Fictional Characters with Family Traditions
By Natalie Bright
As you develop your characters and identify their quirks and traits, consider their past family experiences and traditions. These incidents shape their personality and can add depth to your story.
Holiday traditions can leave heartfelt memories or tormenting heartache. Is this something that can play into your characters motivations, or become a component of your plot?
Dig Deep and Draw From the Things You Know
Holidays always make me think of my grandparents. I never realized how much I would treasure those memories. For my mother’s family, it was a bustling affaire of preparing the meal, watching football, and opening gifts with cousins. My grandmother planned the menu months in advance, and my aunts and mom arrived early to help.
My in-laws, on the other hand, arrive right at the appointed meal time and leave shortly thereafter. Plans are made at the last minute. The holiday with them seems strange and awkward, leaving me feeling that something is missing. After 28 years of marriage I’m still not used to their way of doing things. The experience only makes me miss the holidays of my childhood even more. So does that past memory affect my attitude? Of course, it does.
What about you and your memories? How can past experiences create tension, either external or internal, for your characters? These past memories might cause resentment, deep depression, intense joy, or a myriad of emotion.
A Past Life
Think about creating a past for your character. Where did their parents come from? How did their parents meet? Where did their grandparents live? Did they even know their grandparents? If not, why? Maybe the main characters’ mother wasn’t welcome in her family home, and what if your character has to know why. This might not be your primary plot, but it could be a component of your character’s make-up and motivation as to why he/she acts they way they do. You see where I’m going. The possibilities are endless. You may not use even a fourth of this information in your story, but you need to know these details about your main characters and major villain.
You’re on a roll now, so keep going. Childhood experiences? Most frightening time? Most embarrassing time? Childhood friends? Worst enemy? Favorite uncle? Hated aunt? What about that evil sister-in-law who joins a cult and becomes dependent on pain killers? Self-centered brother-in-law? Famous cousin? Wealthy grandfather? How do these people influence your character’s moral fiber?
Write On My Friends!
2013 was a great year. Goals were realized, I garnered a few thrilling publishing credits, and received several devastating rejection notices which means my work is getting out there. I leave you with the most inspiring message for me, one that I heard repeated many times during 2013: keep writing. Finish. Submit.
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