Celebrations and Character Development

The middle of March is a huge celebration time for me. It starts on 3.14, Pi Day. The next day is the Ides of March, and although I don’t often commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar, I do make note of it. March 16 is St. Urho’s Day, in honor of the made-up saint who chased either the grasshoppers or the frogs out of Finland (depending on which fictional hagiography you read). I’m Irish enough to get a kick out of St. Patrick’s Day. The week ends off today, March 18, which is my father’s birthday.

George Longshore

My dad would have been 86 today. It is also what would have been my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary. Dad always said he got married on his birthday so he would never forget his anniversary. Knowing my father, I’m pretty sure the sun would go cold before he would forget that date because he was devoted to my mother. Although Dad passed away in 2000, he is still an important figure in my life.

That brings me to the prompt I gave to a group of writers. I told them to create their own holiday as an exercise in world-building. As I watched them scribble away, it suddenly dawned on me that how we observe our holidays creates the world we carry with us. I mark my father’s birthday with joy for the time we had him. As a person, this realization is empowering; as a writer, it’s a tool. How do your characters approach the holidays? Do they create their own celebrations for the fun of it, or as a coping mechanism to get them through dark days? Do they refuse to celebrate anything at all, and why? Asking these questions might open a whole new understanding of who your characters are, and why they fight you on the page.

Luck and wisdom!

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2 Responses to “Celebrations and Character Development”

  1. hamanne Says:

    My deceased son’s birthday is on the Ides of March and we still celebrate him with his favorite meal of corned beef. This year we did it on St. Pat’s day. We invite his friends in the area.

    My made-up holiday for the writing prompt was National Respect Day where we imagine ourselves in the shoes of everyone we meet and think of something uplifting to say to them.

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