Shopping with Character: Diana Corbett

M&M frt Verson 1It’s been a while since I wrote my first “Shopping with Character” post, so it’s definitely time for another one.  Today, I want to talk about Diana Corbett, who is the female protagonist in Bayou Fire.

Diana has to travel a lot for her job, so her Seattle condominium is fairly spartan.  She doesn’t have plants or pets, and we learn that she doesn’t even have much in the way of art on the walls.  She sees herself as a practical person; if she’s not around often enough to take care of the plants, let alone a pet, or enjoy the art, she doesn’t see the need to have it.

That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like those things; in the course of the book, we see how much she enjoys spending times with peoples’ pets, looking at photographs, and visiting museums.

We also learn about a few things that she buys.  Early on in her assignment in New Orleans, she visits the Hové Parfumeur on Chartres Street.  Even though it’s unnamed in the text, this is the place where she buys a perfume that is so distinctive that Amos Boudreaux recognizes it when they’re sitting next to each other in Preservation Hall.

Diana doesn’t buy many groceries, we learn, because she doesn’t have an automobile in New Orleans and is expected to review restaurants anyway.  Amos teases her about having nothing but condiments and pop in the fridge when he comes over to make her lunch while she’s under the weather with her Hashimoto’s disease.

Which brings me to my next point:  Diana has to choose clothes that accommodate her disease state.  I live with Hashimoto’s myself, and when I made the decision to put this disease into one of my characters’ lives, it was not done lightly.  I don’t do self-inserts, and certainly didn’t in this case … but I wanted to have readers see that not all characters are flawless and in perfect health.  There are a whole lot of people out there with thyroid conditions, and seeing someone who faces the same challenge can be empowering.

Anyway, we learn that sometimes Diana has to choose softer clothes because of pain or texture issues, and that she makes sure there are blankets or sweaters nearby in case she’s too cold.  One of the common elements of thyroid disorders is that one’s body temperature is hard to regulate.

Finally, we see that when it comes to special occasion dressing, Diana prefers to find something vintage and unusual rather than going to a department store.  Her purple dress from a St. Charles Avenue vintage shop is a great example.

So, what do we learn from Diana’s shopping habits?  She’s very much unafraid to stand out in a crowd, but tends toward the practical most of the time.  She also likes to treat herself well with little luxuries that are easy to carry and use rather than leaving them at home where they’re seldom seen and enjoyed.  We also learn that her practicality extends to not buying a lot of groceries that would be a challenge to haul because of her physical symptoms.  She does the best she can to exercise valuable self-care, which can be a lesson to all of us.

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Shopping with Character: Amos Boudreaux

Yesterday, I reblogged an article that suggested we get to know our characters by mentally taking them shopping with us.  Last night, it occurred to me that we actually see some of my characters’ shopping decisions in the text of the book, so I thought it would be fun to examine how those shopping trips give us clues as to who they are.  Up first: Amos Boudreaux, from Bayou Fire.

M&M frt Verson 1Here’s a quick list of things we know that Amos has bought, or buys during the course of the story:

  1. He buys produce for his restaurant himself, and does it at the farmer’s market.  He’s supporting local farmers.
  2. When we first meet him, he’s wearing faded jeans and his university T-shirt.  Later, for a date, he’s wearing dark jeans, a crisp white shirt, and polished boots.  We also see him in bespoke suits and a tuxedo, when the occasion warrants.
  3. He drives an older car that he loves, despite its temperamental motor.
  4. When he brings lunch to Diana Corbett when shes under the weather, it isn’t take-out from a fast food joint.  Instead, he gets the ingredients to make a quick chicken soup and puts it together himself.
  5. When he’s shopping for jewelry, it isn’t at a mall shop where everything looks the same.  He’s in New Orleans antique stores looking for unique pieces.

So, what clues to his character do we glean from all of this?  Well, we know that his local culture is important to him.  Part of the way cultures are preserved is through food, and we see the kind of care he takes with it.

We also see that he takes care of the things (and people) he values, where other people might just give up and get something new that they don’t care about as much.

Finally, we see that he considers one-of-a-kind items superior to generic ones.

Amos is the youngest in his close-knit Cajun family; he would have learned the importance of caring for things to make them last through difficult times.  He also would have learned to value family heirlooms as something to pass down for the future.

Honestly, until I read that blog article yesterday, I hadn’t thought about how my characters’ shopping/buying habits reflected their personalities … but now that I’ve considered it even a little bit, I can see how it works.  I can’t wait to examine some of the others with you.

How might you use this method to figure out who your characters are?