It’s Christmas Eve! And that has me thinking about tradition.
I know, in the past, Michelle has touched on how tradition can add depth to your story and your characters. I’d like to go into a little bit more detail with that.
As you write and develop your character and your world, think about some of your family’s traditions. How can you apply some of those to your character?
But don’t forget that your character may have different traditions and beliefs. Is he of the same religious background? Maybe you’re Jewish and she’s an Atheist or a Christian or a Mormon? Maybe he’s a devout Catholic? Maybe you’re writing a fantasy and there is no religion on your world or it’s something you’ve made up. (That’s a whole different blog post for some time in the future, but you can still think about these questions.) Is your character someone who actively participates in her religion, or is she someone who only goes on the major holidays – Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, Passover, etc?
It’s also important to think about traditions that your family – and your character’s family – have. For instance, every year, we go to my mother’s mother’s house on Christmas day and play a present-opening game with my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmother. Then, we have a late lunch. A few days before that or a few days after that, we go to my father’s mother’s house and exchange gifts (every cousin gives something to one other cousin, grandma gives something to everyone, everyone gives something to grandma and the adults do a present opening game – men’s gifts and women’s gifts). We have it a few days before or after Christmas because my dad has six siblings and it works better to coordinate it that way. I also have two aunts and an uncle (and now several cousins) who are doctors or nurses, and they often have to work a holiday shift. After opening gifts, we have dinner, the family photo and “the slideshow”, which my poor uncle slaves away at putting together every year, to our great delight.
My husband’s sisters go to their mother’s family’s house to bake cookies every year (he has a different mom). It’s a huge family thing. A few weeks before Christmas, they work from 7 pm to 7 am baking 5 different cookie recipes apiece. Then they all take some of them home.
What about gifts? Does everyone buy something for everyone else? Is there a gift exchange? A game? Is there a dollar limit for what you can spend? Are all the gifts opened on Christmas Day or are some opened on Christmas Eve? Does everyone open them at once, or are they opened one at-a-time?
Although I’ve mostly touched on seasonal traditions, birthdays, vacations, adoption day, summer breaks, family vacations, New Years Day, Independence Day and anniversaries are also special days that may have an aura of tradition surrounding them. Using those special days to create tradition for your character can be fun. It can also make for some interesting scenes and make your character and show a clear picture of his or her relationship with family.
Don’t forget. While it’s always fun to use your own family’s traditions, try to cook some up that are unique to your character. And who knows, while they might start out as fiction, they could become something you do in your own life.