Of Bacon and Breakfast

As some of you know, I just got back (on Saturday) from a trip to Europe chaperoning high school students. I love to travel--and I actually like traveling with kids, too. It amazes me to see the new places through their eyes.

One thing that really struck me was what the kids missed. We were gone for 13 days--a long time for kids, especially when they know deeply how very far away mom and dad are. It's not like summer camp, where mom can come pick you up when you have a fight with your friend and take you home--you're stuck there the whole time.

Of course they missed family and friends and (most of all) boyfriends and girlfriends. But what did they complain about missing the most?


They ate traditional European meals--which meant that breakfast was a bread of some sort (croissant, baguette, etc.) and juice, or cereal and milk. Not eggs and bacon and sausage and grits and biscuits and gravy.

My mother, who helped chaperon the kids, missed ice in her drinks. (True story: by the end of the trip, she ordered and "iced drink" and was ecstatic to get ONE SINGLE ICE CUBE in the whole glass.) I, who sweats like a sinner in church at the slightest hint of heat, missed my beloved air conditioner most of all.

In near-dystopian books where the main characters are experiencing a world gone wrong recently (as opposed to far future), the main characters almost always miss the way things were. They miss the freedoms the new oppressive government has taken away, they miss their parents or friends who are somehow gone, they miss the way their life was before.

But they should also miss bacon.

For me, the most real moments in these stories are the moments that make me believe the characters are real. Of course the characters have to miss the big things: family, home, friends, and freedom. But they also need to miss the little things. The most poignant scene in How We Live Now for me was when the main character stole and ate some chocolate from her family, just because she longed for chocolate so much.

Sometimes, it's the little, mundane things we don't even think about in daily life that we miss the most when they're gone. In my current work in progress, my main character is very homesick for the world of the past, a world she can't return to. When she made a list of everything she missed, she had her family and friends, but she also included driving with the windows down, her grandmother's chicken and dumplings, and Q-tips.

When reading dystopian, watch for this kind of detail.You can tell a lot about a character by seeing if they miss toilet paper or newspapers more. If you're writing a dystopia, make sure to include this sort of detail in your work. Make your characters real by including the mundane and reminding us all that at the end of the world, what you might miss most is bacon.


Terri Tiffany said...

Great post and love how you used bacon to make the point. Your mother sounds like my husband when we went to Europe--he loves his ice! Me, I loved the bread --forget the bacon!!

Hannah said...

So so so true. It's the little things that create believable characters.

kah said...

I'm not writing a D, but if I was my characters would miss Reese's Pieces sundaes from Friendly's.

However, looking at those pics makes me wants some bacon RIGHT NOW. Sundae later.

Great post!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Excellent point. Thanks. =o)

Laura S. said...

Great post! This is so true; it's those seemingly insignificant things that make characters come alive.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent post -- and I'm not just saying that because of the bacon. ;-)

Details can make the character.

Lenore Appelhans said...

You know, in Europe, you never know if you are going to get bacon at breakfast or not. Most of the nicer hotels do have more extensive breakfast buffets and these will almost always have bacon. More economical hotel options are hit and miss. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sounds like your kids didn't get bacon lucky.

Julia said...

Fabulous post, Beth! And, welcome back to bacon, ice and air-conditioning!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love this! It's so often the small details that make a character real. Bacon is a good choice :)

Miriam Forster said...

BACON!!! *longs for bacon*

I don't blame them, I'd miss bacon too. :)

Angie said...

Everything is better with bacon. Welcome back, Beth.