Saturday, May 21, 2011

Would You Read Your Own Story?

With Ben's graduation (SO proud!), I've been thinking a lot on the topic of ceremonies. Why we have them and what their purpose really is. Why we, as humans, find the need to mark the stages in our life with grand events. Graduations, weddings, showers, retirement parties, 21st birthdays, etc. Why not just do them in private and forget the big to-do? Are the ceremonies really necessary?

I believe they're critical in understanding who we are.

If you look at your life as one giant, multifaceted medieval castle (yes, I have a fascination with castles), with leaning towers and hidden staircases (and trolls with oversized heads), those ceremonies are like the huge, wooden doors to each room. Sort of like an access point. It's a marker for our brain, a way to remember the significance of a certain point, to quantify a stage in our life, and stuff it full with appropriate memories. It marks the end of one chapter, and beginning of the next. They are the binder tabs for quick reference to a very, very detailed chapter. Without them, our life sort of blurs together and those events turn into a blob of homogenous green goop. But even more importantly, they outline who we are.

We are a culmination of our life experiences. And the way they all fit together is our story. Each is unique to us, each has its own voice, its own supporting cast, its own setting. Each has its own villain, its own mystery. Some are so exciting we live on the edge of our seats, some are filled with things that go bump in the night (I don't like those kinds), and some still are content to have none of these and spend their evenings watching birds (*clears throat*)...

It's the very same with the characters we write. There should be visible markers along the way, of progress and/or regress. A way to track a character arc. Show the "ceremonies" of society and how our characters interact with them if you really want to know who they are. Do they graduate or not? Does your world even have graduation ceremonies? Do they marry or does your culture not recognize it? These little markers, however you use them, are items we can attribute to "character", and it helps us understand what kind of person your character is. The ceremonies you use may or may not be the traditional sort, and the way you do them may be totally out of order.

The more I write, the more parallels I seem to find between my MC and my own life. Not that I'm on some grand adventure (though many times it feels like that), but realizing our MC's aren't the only ones with a story to tell. We do, too. We all have a beginning and an end, and lots of pages in between with little ceremonial tabs to mark the chapters. It is our legacy. So then my question is, do you like what you're reading?

Also, for you writers, do you employ the idea of ceremonies in your world-building?


  1. Ceremonies are a huge part of any culture. I think it's important to include them, in whatever form they mark your work.

  2. Yes I like what I am read (most of the time) sure there are some let-downs. But all in all, I love my life and I am very grateful to be living it.

    I do agree with you that our stories come from within us… that direct parallels of our lives can be seen, if one looks close enough. I do not use ceremonies in my work, maybe the occasional birthday, but now, I can see the positive side of using them—thx

  3. Cool post Barbara! You know, for most work I think it's important to use ceremonies in world building, but for my most recent WIP it wasn't really applicable (it's a dystopian).

  4. Jenna - I completely agree (well, obviously!). :)

    Jeff - Life IS full of all sorts of things, but sounds like you have the right attitude! I think anything can be conquered with a good attitude.

    Lindsay - Thanks! And now that I'm thinking about it, the absence of ceremonies in your dystopian is equally important. That shows something in and of itself!...You've got my wheels turnin'... :)

  5. Mmm. I like this. I do a lot of "marking" events with big parties any time I have an excuse to.
    Ceremonies and rites of passage are an essential part of the human existence.

    I love castles... going to be hanging out in some this summer while in Britain. (=

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! (=

  6. Yes, I do use ceremonies!
    But if my life story was a book, I wouldn't read it - boring...

  7. I think we write books around those ceremonies. And by ceremony, I don't think it always has to be a huge celebration with lots of people. Even private things have their milestones. Like first kisses, or first heartbreaks, or even something as simple as a realization of who you want to be. Take any one of these events and you've got yourself a story. If any of us were to write the story of our lives, we'd (presumably) have a VERY long book. That is, if we took one event and fleshed it out properly. I think that's why they say that people writing memoirs should focus on a certain time in their life, or on a particular theme. It would be too scattered otherwise. So yes. I agree. Ceremonies are important. :-) Congrats to Ben!

  8. Cool post, Barbara. I love the idea of thinking about our lives as medievil castles.

    Congrats to Ben! That's awesome. I hope his graduation is fun. (Mine was boring...)

  9. Great thoughts Barbara. My life has been punctuated by ceremonies; good and bad. They are in my memory when other events are not. I look at my life in chapters also. I think I'm on my 3rd 'life book' at this point. Each one seems to cover about 20 years. I look forward to the next 'life book' and wonder what it will be like. I wish you and Ben all the best in your new Chapter of your life. Explore all the sights in your new home.

  10. Jo - I can't wait to see some castle photos!! *sigh* Britain... Have so much fun!

    Alex - :D There's definitely a huge section in mine I'd skim...or skip entirely!

    Christine - Thanks! *tells Ben*, and that's interesting about memoirs, focusing on one part. Didn't know!...and it totally makes sense. Maybe it's like writing a query letter...? hehe

    Sari - Thanks! He better have had fun! lol

    Norma - Thanks, Norma! I love that you've separated yours into volumes :D And please let us know if you're ever in the area!

  11. I HEART ceremonies... in real life AND on paper! (I'm like Katherine Heigle on 27 dresses!) And I think that's normal... maybe not to that extreme (27 bridesmaid dress IS a bit wonky), but we humans are social creatures. We like to celebrate, to socialize and to mark the important events in our lives. As such, I believe this means we also enjoy reading (and writing!) about them because they're things we can all relate to!

    P.s. Congrats to hubbs for graduating! Woot, woot!

  12. Thanks, Julie! And you know what, I actually haven't seen 27 dresses. Maybe I should :D


Thanks for stopping by! Please, leave a message...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...