Writer’s Craft #34 – What are Your Characters Consuming?
Kelly A. Harmon defines “Dischism” for us as this week’s guest on the Writer’s Craft. Kelly writes fantasy and dark fantasy with the occasional science fiction piece. See her list of publications and honors.
In the novel I’m shopping, one of the main characters, Karis, is distraught over having (perhaps) killed someone by accident. He’s served a meal as he’s waiting to hear the fate of the woman he’s injured, but doesn’t get to it until hours later, when someone finally comes around to tell him how the woman is faring:
Cooled sausage lay congealed in a mire of white lard. A mound of wilted greens rested on the left. On the right, sliced white and green cheeses, softened in the earlier heat, were crested with a slick of rising oil. He reached for a white chunk to satisfy the ache in his belly, and looked at Shailmissa with expectant eyes.
In several workshops I’ve heard lectures saying that authors have to be careful when they’re writing not to project their current situation on their characters, specifically related to drinking and/or smoking. Apparently, there is a tendency that when it is an author’s habit to eat, drink or smoke when they’re writing, that their characters do so, too.
This has been noted in Hemingway’s work, particularly, but is referred to as “Dischism” in the Turkey City Lexicon ( a primer for science fiction and fantasy writers), attributed to Thomas M. Disch who first noted the inclination. A Dischism is the “unwitting intrusion of the author’s physical surroundings, or the author’s own mental state, into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs” (from http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/)
I can assure you, I was not eating sausage and wilted greens when I wrote that passage!
But it’s easy to press a cup of tea on a character when I’m drinking one, especially when I’m writing fantasy.
Do any of your proclivities show up in your character’s habits, drinking or otherwise?