Coffee is consumed in various ways: black, with a dollop of cream or milk, and some people like to add a spoon of honey. Then there is the artisanal coffee movement that regards coffee as an art with its endless possibilities, combinations and complexities.
Are you a coffee drinker? How do you take your coffee? Everybody has their own little quirks when it comes to coffee or any other frequently consumed food or beverage. The famous Ludwig van Beethoven was said to obsessively count out 60 beans of coffee, the perfect amount in his opinion, for every cup he drank.
Even some of our favorite fictional characters are particular about their drink orders. James Bond and his signature vodka martini - shaken, not stirred; Homer Simpson has been drinking Duff beer for over 20 years; JD, from Scrubs and his Appletini; and Jay Gatsby's Gin Rickey, to name a few.
So how does your character take his or her coffee? Find out by inviting your protagonist and/or other central characters to a fictional café or fictional bar. Visualize what they do. Pay attention to their little habits. What is your character’s favourite drink? How does he/she make coffee? Is there a preferred method? Some people first add milk or cream. Others prefer to pour their dairy into the cup before the coffee.
We want our characters to be as close as possible to ‘real, human beings’. Part of being human is possessing these character quirks. The trick is to implement these quirks consistently. What are your character’s habits? What does he/she do throughout the story? Identify settings and activities in which you can show the character’s habits.
How can we use a ‘coffee moment’ to make the story interesting? Increase tension by having someone add more sugar than normal, into their coffee/tea. Or forget to put the sugar in. This could also create a moment of humorous shock as the character, already stressed, takes a sip of that coffee/tea only to find it was not the expected taste. Maybe the character gulps, loses composure and/or knocks over the cup of scalding coffee; or spits the coffee in somebody’s face. Perhaps the restaurant is really busy and the waiter delivers the wrong beverage. This could lead to all sorts of interesting complications, involving the shady-looking character at the next table, who accidentally receives the wrong order.
Do you want to learn more about your characters? Spend some time with them in day-to-day, habitual situations. Notice their responses and how they shine in ordinary situations. Then they will dazzle in those magical moments that make it into your final draft.