Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday?

Sherrinda here...and it's my birthday. Now I LOVE birthdays. LOVE THEM! I love the cake, the ice cream, the presents, and all the fun. It is a day where it's okay that it's all about ME! But this one is bugging me for some strange reason. Turning 40 was no big deal. I embraced it, and felt free to let loose and be me. This 45th year puts me closer to 50 and people... that is half a century. Maybe I will feel really wise by that time. Maybe...

But what about our characters? How many books have you read where the hero or heroine had a birthday? I can't really think of any, to be honest. Many of us use character charts for character building and we give our character a birth date. But what is the purpose of a birthday? 

For one thing, you know your character's age. Obviously, this is an important fact. I had a story idea once where I wanted my 20-something character have hippie parents. Well, hippies were from the 1960's. If my character's parents got married in the late 60's and had my character as late as 1970, it put my character in her 40's. You gotta know your character's birthday to have her at the right age and coordinate well with minor characters. 

We can use birthdays to show more about our character. Say your heroine got dumped by her fiance on her birthday. Birthdays could always be a reminder of love lost. What if your hero won a million dollars on his 20th birthday. Birthdays could be a time spent in casinos, gambling away that million, trying to win even more. (Of course, in writing for CBA, this would be backstory.) There are  a lot of ways to add depth to your character through birthdays.

What about incorporating birthdays into our own books? You could have a heroine who has always experienced a surprise party on her birthday, yet in your book she does not. She opens doors expecting to find a room full of friends screaming "Surprise", only to be disappointed in the silence that greets her. Think of the fun you could have with the internal journey of your character in learning that life is not "all about her" and people still love her regardless of how many parties she has.

You could have your orphaned heroine, who never celebrated birthdays in a big way, be overwhelmed when the hero throws her a huge party loaded with presents. The hero could go to great lengths with outrageous and extravagant party plans...all to show his love. 

Birthdays can be used in so many ways. For good. For ill. What about the villain? He/she has birthdays. What  kinds of things could you do with a villain's birthday? Give me some creative ideas. Or share about your favorite birthday.



Jennifer Shirk said...


I love birthdays too but I've never written one into a book. But it's really a great idea. Why didn't i think abou that?

There is a book HONEY MOON by Susan E Phillips which had a birthday scene I remember. The MC was so touched that her family remembered her birthday and she was all choked up. The scene was lovely then she went to cut the cake the cake exploded and they all laughed. It turned into a heartbreaking scene.

Jody Hedlund said...

Happy Birthday!! Hope it's a good one for you even though you're crazy busy!! And yeah, I think birthdays are like any other detail we include in the book--if there's a reason for including it, and it adds to the plot, then we should include it. But if not, then it's not worth mentioning. It's kind of like going to the bathroom, we all know that everyone has to, but we don't need to bring it up unless it's important to the plot! :-)

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Sarah Forgrave said...

Happy birthday, Sherrinda! There is one book where I remember a birthday scene similar to the surprise party you mentioned. But now I can't think of which book it was. :)

Linda Kage said...

I started a story where a woman came home to find her husband with another woman...on her birthday. Never got too far on that story. Hmm.

Anyway, neat ideas though. Thank you and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

Tere Kirkland said...

Call me crazy, but I just don't feel like I really "know" my characters until I know when their birthday is. Astrologically speaking, I feel like their birthdate is a strong part of character that I need to know (unless I'm writing epic fantasy in which case the sign does not apply) in order to write them the best way I can. Weird, I know, but it's just another kind of character development, really.

In my novel, EVANGELINE, the mc's birthday is on the same night the final conflict begins.

Jill said...

Happy birthday!

True hippies were from the 60s and 70s, but what about retro hippies? There's a lot of hippies floating around out there of all ages, especially in Eugene, Oregon.

My book begins the night of my heroine's birthday. It's simply a turning point in her life. It establishes her age, but I ran into some problems with it due to the age of internet and all that, but I won't go into details--only to say that I'm the same age as my heroine, and, when I was about 20, only the weirdest people even knew what internet was.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Happy Birthday, Sherrinda.
Good job applying this celebration to writing:)

Pepper said...

Happy Birthday, Sherrinda. SOOOOO glad to know you!!
Ooo, we celebrate Eisley's birthday in my contemp romantic comedy. Love her present - it happens to be a visit from this Brit she's particularly fond of ;-)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Jennifer, I haven't read that one of SEPhillips, but it sounds really sad. I love the snappy dialogue in her books.

Jody! You are so right! We certainly don't need to know that our characters go to the bathroom...or US for that matter! It's all in the purpose.

Sarah, you are probably like me and read so much, books begin to run together. :)

Linda, lol...so that story never went very far. I would hate to have that kind of thing happen...and especially on my birthday. Ugh!

Tere, I like to know the birthday too. Even if it is never shared, I like knowing. It's in the details that make the character come alive. And I love the name Evangeline!!!!!

Jill, my sister-in-law lives in Oregon and she says there are tons of hippies there. She could probably help me with some research! ;)

Thank you very much, Mary! I was idea-less...and then inspiration hit. lol

Aw, Pep, you are sweet. I didn't know Eisley's birthday was the reason for "the visit"!!!! Awesome!

Thanks everybody for the birthday wishes!!!

Casey said...

Happy birthday!!!!!! Hope you are having a great day and like Mary said, great job putting this to writing. Now that you mention it, I don't believe I have ever read a book with a b-day in it. You might have to be the first! :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Happy Birthday, Sherrinda! From my vantage point, 45 looks young. :)

I've mentioned a character's age, but I don't think I've ever written in a birthday celebration.


Kaye Dacus said...

Sherrinda---I've missed you! Happy birthday!

And thank you so much! This was exactly the inspiration I needed to move forward with the chapter where I've been stuck for a couple of weeks!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Happy birthday!!!!!

I have a birthday scene in my Sandwich book. Heroine turns 21... but hero heeds advice that she does NOT like big birthdays (because of her past) so gives her the perfect way to celebrate:-)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Casey! Thank you, ma'am! I have to say that I do not have a birthday in my medieval. But I may have to put one in my contemporary....big party and all.

Susan, 45 is not all that old. I know that when 50 rolls around I will embrace it and rejoice in the fact. :) Right????

Kaye!!!! I've missed you too! My job in August is a nightmare, plus I moved, so I have taken a "leave" from blogging. But I believe I am ready to return. Life is becoming a little more settled...FINALLY! So...I helped you get "unstuck"? How very cool!!!!

Krista! I love that you have a birthday in your Sandwich book. You seem like a fun loving party gal. I bet you are the life of the party. :)

Patti Lacy said...

Happy birthday, you girl! GOOOO!

Yep, I think it's cool to personalize stories like this.

But I am bad at details and my editors are making me do timelines, etc., to keep it all straight. I keep turning my characters a new age on January 1st.

Carla Gade said...

What a fun topic!
I usually give my characters a birthday, at least I know the year. But it depends on the story, if something significant will happen on that day. In the many historicals I've read birthdays were included and I rather like it. Some novels span many months or years and others only several weeks/months. So I think that matters so that you don't pass it by without acknowledging it, which I like to do.

Carla Gade said...

And Happy Birthday Blessings!!