Sunday, May 1, 2011

Favourite Things

I don't know if Julie knows that I sometimes have a hard time thinking up something to blog about (probably because I'm usually posting on a Sunday, when I'm all wound-down and empty-brained) or if she just thinks of me whenever she makes a cake. Which is by no means unreasonable.

Either way, she's quite right, I do have a Fine Appreciation of Cake. It's been dented in recent years by my wheat-free status, but that's okay - it's just reinforced my pavlova obsession.

And believe it or not, thinking about cake did actually bring me to a topic for this blog about characters and making them real.

Via cake stands and aprons.

Yes, cake stands and aprons. I have, at the most recent count, seven cake stands and nine aprons. I like them. I like to look at them, and I like to use them. They are pretty, practical and two of my very favourite things.

So, what are my heroines' favourite things? Those things that make them double-take on the high street, go ooooooh at a picture in a magazine, and beg on their birthday?

Thinking about heroines in my published and unpublished manuscripts, I mostly drew a blank. Countryside Ranger Jenny has a thing for trees, it's true, but it's subtle, and not of the common or garden birthday-present variety. Mari, growing up as sole carer for her ailing father, hasn't had much opportunity to even KNOW what she likes, a fact she acknowledges herself. Shiftless thief Lisa's two favourite things are pretty much her only possessions - her boat and an item of her mother's jewelry. And she abandons them both the instant she realises owning the boat has made her an unwilling accessory to murder. Another heroine has everything money can buy, but nobody's ever asked her what she actually wants. Another has been busy being a Mum since she was sixteen, and is only ten years later starting to think about what she wants out of life - even her three children have their favourite things, but she doesn't.

Now, I THINK this is because I tend to write heroines who are out of their depth and suffering, for whom favourite things are just not important. I HOPE this isn't because I write shallow characters, because I actually think little details like cake stands and aprons give a character depth. Especially when the character who covets them also has, say, chainsaw certification and dirt under their fingernails.

But I'll be thinking about this again when I'm editing the current WIP.

How about your (and your characters') favourite things? What springs to mind?

(And for the curious, the cake stand pictured is one I received from my lovely in-laws for my birthday last month, and the apron is a red version of the green one Biddy (who has impeccable taste) gave me some years back. Mmmmmm.....)

Pop back on Thursday for Christina's next post!


  1. That's weird, Anna, because my heroines don't seem to covet anything in particular either! What they really want is freedom - freedom of choice that is, in deciding what they want out of life, who they should marry. My Swedish heroine Jess does want her father's business, but only because it was supposed to have been hers in the first place and she was swindled out of inheriting it. And English Hannah is impressed by gifts from the Japanese warlord she falls in love with, but they aren't things she's ever expected to receive.

    I, on the other hand, collect all sorts of things (blue and white porcelain among them, so am now coveting your gorgeous cake stand!). I'll have to take a closer look at my heroines in future too - they're obviously not like me, but it's human to want things so maybe there should be something they secretly want? Thanks for making me think about this!

  2. What an interesting blog, Anna. I've never thought about that aspect of a character before, but it adds depth to know what their favourite things would be, and what tangible objects they would covet.

    I shall go back and look at the characters in my current wip with that thought in mind.

    Liz X.

  3. Great blog, Anna. I know my current heroine wants to belong. She also want lots of things that a teenage girl wants trendy clothes etc but that is mostly because she wants to fit in, she wants to belong.


  4. I've had characters who were obsessed with shoes, comic books, Star Trek DVDs, the colour pink, Georgette Heyer, band t-shirts, Regency fashion, llamas, and, in my wip, squat wooden fertility figurines. But I tend to write obsessive characters anyway, and the stuff is a representation of that.

    Good blog, good point, and good cake stand and apron!

  5. Oh good. I'm glad for the most part I'm not alone with being puzzled by this!

    I can think of books where there are key things belonging to the heroine, or that the heroine is preoccupied with, but they're usually symoblic of some plot element, or (as you say, Julie!) representing a key aspect of character...

    I can talk about the emotional predisposition of my characters, but not so much what THINGS they like. This musing has left me wondering.

    And I do love wondering in company! Thanks folks. :)

  6. I was thinking about this a little while ago in revisions, and realized that aside from her horse, my MC has no real interests; the secondary characters even less so. I felt like I should put some in, to give them depth, but I couldn't really think of how to fit these into the story that wouldn't seem contrived or otherwise pointless.

    Which made me wonder, are they really necessary? Unless these interests serve some role to the plot or as a device to create empathy in the reader, or to tell us more about the sort of person the character is so we know why they do certain things, do we actually need to know she likes potted plants or the colour blue? Or can we just assume she probably has some interests/likes because most people do?

    Perhaps it's all in the execution...

  7. You have me thinking because the book that I'm rewriting I don't my other books I do. Work needs to be done:-)

    Love cake stands and aprons...was given an Easter one by dd this year!

  8. Definitely all in the execution, Seabrooke! I have no answers, only musings... :-)

    Glad it was thought provoking, Liz!