Heinrich, in case anybody's not following along (and why should you be?) is the monosyllabic aide-de-camp in the Gearworld blog that I've been keeping for a month or so now.
Initially, I had no idea what Heinrich was, and I figured out that he was probably a grizzly bear right before people went nuts trying to figure out just what he was. I am generally never more than a quarter-step ahead of my readers at any point, though, so I was fine with that.
No, the thing I was thinking about is cooking. Heinrich has the peculiar trait of cooking more and more elaborate meals in response to stress. A Heinrich on top of the world would make burgers,* a Heinrich contemplating suicide would make a ten course meal with six difference sauces and a centerpiece that was a marzipan reconstruction, to scale, of the gardens of Versailles.
Now the Gearworld blog is not particularly plotted--occasionally I'll get inspired and write two or three entries in advance, but that's about it. Even Digger's somewhat lackadaisical plotting system is much more advanced than this. Gearworld proceeds in staggering lurches of imagery. And likewise, the characters were not plotted or developed in advance. I knew Eland would turn out more or less like he did, because there's a lot of me in Eland, but Heinrich was a cipher. And the cooking thing was a sort of joke, a weird personality quirk that I thought was funny and sort of absurd, and which wound up becoming a handy way for me to keep tabs on the emotional state of a character who hardly ever says anything but "Hmph."
The thing that has been constantly astonishing me is the number of people who have reported that they KNOW people like that (or occasionally are people like that.) A buddy of mine recounted how her mother, during one particularly stressful period, baked for two days solid, covering every available surface, including beds, with pies. Evidently stress-induced cooking is much more common than I ever realized. (This surprises me probably because I DON'T cook. Ursula under stress has canned ravioli. Ursula content has canned ravioli. Ursula hanging by one toenail from the Tower of London in a driving rain with the crown jewels of the empire tucked in her hat would go home and have canned ravioli, although possibly she'd order a pizza if she was too tired to work the can-opener.)
I don't know if I have a point to that, I just think it's neat. People are so weird and wonderful that a trait I dream up as an absurd character marker is something so many people DO. I mean, that's just kinda cool.
Tales of stress-related cooking are, of course, welcome.
*They would still be very good burgers, possibly with blue cheese, because Heinrich is an artist, after all.