Do Heroines Ever Eat?

Shhh! I’m tiptoeing back into the Romantic Journey after being away on other projects for a long time. It’s very quiet here, though – where is everyone? Please come back – it’s lonely here….
But not so lonely that I can’t complain about something that has begun to irritate me more and more. I read a lot of ‘woman in jeopardy’ and romantic suspense novels, and it really bothers me how emaciated and malnourished those heroines must all be by the end of the book.
Now, maybe it’s just those few extra pounds on my rear, caused by too much computer time and too little exercise, so I could just be bitter about this, but have you ever noticed how little these usually over-active heroines ever eat?
It’s not unusual for them to have coffee for breakfast, be stalked, run off the road, shot at, sprint through miles of woodland, swim a lake, have wild sex with the hero, have a massive fight with the hero, rush home to run into the arms of a crazed kidnapper, be rescued or get themselves out of a scrape, and then remember that they’ve not eaten since coffee at breakfast the day before.
Yeah, really. I’d be chewing off my own foot, I’d be so hungry.
And what do they do then? Set up a good meal with all the foodgroups? No, it’s usually just another coffee and maybe a bit of unbuttered toast. And the coffee’s not a Tim Horton’s double-double – it’s almost always black.
How do they do it? Why do they do it?
Is it the wild sex that keeps them going? Or fear that interfers with normal digestive processes?
Sadly, I get really cranky if I miss a meal, so I guess I’m just not good heroine material. I’d be more likely to shoot the first person to annoy me, rather than solve the crime, save my skin, and bring everything to a happy ending.
So, what do you think? Should we start a campaign to provide a healthy breakfast and organic snacks for malnourished heroines?
Certainly, I’ve been reading some of the neat cozy series that are around, and a few more writers are making their heroines a bit more gastonomically realistic, so maybe there’s hope yet.
Let me know what you think – should heroines have normal meals like the rest of us, or is starvation an important part of their diet?

Glenys O’Connell admits to a love affair with food, and isn’t above a junk food meal when she’s pushed on deadline. Her heroines eat well, everything from home made macaroni tuna and cheese casserole in Judgement By Fire to an elegant three course meal at an expensive Dublin hotel, in Winters & Somers.

6 Responses to “Do Heroines Ever Eat?”

  1. 1 August, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Heroines also never go to the bathroom or get sick; and in historicals, we rarely hear about how dirty and smelly the world is, and how hard it is to get into and out of clothes or how long it takes to cook.

    All this is probably because writers have it drilled into them that they’re supposed to focus on story-story-story and leave out all the uninteresting parts. Which includes eating and such. Readers can safely assume that characters do those mundane things. Same principle applies in travel. Characters get from point A to point B between paragraphs or chapters unless the transit is germane to the story.

    • 4 August, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Carolyn – I do agree that we don’t really want to to know the really mundane details – I don’t want to accompany them to the bathroom! But I do think that writers miss out on a wonderful opportunity when they don’t feed their characters once or twice. For example, the ‘down’ time of a meal allows for a break between actions, fulfilling the high and low pace of activity and tension. Also, you can show a lot about a character’s personality and frame of mind by how she eats; there’s time for some dialogue, both inner and with another character that adds backstory that would take pages if added as exposition (oh, no, not exposition!) as well as strengthening the setting and chronology, and adding texture to the story. Funnily enough, I once read a story where the heroine was throwing up in the toilet (yes, too much detail!) but the hero patted her shoulders and put a cool cloth on her fevered brow – somehow that struck me as very tender and seemed to say a lot about the hero’s personality.

      • 6 August, 2011 at 11:21 am

        Another “downtime” moment I like to use is riding in a car. Good place for character-developing dialogue or reflective backstory.

  2. 4 Caroline Clemmons
    9 August, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Glenys, Here’s why my heroines are always heavy eaters yet have such a high metabolism they never gain weight and always stay at the perfect slender weight (not emaciated but slim)–that’s how I wish I were! Since I gain from watching other people eat, I might as well write the kind of heroine I wish I were, right? I remember the days when I was thin and it was wonderful. Why oh why aren’t I that way now? You mentioned it–I sit in my deskchair most of the day instead of getting exercise. Anyway, at least my heroines enjoy the perfect weight. LOL

  3. 10 August, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Carolyn – good idea – our characters have to have some travel time, right? And everything, from the way they travel to their attitude to it, their anticipating the destination, and their fellow travelers, is all good texture for the story.

  4. 10 August, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Caroline – lol! Yes, we do create characters in our own likeness. Well, most of the time. Not the serial killers or the idiots, right? But those slim, gorgeous young heroines, well, I can fantisize, yes? Thank you for dropping by and commenting.

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August 2011

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