Shopping with Character: Claire Delacroix LeMaître and Gilbert Rochambeau

For day three of Blogmas, I thought it would be fun to look at two of my characters doing their Christmas shopping.

ITEOTB Wrap Cover frtFor those new to my blog, “Shopping with Character” is a series that gives insights to how the people in my books think and behave based on their shopping habits.  When I first learned this technique, the idea was to imagine taking your characters shopping and see what they do.  What I discovered was that I could learn new things from looking at how my characters went about buying things on a day-to-day basis.  What we learn in this snippet is that the recently married Claire doesn’t worry about money the way she used to (notice that they go shopping in a costly department store) but her friend and major-domo, Gilbert, is more cautious with his funds.  Enjoy this snippet from my debut novel, In The Eye of The Beholder!

One day when I felt up to activity, it snowed in London. I had planned to visit a museum, but Gilbert had a different idea.

“There is a frozen pond at the Tower, Claire. Perhaps you would like to try ice skating? I would be happy to accompany you. Alas,” he gestured toward his leg, “I shan’t be joining you on the ice. Nevertheless, I could take you there and back while Erik is at the office.”

“It’s the Stubbins’ day off, Gilbert. If we take the carriage, one of us shall have to stay with the horse. That wouldn’t be much company for either of us. I might just as well to stay home in that event.”

“Then we shall have the grand adventure of taking the omnibus.”

Gilbert would brook no resistance, and I was glad to have something to do. I had never tried ice skating, but was grateful to Gilbert for his willingness to help me. The days that I felt like trying to do anything were crucial, and could not be ignored. So, I dressed warmly in a grey tweed walking suit and black boots. Over the top went a bottle green coat with black fur trim, matching bonnet and muff. We took the omnibus to the Tower and I rented a pair of skates to attach to my boots.

I was frightened at first and a little off-balance. I fell more than once, but with the assistance of some children eventually learned the correct motions to propel myself around the pond. There were many folk out on the ice, laughing and enjoying themselves, and I could not help but feel my mood lighten.

After I returned my skates, my legs rubbery with exertion, Gilbert bought mugs of tea and roasted chestnuts from a nearby vendor. We watched the other skaters for a while, sharing our snack in companionable silence. When we finished our treat, I thanked Gilbert.

“It is nothing, Claire. Seeing a bit of color back in your cheeks and a smile on your face are worth more than gold to me.” Gilbert’s gaze was penetrating at first, and then he looked away. “I should take you home soon, Claire.”

“Perhaps you could help me with my Christmas shopping before we go,” I suggested. I was not ready to be shut up in the house again today. Tomorrow might be different; I had to take advantage of my improved mood.

So, we again took an omnibus into Knightsbridge to shop at Harrods. We browsed the entire seven floors. In the men’s furnishings department, Gilbert especially admired a walking stick with a faceted blue glass knob for a handle.

“That’s a gentleman’s stick for certain,” he said. “It’s very handsome.” He examined the price tag and put the stick back in the display.

“Let’s see what we can find for the family,” he said.

“What are you planning to buy for Honor?” I asked.

“I don’t really know, Claire. She is a hard one to read. She doesn’t appear to care for frills and things; she’s said more than once that she’s a simple girl and not ‘one o’ them toffs’ she could name. I think she may be something of a snob.”

“I think she may just be sounding you out, Gilbert. She’s a good girl and you could do much worse for yourself.”

“I suppose you are right,” Gilbert smiled. “She is a very appropriate match for someone like me.”

“She is quite pretty, too,” I smiled.

“She is that. I am a rather lucky fellow.” His smile broadened, and I could not help grinning back at him in delight.

I was grateful for Gilbert’s help with the packages at the end of the trip, for there were gifts for the Stubbins family and Erik to manage. We hailed a hansom cab to take us home with our bounty. I would shop for Gilbert on another occasion, that I might surprise him with that walking stick. I owed so much to him, and he would be pleased.


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.

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?