiar with, that can draw us in.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Medeia Sharif said...

I'd like to try butter beer. I love Turkish delight.

Annalisa Crawford said...

As a Jane Austen freak, I would so love to wear those empire line dresses.

Ghadeer said...

I've always wanted to try Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans :)

S.P. Bowers said...

I got one! Fashion and food play heavily in my current MS.

Damyanti said...

I remember all the stuff kids used to try out in Famous five novels-- I wanted all of those!

Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge


Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Glad I had a lot of food references in my children's book! Great post, loved the Downton Abbey references - I'm in DA withdrawal and still mourning Matthew right now...

Susan Roebuck said...

I wonder what butter beer tastes like? Winnie the Pooh loved his honey like I love chocolate :-)
Thinking about fashion I suddenly realize that everyone in my own books is scruffy - just like me!

John Wiswell said...

Whoops, commented in the wrong thread!

It's funny and germane that you brought Walking Dead for fashion! Adlard actually struggled to draw the characters as unique because of the black and white printing style, and so at one point Kirkman deliberately wrote one character (I forget who) tailoring the prison uniforms so characters would have more distinct appearances. In-world, they justified it as needing some kind of psychological comfort and variety with all the dire stresses of their existence. It was a wonderful little moment.

from John at The Bathroom Monologues

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Cynthia.

Good points here. I agree that an author must paint the proper picture for whatever genre he/she writes.

Drop down to THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER At Universal in Orlando... BUTTERBEER is AMAZING. It's like thick, creamy, cream soda.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah with those zombies coming after you better have nothing on they can grab, clothes sure do play a factor.

Trisha F said...

Michael's mention of butterbeer makes me want to grab myself a big pint of the stuff! hehe

DL Hammons said...

I've noticed clothes more than anything else, because writers tend to deem it important that I know what a character is writing right down to the smallest detail. :)

Sherry Ellis said...

I never thought of kidlit like that. I'll have to throw more food into my stories!

Mark Means said...

I've never had Turkish Delight....I'll have to look that one up :)

Elise Fallson said...

This is something I need to work on in my wip. I don't want to get too bogged down with the little details but sometimes it's necessary to make the character/story more authentic.

Wendy LaPlaca said...

A Discovery of Witches had me hungry and thirsty for good wine for sure! Also, fantastic book

Jay Noel said...

I had to pick up my little brother from a birthday party, and drove to the "Old Money" part of town. Apparently, the kids were playing handball in the basement. What I wasn't prepared for was the REAL racquet ball court down there. Glass, wood floors, and everything.

Funny thing is, the mother than answered the door was wearing a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt. During her son's party!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I actually got to try Butter Beer in the HP World at Universal/Orlando. :) There's also a store where they sell a lot of the candies etc the kids got to buy on the train to Hogwarts. Food really became a "character" in that series. :)

Cathy said...

When the Harry Potter books were coming out, I always had a Harry Potter party at the library where I was the children's librarian. The kids were so excited to try Bertie Botts beans . . . even if the flavors were disgusting.

I love your A-Z theme posts, and am a new follower.

Kathy said...

Definitely would love to try Pumpkin Juice from Harry Potter. I have made a recipe for it that I found on the internet and that was really good.

Kathy
http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

Karen Tamara said...

Love your topic! I was starving the entire time I read Eat, Pray, Love. Yes, it's non-fiction, but I can't exactly get over to Italy right now and get that perfect slice of pizza she had. I will one day though.

And the fashion in The Hunger Games series just made me scratch my head. I loved it all, but I was like, these people are insane! lol. Great post!

Karen

Melanie Schulz said...

I always try to include both food and clothing choices in my stories, because it gives the characters more substance.

Connie Gruning said...

Butter Beer? I'm intrigued. Pizza is my comfort food.
Connie
A to Z buddy
Peanut Butter and Whine

Tammy Theriault said...

I would like a free ticket to the chocolate factory for sure!

Tammy Theriault said...

I would like a free ticket to the chocolate factory for sure!

Heidi Mannan said...

What a great topic! You've got me curious about a few of the books I haven't read.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone. I will have to check out that butter beer the next time I'm in Orlando.

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