by Bethany Maines
My husband, a confirmed football enthusiast since birth, prefers to watch the Super Bowl with, at most, a select few of fellow football enthusiasts who won’t talk over the game and a large dish of BBQ pork with spicy-hot Chinese mustard and toasted sesame seeds. My preferred way of watching the Super Bowl is with cheese. That’s not some Green Bay Packers joke – I just really like cheese and I don’t really care about football. I don’t object to it either; I just have a hard time working up a lot of enthusiasm for it. (I know, I know, my husband also claims that I have some sort of mental illness in this department.) As a result, our Super Bowl parties generally consist of the two of us, with him actually watching and me switching between the TV and my laptop. Which sounds like it should be a very cost efficient party, but I have to say that our two-person football party cost a ridiculous amount, and I have only myself to blame. 33% of the cost was strictly cheese. This year there was the sharp and tangy, Isle of Man Vintage Cheddar, a local favorite Backcountry Creamery Havarti, and my personal crack of choice Ski Queen Gjetost, a brown goat cheese that may look suspicious, but tastes oh so delicious.
So as my husband, hereafter to be referred to as Joe (because that’s his name), was noshing on pork slices and watching one of the Manning brothers throw a ball, I was nibbling cheeses and watching a British TV show called the Misfits on my laptop. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that our various habits were not something that generally gets mentioned in stories. Outside of Wallace & Gromit, there aren’t many shows or novels where a key plot point is cheese. Which is probably as it should be, but my point is that as an author I frequently try to give signature traits to my characters – this one has red-hair, this one likes guns, etc – but it’s rare that I expand my imagination to include things like “she’s obsessed with cheese” or “that one signed up for cable strictly for the BBC.” But why not?
When I’m inventing my character I try to give them traits that are relevant to their development within the plot. I need that one to like guns so that later she can shoot people. It’s not until later, when the characters are still kicking around in the attic of my mind that it occurs to me to wonder whether or not they like pork. So I have now added “SB food” to my character template. When inventing a new character I’m going to ask myself not just how tall, how old, how much hair dye, I’ll be asking, “What would you eat on Super Bowl Sunday?” Don’t worry, I’ll try to not let the answer always be cheese.