I like stories where you get the sense you’ve moved into the middle of an existing life. All the ordinary things might be carrying on, or some big crisis might have shifted our hero and heroine out of their usual preoccupations, but somewhere in the background is normal.
Part of normal life are the things we do regularly with our friends and family. Sunday dinner. Tuesday chess night. Thanksgiving. We do something once, enjoy it, do it again, and before we quite mean it, it has become a habit, or even a tradition.
And such interactions enrich fiction. Four old school friends always meet in London on the first day of March. Mama kisses her children, and later her grandchildren, and always says ‘Love you forever’. Two cousins, separated by years and distance, go to their old fishing hole to become reacquainted. The echoes through time add depth.
In this week’s WIP Wednesday, pick any type of repeated interaction you like: a joke, an activity, an event, a ceremony, a habit. Post it in the comments, as usual, and I’ll post mine below.
It’s from my new contemporary novella for Author’s on Main Street, A Family for Christmas. My heroine hasn’t seen her husband since their wedding day, eight and a half months ago. She has been out with her in-laws, cutting and bringing home a Christmas tree from the farm’s hilltop.
After a cup of tea back at the house, they wrestled the Christmas tree into a bucket of damp sand, sitting ready in the corner of the big sitting room. Cheryl shifted the bucket a half circle and then back a quarter until Lee and Old Trev agreed that the young pine looked even on all sides. It was full and bushy, with branches arching upwards and one grand leader almost scraping the plaster ceiling ten foot above the floor.
“You young ones finish it off,” Old Trev commanded. “I’m going to take a bit of a sit down.”
He wandered off to the screened end of the verandah, where a comfortable recliner chair waited. Not to sleep, he would have told them, but to check out the back of his eyelids, as he did every afternoon.
Cheryl fetched a short wooden stepladder, and Lee carried over the first of the boxes of decorations. They all had stories, Cheryl told her, and each member of the family added at least one new one a year. Old Trev whittled his. He carved one a year, delicate wooden snowflakes all in different woods, oiled and waxed till they shone.
Lee and Cheryl had purchased one each in Palmy at Lee’s most recent antenatal scan. Cheryl’s was a Santa on water skis, and Lee found a medallion of a Madonna and Child. She had bought the matching St Joseph to put up for Trevor, so he’d have a part of the tradition even if he wasn’t home in time, then hidden it for fear Cheryl would think Lee was putting herself, Trevor, and the baby into the centre of the Christmas story.
They were certainly no Holy Family, though Lee had been roped into the pageant planned for the Christmas Fair. Just a small part; being led across the stage on a donkey. With Cheryl’s acceptance, the whole community had embraced her as one of their own. Not like when she first arrived.