Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cooking Up Characters


1 fun personality
1 backstory wound
1 corresponding, life-crippling fear
1 catalyst for redemption

Mix and let set until plot idea forms. Write story. Synopsis optional (Ha! Don't we wish?)

How many of you love to cook? How many love reading? (Well, duh, Natalie.) How many of you like reading about characters who love to cook? Me! Me! *raising my hand*

Valor Hill, the heroine from my current manuscript, loves to bake sweets. Savory dishes? Not so much, especially if it involves chopping raw meat or any such distasteful chore. But, in honor of her passion for baking, I have included at the end of the post a modern kitchen tip for cleaning your electric mixer--something Valor would've loved to use. She (and my great great grandma) had to beat all her batters with something akin to one of these contraptions:

Also, the oven Valor uses in Heart of Valor is an Elmira wood stove like this one (in the scene, she's using the hero's mother's stove):
Price of Goods in 1870s according to the University of Washington:

Flour - $0.04/lb.
Sugar - $0.10/lb.
Molasses - $0.15/gallon
Lard - $0.06/lb.
Butter - $0.15/lb.
Coffee - $0.12/lb.
Cookstove - $25.00
Cheese - $0.05/lb.
Rice - $0.05/lb.
Fresh Apples - 2 for $0.05
Dried Apples - $0.10/lb.
House (32' x 40', 4 rooms) -- $700
Wagon -- $65
Lantern -- $1
Kerosene -- $0.15/gallon
Coal -- about $80/year

According to some rough approximations by, the value of $1 in 1878 would be equal to about $22.50 in 2010. The 2010 dollar value in 1878 would be equal to about $0.44.

That would be like us paying $11 or $12 for a 5 lb. bag of sugar, but "only" about $4.50 for a 5 lb. bag of flour. Interesting, huh?

Okay, here's the modern kitchen tip for you:


Get a large cup of soapy water and "mix" it with the mixer on high. Beaters will be clean in seconds. Ta da!
(Please ignore my rusty old beaters. I'm pretty sure that's a health hazard.)

Have you lately read about any characters that cook?

What's your most favorite character quirk you've read so far?

What is a job you'd like to see written about as a character's occupation (historical and/or modern)?


  1. If only the synopsis were optional!
    Food tends to creep into my stories, especially if I'm hungry. In my WIP, I wrote a scene with the hero in a Japanese hibachi restaurant because that is basically my favorite kind of food. :)
    I don't know what career I'd like to read about specifically, but I did enjoy reading about telephone operators in Siri Mitchell's Love Comes Calling.

    1. Oooh! hibachi food sounds delicious right now!
      I haven't read Love Comes Calling yet, but it's definitely on my wishlist! I read a book one once--written in the 1800s--about two telegraph operators who fall in love over the line. But since they don't share their names, when they try to meet, misunderstandings abound and things get all kinds of crazy. :) I think it was called "Wired Love." Anyway, a telephone operator would be very interesting to read about! Puts me in mind of Deeanne Gist's Love On the Line. Cute story.

    2. Oops. *Hibachi
      I get carried away when typing about food and forget to capitalize.


Let's chat!