Writing Discussion: Beverages

I know that everyone prefers general discussions about writing, but I like to mix things up at times and get specific. So today we’re going to be talking about beverages. What your characters drink, how they drink, how the drink personifies them, how it propels the plot forward, how it helps create atmosphere and setting.

An obvious use for a beverage is the poisoned drink. That certainly propels a plot! Another use of beverage (which I hope you’re all staying away from because it’s been done to death) is the cop with a drinking problem. As soon as I see that in a book now, I don’t even bother to read it. Unless of course, the drinking problem is more along the lines of Robert Hays’ drinking problem in the movie Airplane!. But even that has become stale.

Think of the feelings, the characterizations, the mood these drinks invoke:

Hot buttered rum
Mulled cider
Hot chocolate
Ice cold beer
Herb tea
Fruit punch
Well water
Orange juice

I could list hundreds of drinks, and every one would remind you of something. Like every other element in a story, what your characters drink (or don’t drink — mine seldom drink coffee) needs to be more than simple window dressing.

Here’s an example of how a drink becomes significant. It’s a 100-word story called “Colorized”:

The drab little man in the gray suit entered the bar at five o’clock as usual, huddled on the same bar stool he always did, and waited to order his usual martini.

An almost pretty woman perched on the next stool smiled at him as if they were going to be good friends. Then a fellow wearing a loud shirt approached and handed her a rose. As she got up to follow him, a single petal fluttered to the floor.

“Your usual?” the bartender asked.

The man glanced at the rose petal, straightened his shoulders. “I’ll have red wine today.”

So, what do your characters drink? How does the drink aid in characterization? Does the drink have a greater significance in the story than simply something for the characters to do? Where do your characters drink? Most stories, especially those with a mythic twist, make use of the “watering hole,” a place where the characters gather to drink, talk, plan. Does this place have any significance to your story?

Grab your drink of choice and join the group No Whine, Just Champagne on Thursday, February 12 at 9:00pm ET for a live chat about beverages. Hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, we can discuss beverages here.

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