My fellow MiG Andrea Mack is doing a fabulous series over on her blog, That’s Another Story, called the ABC’s of Writing Middle Grade Fiction. (I think she’s up to the letter W). I always come away with plenty to think about and if you haven’t checked it yet, well, what the heck are you waiting for?! (And she's got links, people! Lots of terrific links.)
With apologies to Andrea for borrowing her idea, I’d like to take on the letter T, for tradition.
Traditions are very important to kids. I was reminded of this fact this past weekend when my husband and I took our three kids to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. Each year, we take three days to do this trip. And we always try to do it early in June, before the hot weather and heavy tourist crowds move in. My kids look forward to this annual trek and it’s practically the only time my (oh, let’s go with) money conscience husband lets the kids go a bit wild with spending. (“Funnel cake fries? Okay, here's $10. It's chilly. You guys want to buy sweatshirts?") Yes, the trip is expensive. Especially since we love to stay in the park resorts. But it’s worth it. My kids, now all teenagers, talk about the trip, plan for it and always bring back memories of being together. (And Heaven help me and my husband if we suggest we eat at another place for dinner inside the park. Lesson learned.) The trip is part of our family fabric.
Putting in family traditions in your YA or MG is an easy way to spice up a bland manuscript. Traditions can also be a great opportunity to give readers insight into a character or the family they come from. The traditions don’t have to be big. Maybe they’re small, like a family joke or saying.
Here are a few family traditions I came up with that might be good in a YA or MG:
Funny, family rules to traditional game (like getting $500 when you Pass Go or making 4's wild while playing Poker)
An annual trip to a beach or the ice cream shop down the street on the first day of summer
Opening a single gift on Christmas Eve
Adding a “Cha cha cha” verse to the Happy Birthday song or making the birthday boy or girl wear a silly hat all day
Having pizza on Thanksgiving because no one likes turkey
Saying “Applesauce!” after someone sneezes
Your aunt always writing you a check for your birthday for the same amount as your age
Watching a Christmas movie in the middle of July
Waking up at the crack of dawn to go on a donut run in your pjs
Can you think of any of great traditions to add to the list?