My main character, Roland, goes through quite a transformation over the course of my novel. He cleans himself up, stops acting like a dick, and quits smoking… all for a girl. He also loses a bit of weight and starts exercising. This is a painful process for Roland. He’s never exercised a day in his life.
As the author, I owe it to Roland and the readers to paint a picture of Roland’s roller coaster ride of ups and downs as he goes through this transformation. Part of me can use my imagination. I watched my dad quit smoking so I can draw from that, but I’ve never successfully quit a bad habit myself. I think it’s time to put myself to the test, all in the spirit of getting inside my character’s head.
Soo… two weeks ago I decided to give up sugar for 8 weeks.
I know, impossible, right? It’s everywhere. Literally everywhere. Pick up a jar of something in your fridge and chances are there is added sugar or some derivative in that jar. They even put it in bacon, for pete’s sake. (Maybe that’s why bacon tastes so damn good…) It’s in yoghurt, salsa, mayonnaise, deli meats, and dried fruits. Try finding unsweetened dried cherries at your grocery store. Seriously. They’re cherries. Why do we need sugar added to them? But it is. A little bit here, a little bit there, it all adds up to a lot of sugar over the course of a day. And that’s just the sugar I’m unaware of. Then there’s the sugar I readily take in by the spoonfuls for my tea (of which I drink several cups a day.) It can’t be good for me. It can’t. Time to pull a Roland and make a choice to give it all up.
So, two weeks into this little journey of discovery and what have I learned? Giving up sugar means giving up a helluva lot more than just sugar. It means not eating the ready-made, super convenient stuff you find on the shelves or the refrigerator. It means preparing a lot of foods at home so that you can control what, exactly, goes into your meals. It means not adding it to your coffee/tea. But those hardships, and all those little pangs and cravings I’ve gotten and will get over the next 6 weeks, are exactly what Roland will be experiencing as well. I won’t have to imagine what it’ll be like to be Roland; I’ll know.
I’ve been keeping a little journal to record my feelings, cravings, moments of weakness….. Yes, there have been weaknesses, and there will be more, I’m sure of it. I’m not perfect and I don’t have an iron will. But those moments are fodder for the book, too. And hopefully at the end of my little challenge I’ll have a more realistic character to write when I get to those chapters of Roland’s metamorphosis. And who knows? I might be a little healthier for it, too.