Sunday, October 14, 2012

Superstition as a Survival Skill

So, today's topic is, straight from our little scheduling calendar, Superstitious Characters: Writing to a stereotype or tapping unmined gold?

I read this and thought to myself...huh?

I imagined broken mirrors, black cats and heedless folk walking under ladders.

Then I started speculating which of my fellow Word Whores would come up with a topic like this. And I think I know who it is, just from the stories this person writes. Our stories reveal us, don't they? In some ways, I think our stories are a road map to our psyches, revealing the cracks and webs of what fascinates us.

All of this is a long way of saying that I'd never thought about whether my characters are superstitious, much less whether that would be writing to a stereotype. I suppose that my characters always have a good reason to believe what they do. The idea that they might be laboring under a false understanding is really interesting.

Superstition, to get the definition out of the way, is:

a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like. 
Looking at it that way, it's not really a false understanding so much as one not based on reason or knowledge. Which puts altogether another lens on the question for me. Readers of my personal blog know that I'm in thick of writing the sequel to Rogue's Pawn. The kind of intense drafting that really digs its claws into you and feeds on your innards. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around much else, so I'm thinking about my heroine, Gwynn. She's a woman of reason. As a scientist, she relies upon demonstrable facts. But she's been thrown into Faerie, a place where the evidence doesn't always add up. Physical laws are different. Magic exists. In many ways, she's having to learn how operate in a reality where what she must believe can't be based on reason or knowledge, because the one no longer necessarily follows the other. Overlooking the the ominous significance of anything in a place like Faerie could get her in serious trouble.

Oh wait, it already has.

Being superstitious in Faerie is practically a survival skill.

So, my answer? I think I'm mining this gold.

And, boy, is my back killing me!


  1. Sorry your back is squonky. I hate when that happens. I'll be interested to see how you weave some superstition into the RP world. I've never thought about it in my own writing, but maybe I should. Lord knows, I grew up with enough superstitions to fill a cement mixer. Mirrors, cats, ladders, cracks, salt... I'm over most of that now, but every once in a while an old superstition will sneak up on me.

  2. Have you seen the book, "The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works"? It's supposed to be a pretty fun read (yes, aimed at a younger audience, but still). Sorting Hat + neuroscience = Makes me Think of Jeffe.

  3. My back is fine, B.E. - that was just a (bad) mining joke!

    I have not, KAK, but I never really got into Harry Potter. Love how you associate me though!

  4. we have stereotypes for a reason, they are based on general having characters with superstitions is just a normal thing, when you break the stereotype or throw a monkey into the works (I prefer monkeys to wrenches, makes more mess ) then you are mining gold.

  5. good point, Sharon - I just never thought of it!