This blog is part four of six in a series designed to hone character development of protagonists in your fiction.

Pity the poor body under dietary restrictions. And haven’t we all been there at one time or another, for one reason or another? At home, we can manage. Never mind that the grocery store demands steep prices for specialty food. Because they can.

Dining in public? An adventure but not necessarily a fun one, unless you like being singled out and asked all sorts of questions. A person with a dietary restriction MUST have a reason for it. Is it political? If it is, passion arises. Steak lovers versus animal rights activists. Fur flies at this debate.

If you aren’t taking a political stand with your diet, your dinner companions might wonder aloud if you’re really, really ill. Oh, you’re not? Well then, will going on your diet help me, they want to know.

Is this diet forever? Are its benefits your imagination, or do you seek attention? “Sure,” you might say, “I love having a little placard at my place marking me as different, plus waiting for a special delivery of my meal. Oh, no, please go ahead and eat, all you normal people. Don’t let your food get cold.” Or worse, drinking water throughout the meal because I have to. Right.

Bon appetit!


Your turn:

Does your character live under dietary restrictions? How does this affect the character’s life?

Does this restriction allow your character to show grace and humor? How?

Or does your character become annoyed by the whole situation? What does this say about your character?


Character Development Series:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

25 Responses to Vegan?

  1. Avatar
    Maggie McKenzie November 8, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    Great idea! I don’t usually have characters experience food issues in my historical s, but my currant project has a character who experienced much turmoil in her early life. We learn right away, that she has terrible stomach pain. Part of the ‘care’ she first begins to experience in her rescued situation is that others work to find things she can eat to be free of pain.
    I didn’t realize this until I read your post, but it’s actually the first way that others start to show the love of God to her. (I thought it was just a character quirk.) Thanks for the post.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka November 8, 2018 at 7:08 am #

    Tamela, I never even thought about this for my characters. I will say, being gluten and mostly dairy-free at conferences is NOT fun. Servers are doing their best, but when English is not their first language, and they’re serving hundreds of people, AND the kitchen is having issues, it’s usually the people with food allergies/sensitivities who feel the results. You can take this a step further with a character and decide how said character reacts when their food is wrong or doesn’t come at all . . . 😉 Do they become hangry? Do they wait patiently? Or, like me, do they get really hungry and try to be patient, then become hangry, and then cry? 😉

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray November 8, 2018 at 7:38 am #

      Awww, I’m so sorry you struggle at conferences. At least now there is much more awareness of allergies so it’s easier to get accommodations.

      You are right in that how a character reacts can reveal so much!

    • Avatar
      Joey Rudder November 8, 2018 at 12:21 pm #

      Jeanne, I’m with you! I usually end up hangry and crying!! 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D November 8, 2018 at 7:48 am #

    Thank you so much for the depth you are indirectly adding to my characters. I think my female lead will have an allergy to chocolate. How’s that for thinking out of the box? Oh, wait, I’m allergic to chocolate, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray November 8, 2018 at 8:01 am #

      So pleased I can help! It’s good to choose an allergy you have experience with since you can write about it firsthand.

  4. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson November 8, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    Thanks, Tamela! This is more “food” for thought. Ha! Maybe I’ll have one of my characters turn red, break out in a rash and itch after eating jumbo shrimp like I did several years ago.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 8, 2018 at 8:56 am #

    Putting dietary restrictions on a character has never occurred to me, even though I lived with dairy and gluten restrictions for awhile; since it was pancreatic cancer and not gluten/lactose intolerance causing the symptoms, I guess I got off lucky.

    I don’t like to write about food, because I’ve learned that my paradigm (“….if it’s still moving, use more tabasco sauce…”) doesn’t really resonate with most. Of necessity, my diet has included things like iguana (it does taste like chicken, if you use your imagination, and think about weird chickens) and deep-fried rat, which is nowhere near as bad as it sounds.

    However, just WHY baht bugs are considered a delicacy in Thailand must forever remain beyond my ken.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray November 8, 2018 at 10:58 am #

      You are a more adventurous diner than I am! I think you have to be adventurous with food if you’re traveling to exotic locales. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Mugrage November 8, 2018 at 11:48 am #

      Cool, Andrew! I am a picky eater, but I have had the opportunity to eat panggolin (tasted like pot roast), dog (very spicy, cooked in the blood, gross), and pork fat (tougher than you’d expect, not sure why it’s popular).

  6. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca November 8, 2018 at 9:16 am #

    Like some of the others here, I never thought of using food restrictions as part of the plot, but I love the idea. It would be interesting to have a reaction to food be part of a mystery novel. Thanks!

  7. Avatar
    J.D. Rempel November 8, 2018 at 9:36 am #

    I’m on a really strict diet for my health. But in my writing, I create magnificent food scenes which I am told are mouth-watering. It’s one of my strengths as a writer. I love pouring into my stories, the wishes and desires I would indulge in myself if I could.

  8. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage November 8, 2018 at 11:53 am #

    OK, my so antihero becomes paraplegic near the beginning of the story. This leads to … bowel problems … which leads to … well, let’s just say God is working on humbling him. If you are going to write about paralysis, you don’t want to romanticize it.

    Another scene in my story features a new mom being brought blood pudding by her husband. He expects that she will turn up her nose, but instead she devours it. Soo romantic.

    My food scenes end up gross because the characters are in a postapocalyptic survival situation. It’s so much easier to put them through it than it would be go through it myself. As for my kids, God forbid we find ourselves in such a situation because they would probably rather starve than eat anything “off.”

  9. Avatar
    Joey Rudder November 8, 2018 at 12:09 pm #

    Oh my goodness. This one hits home with me. I’ve dealt with food allergies for years and watched our daughter suffer in an entirely different way; excluded from snack times at school, birthday treats etc. when she was little.

    I created a character (a little girl) in my book who has food allergies and deals with the same issues as my daughter did to help those who are unaware of such things see how a child can struggle. It’s one thing for an adult to attend a potluck meal and bring her own food because she’s worried about cross contamination. But it’s something totally different for a child to go to school and hear, “Surprise! We’re having donuts today since you’ve all been working so hard this week.” As a parent, it’s heartbreaking for you to see your child being left out or even ridiculed at times for something she can’t control. And it’s downright infuriating when the cruelty comes from another parent.

    If we were to shine a gentle and compassionate light on those suffering silently (not just from food allergies), allowing others to get the tiniest glimpse into the world of those struggling, I wonder if hearts could be softened. I’m hoping they can.

    I sincerely thank you for this post, Tamela.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray November 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

      You are so welcome! One of my daughters needs to watch wheat and dairy. So naturally, every church youth group event had…

      pizza and ice cream!

      I don’t remember anyone being especially cruel but I do remember her being especially hungry at times!

      And yes, it hurts to see that.

  10. Avatar
    Tisha Martin November 9, 2018 at 11:09 am #

    What a fun blog post! So many interesting things could happen with a food allergy. The hero could even dislike the heroine because of how she handles her food allergy at first… Hmm…

  11. Avatar
    Debra Torres November 14, 2018 at 8:04 am #

    Great ideas, Tamela! I love the thought of getting into the nitty-gritty regarding my characters. In writing Amish fiction, I wonder how a vegan would fit in? Food for thought!

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