IWSG: Traditions and addictions

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Greetings fellow insecure writers! And if you’re new here and not familiar with the IWSG, click on over there and check it out (after you read my post. You wouldn’t to hurt my insecure writer fee-fees, would you?) This post is part of the monthly IWSG blog hop. If you’d like to see some other great IWSG posts, check out the list of participants here. (Powered by Linky Tools).

This month’s optional question: Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

My current novel in progress is a thriller set where I grew up, near the San Joaquin Delta. It includes some autobiographical details, though my main character is most definitely Not Me, and she faces lots of dangers that would have left Actual Me crumpled in a broken, twitching heap. But still, it’s been fun to season the story with settings and events from my own life. So this month’s IWSG question is timely.

My main character’s father is based loosely on my own father. He wasn’t much for holidays or family traditions, but we did have one annual tradition that was inviolable: Derby Day. My father had a gambling problem, and horse races were his absolute favorite way to lose money. Even when he didn’t have a bet going, we watched the Kentucky Derby (and the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes) every. single. year, including all the pre-race coverage.

Triple Crown race days were some of the few times I saw my father genuinely happy, genuinely excited about something. Mostly he endured life, grinding through the days, self-medicating his depression with whatever addiction currently held him in its clutches. But on race days, there was a light in his eyes, a tiny window into the charming, funny man my mother fell in love with. A man I rarely got to see.

And so there is horse racing in my new novel and even a reference or two to Derby Day. And as I write this character and her father, I am finding a new understanding of my own dad, deeply flawed and deeply wounded, yet steadfast in his love for me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent most of my life trying to make peace with dad, though he’s been in his grave for well over 30 years. I don’t know if we can ever truly make peace with those who both hurt us and are part of us, but through fiction, through digging deep into characters and motivations, maybe we can get a little closer to that elusive state.

How about you, fellow insecure writers? Have you ever tried working out real-life relationships on the page?


8 thoughts on “IWSG: Traditions and addictions

    1. Yeah, I don’t think we can keep these deep parts of ourselves out of our writing. Sorry for the late response – I’ve been sick, then slammed with work prep related to the pandemic. Happy belated IWSG Day!


    1. Trust me, when it comes to this stuff, boring is very good. My upbringing has given me some cool stories, but going through it was not always fun. A very belated happy IWSG Day!


  1. Dear Janet, thank you for sharing this most personal history of your father’s passion and relationship with you. I agree with you, writing helps think through emotional issues that speaking cannot. My first published poem was one on my father, that I only managed to write 4 years after his death. One on my sister, I wrote 5 years after her passing, although with her I managed to make peace before her demise. A poem in the works on my mother, will have to wait … as forgiving her will be very tough and I do not wish to hurt her while she is still with us for my children’s sake (her only grandchildren).
    Take care and keep safe. Looking forward to reading you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Forgiving is tough, and even if you forgive, making peace can take a long time. What I find most difficult is making peace with the parts of my father that live within me. I look forward to reading you too!

      Liked by 1 person

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