Friday, January 11, 2013

The New Year & Fantasy (Revisited)

Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to the year 2013!

That is, unless you're one of the many people around the world who celebrate the new year at other times. For example, Chinese New Year this year is not until February 10. In the Jewish calendar, the new year, Rosh Hashanah, was celebrated September 16th of 2012. And even in the Western world, up until about 1750 A.D., the new year was celebrated on March 25th. (If you're interested in finding out other dates of new year's celebrations, you may find this Wikipedia article on the New Year informative.)

In fact, a quick glance through all the new years around the world reveals that there have been celebrations in winter, in spring, in fall, and in summer to celebrate the coming of the "new year."

This brings us to an important point: there is no one right new year. This also means that, for your fantasy world, there's no reason to stick to January 1st as the time to usher in the next year.

Why is the particular date of the new year so important, though? Couldn't we just ignore it and move on with life? Well, the obvious answer is, yes. Certainly. But let me give you a few reasons to include--or at least think about--when the new year occurs in your fantasy world.

  • Very nearly all cultures in our world celebrate the new year at some time during the year. Why should a fantasy world be any different? It'll make your culture seem more true-to-life.
  • The new year is often a time to gather with family or close friends. If you need an excuse for your main character's slightly insane uncle to kidnap her, why not let the action happen during the new year celebrations, while the family is too busy toasting with rice wine to notice?
  • Also, the new year is a time to make new goals, change direction, and acquire a new purpose in life. You can use this time of year to have your character reflect on his or her past, and plan for the future.
  • Finally, the new year is often a time of romance. If your hero and heroine haven't quite got up the courage to have a sweet moment together, then the dancing and celebration of New Year's might be the perfect time to make a match.

So maybe, by now, you're convinced that a new year celebration might be helpful in your book. Well, how do you go about writing one? Actually, the process is quite simple.
  1. Decide on a season. Is this a harvest-time new year? A wintry, snowy, cold, and bleak new year? A spring new year, with new life and new growth in the air? A summer new year, with scorching heat and crops growing strong and tall under the sun? (Remember, too, that your world's calendar system will have an important impact on the new year. Does it celebrate lunar or solar months? How does it keep track of the passing of time?)
  2. Decide on particular customs. Is the new year a time for romance, or is it more for family? Is it a big party with lots of food or a small gathering with a few near and dear to your heart?
  3. Have your characters look back on the previous year. Any milestones?
  4. Have your characters look ahead at the new year. You could foreshadow difficulties and danger, you could give them a change of heart, or you could leave them in ignorant bliss about the path that lies ahead of them.
Whatever you do, and however you write, make sure it's consistent with your characters, your story, and your world. Enjoy!

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