Traditions

It's that time of year when we all pull out some traditions. For some, it's the insane rush of shopping in the wee hours of Black Fridays. For others, it's feet up and the game on Thanksgiving Day. Still more, pull the Christmas lights out of attics and basements and begin decking the halls.

As writers, we have the unique opportunity to allow our imaginations to go wild and create some new traditions for the worlds we've spun out of nothing but vain fancy, to paraphrase Shakespeare. I know, it's a little bit of an oxymoron, creating new traditions, but I believe that inserting those bits of culture into a book gives it so much more depth than ignoring them. Think about it. If our characters inhabit stale worlds with no traditions, not in dress, celebration or food, we've got pretty cardboard characters. What are they fighting to save? What are they struggling towards? That simple Midwinter's Celebration that your character's mother has had for as long as your character can remember might be the impetus he needs to go and do what you need him to do. Threatening those traditions can be a great plot point. The traditions themselves can also be a plot point. Perhaps, it's the tradition in your world's culture that every child who reaches his/her majority goes on some type of walkabout. There's your inciting incident right there!

However, beyond the ease of inserting and explaining plot points, creating traditions grants a world and a story depth. It gives the feeling that this culture you might have created during your drive to work one day has actually existed. It gives the feeling of history, of worthiness. So, take a moment or two amid your own traditions, whatever they might be, and think--what tradition, what celebration, is my character looking forward to? What does he miss? What does he want back? You might get a little closer to finding out more about not only your character, but also about yourself.

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