How The Seven Deadly Sins Can Help You Write Emotion: Gluttony

By on May 22, 2014 . Category Column

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” 
― Socrates

This week’s emotion:  GLUTTONY, and its counterpoint, restraint.

Similar to lust, but more in-your-face—gluttony is the overindulgence in anything at all.

In this day and age, we’re all at least a little familiar with gluttony.  Anyone who’s marathoned an entire series on Netflix over a weekend, or read through a whole webcomic online in one sitting, or polished off the ice cream in the freezer just because they could has felt the clutch of gluttony in their life.

It’s important to remember that gluttony is something virtually everyone in our culture struggles with.  While not everyone is notably prideful, or lustful, or slothful, almost everyone has some area of their life where they succumb to gluttony.

Using gluttony as a character trait can either make someone relatable and familiar or, if pushed to extremes, unlikable and loathsome.  Use it wisely, because both these effects (and everything in between) are valuable to the development of a story.  For instance, if you want to create hatred toward a particular character, it doesn’t have to be as extreme as making them violent, evil, sociopathic, or anything else so intense—making someone a glutton with food, drink, or idle pastimes can create irritation in your readers.

It can also be an excellent weakness in a main character.  People are made more loveable when they have a flaw—a character who can’t help but gamble, or overindulge, or has a weakness for baked goods (to the point of it being funny and ridiculous/getting them into trouble).  It can be a comedic relief, or a plot device to create sticky situations for your characters.  Any temptation they can’t resist can be used against them—either deliberately by a foe, or coincidentally—in a comical, stressful, or down-right life-ruining way.

So have fun with gluttony.  There’s an element to lust when people try to resist their glutinous temptations, too, so there can always be that tie-in.  And remember that, while lust can often be long-term, gluttony is almost always short-term.  You want that cookie NOW, you want to sleep in NOW, you want to watch Netflix NOW, you want to read through Reddit NOW.

It doesn’t have to be something big or impressive—gluttony can be as simple as trying to read just one more chapter and then go to bed at a decent hour.  Think of the things you can never seem to do, even though you claim to want to; your character should have similar weaknesses!

Another character trait—usually present in the wise, militant, or incredibly disciplined—is restraint.  It can be interesting to watch other characters give into temptation and fail to resist even the silliest urges while another character stands by, not participating.  Restraint can also be seamless (the reader can’t even tell they’re holding back), or apparent (it’s very, very obvious—even funny—that they’re working hard to resist).

Remember:  Your readers will only believe it if they feel it.  Make the characters’ struggles to restrain themselves, or their complete lack of restraint when they give in to gluttony, relatable.  It’s a “sin” (read: negative trait) that can be a lot funnier or more entertaining than some of the others, so play with it!


What’s your main character a glutton for?  What do they struggle to resist in their day-to-day life that sometimes trips them up?


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