The day after St. Patrick’s day, I’m thinking about four leaf clovers.
What about our characters’ ancestors and their beliefs?
We look at our families, we may wonder, where did this nose come from and why this nose, this chin or these cheekbones, those ears, that disposition, that kindness, that mean streak? And of course part of what makes us, us and our characters has been passed down through the generations. While other parts that make us individuals are from our environment, experiences and support we received or didn’t receive.
I’ve just finished reading three books and each of them had characters with devastating childhoods that shaped the characters until the day they died. But love also found a way in through the cracks and filled some holes. Others, not filled to the bottom but a skim overtop enough to go on for another day with hope.
I’m not sure I have given enough thought to my characters’ ancestors. My stories are set in Saskatchewan, Canada. A new land for immigrants but an old land for indigenous peoples.
Because it is a new land for immigrants, many of the contemporary characters can be second and third generation immigrants, with all of the angst that comes along with leaving an old way of life, leaving community and traditions behind. The grandparents, parents, and siblings each finding a new way to be. These adjustments take their toll.
When we think of hair color, Red for instance, “ScotlandsDNA believes that everyone who carries one of 3 variants of the red-hair gene is a direct descendant of the first redhead ever to have it – two variants originating in West Asia around 70,000 years ago, and a younger variant originating in Europe around 30,000 years ago….Probably the best known red-head in Britain today is also of royal, and R1b, stock – Prince Harry (pictured at the top). While serving with the British Army in Afghanistan, he was known by his comrades – due to his hair colour and his status as a high profile target – as ‘the Ginger Bullet Magnet‘.”
The question of course is, is this important to determine a character? I believe that it is one small point. If your character has red hair and there aren’t any others in the family, does that mean that there is always a suspicion that someone had in illegitimate affair, that someone isn’t truly a member of the family? And if this is the case, how does it affect that character? Do they become stronger, compliant, live-up to the stereotype of a person quick to anger? If not them, then if their parent was the one who felt on the outside, what did they pass down to their child?
Research also shows that phobias and fears can be passed down generations. So do our characters begin to understand and are strong enough to dig into causes that perhaps deter them from their goals and move forward?
Many years ago I read this in a Readers’ Digest: (an anecdote from my memory.) A daughter watched her mother cut off the end of a roast beef before she put it in the pan. She asked why her mother did this. Her mother said, because her mother always did it. They decided to call the grandmother and ask. The grandmother replied, the roasts were always too big for the pan she had.
A character can be the daughter, asking questions wanting to know the reasons for certain reactions and working toward a change.
Good luck on creating your characters and giving your readers the best experience they can.
Annette BowerAuthor of contemporary romance novels set on the Saskatchewan prairie. www.annettebower.com
Excerpt of Fearless Destiny by Soul Mate Publishing to be released April 2016.
Turning onto the highway that led into Apex, Tiffany George saw an abandoned gray compact car. Her father’s voice rang in her ears, Don’t drive by stalled cars on the highway. You never know who needs you. Slowing to a stop, she grabbed her flashlight and tucked her cell phone into her pocket.
She expected to see an empty vehicle. Tiffany felt like an unprepared Girl Scout when the light illuminated dark eyes. A hand pushed through black hair. His discomfort was obvious. His shoulders braced against the seat.
“Can I help you?” she called through the window.
“I’m not sure.” His jaw muscles tensed, while he shaded his eyes against the flashlight.
“I’m going to open the door.” Her forearms and biceps bulged, her sandals skidded on gravel but the driver door wouldn’t budge.
“Locking system jammed.” His speech was slurred.
“That doesn’t happen. Have you been drinking?” She sniffed for alcohol.
“What kind of pain?” She watched him with first-responder alertness. “Heart attack?”
He bent down toward the floor. Growing up as her father’s helper in the family plumbing business, Tiffany knew her way around vehicles.