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Wednesday, January 01, 2014


What Did Your Character Do For New Year's?

My cousin eats pickled herring on New Year's Eve. My grandma and aunt used to when they were alive--it's supposed to bring you good luck in the New Year. At our Christmas gathering, my cousin explained to me not to get the herring in cream sauce (who would do that?) and just to eat a bite or two. I need to sell my house (Oh, I NEED TO SELL MY HOUSE) and finish my novel and look for an agent in 2014, but I'm not sure if I'm desperate enough to eat pickled herring. I can confess right now that I am not.

But this conversation got me thinking about our characters that we spend so much time with--either the ones we are writing or the ones we are reading--and I wondered if you ever thought about how your character in your work-in-progress or even the book you are currently reading spends New Year's Eve and/or New Year's Day.

One of the most famous New Year's Eve movie scenes is from When Harry Met Sally; but in order for that relationship and scene to FINALLY work and be so memorable years after we've seen the movie, it had to make sense for both the characters, Harry and Sally, to act that way on New Year's Eve. We love both Harry and Sally, and we long for them to be together--we buy it when they finally do become a couple on New Year's Eve. 

You can do a complete character exercise about New Year's Eve:

Does your character go to a party?

When she goes to a party, does she drink it up or stand in the corner?

Does she dress in a formal or jeans?

Who does she kiss at midnight?

Who does she wish she could kiss at midnight?

Does she make resolutions?

Does she stick to them?

What are they?

Does she eat pickled herring for luck?

Does she hide a coin in black-eyed peas on New Year's Day?

If I answered some of these for a well-known character, such as Rapunzel (I have a three-year-old daughter--can't help myself!), I might say, "Yes, Rapunzel would make resolutions--to get out of the tower at least once a month without the witch noticing, and she would eat pickled herring on New Year's Eve because she needs all the luck she can get. She doesn't get to go to a party on New Year's Eve because she is stuck in the blasted tower, but she dreams of kissing a handsome prince, or anyone actually--because she is super lonely."

See, pretending New Year's Eve is fun!

My main character, Anna Green, age 13 from the Civil War, would answer the questions in a totally different way, such as: "The only person I would ever want to kiss me at midnight would be Albert, but I hoped he would just kiss me on the cheek. If he kissed me on the lips, I might die of embarrassment. I am making a resolution to learn more recipes during the New Year, but to also make time for my reading and writing. I will not eat anything like pickled herring on New Year's Eve because I once had to eat rats during the Siege. But I love black-eyed peas, and I hope I find the coin this year."

Okay, your turn. Pick a question from above (or two or three) and tell us a bit about a character you love or your own you are writing and his/her New Year's celebrations and resolutions. Happy New Year to you, too! 

Join Margo in the WOW! classroom in 2014. She is teaching these classes in January: Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach (starts Jan. 3), Writing For Children (about starting and taking hold of your career, starts Jan. 7), Writing a Children's or Teen Novel (starts Jan. 30). It's not too late to sign up! Questions? E-mail Margo at margo (at)

herring photo by roncierge 

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Blogger Sioux said...

Margo--What an interesting post.

First, I hope you finish your novel and sell your house and snag an agent---as early in 2014 as possible, so you can "relax" and enjoy the rest of the year.

Maggie is the main character in my project and she'd eat pickled herring (because her luck is sucky) but she'd cringe and act like she was gagging as she did it. She'd wear jeans and a flowy top (to hide the protruding gut) and make a resolution to eat more healthily and have some control over her eating, but the resolution would last...less than four minutes. Maggie would go to the same party she does every year--a party where everyone brings their kids--now everyone brings their grandkids--and when it turned midnight and everyone put on their coats and went into the front yard to see some fireworks, she'd kiss her husband and wish him a Happy New Year...and hope that it really and truly would be a better year...for once.

Have a great 2014 Margo...

8:13 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Sioux: Good plan--let's get all my goals done in the first quarter of the year! Love reading about your character and I hope Maggie has a better 2014 too--thanks to the pickled herring, which I DID NOT eat last night. :)

11:37 AM  
Blogger Rita A. said...

You reminded me of my grandfather. He ALWAYS had a jar of pickled pigs feet in the fridge and would always be standing there with the door open eating some. I don't remember ever trying them and don't think I want to but it's a great(?) memory of my grandfather.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Rita: So glad that my post about gross pickled food brings up a good memory for you! :) Happy New Year!

8:30 AM  

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