Characterisation – Fears & Superstitions

Fleshing out characters can be a lot of fun. One popular choice, particularly with horror/suspense writers, is to give the character a particular fear that plays into the story. For example they might have a fear of flying and the big confrontation with the glowing aliens from Mars has to happen on the outside of a racing spacecraft over Manhattan. Or they are afraid of the dark, but to confront the villain they have to go down THOSE stairs into the pitch black basement. This often works well, but can also seem a little contrived if the latter scenes are not woven together convincingly.

But there are plenty of other options. One that is a bit of fun is to incorporate a superstition. This got me thinking about superstitions in general and I thought it might be fun for people to post their own superstitions or those of friends and relatives. Having something from real life like that adds a real element to fiction.

In terms of my family, the one I remember most distinctly is one of my grandmother’s. She used to cover all the mirrors in the house during a thunderstorm. She also used to live in fear of birds flying into windows – it would mean that someone in the family was going to die.

The one I experienced at first-hand was the Irish Catholic practice of dosing children liberally with Holy Water as they lay in bed ready for sleep. You cannot put a price on chasing away the nasty Devil. I kind of liked it actually. Dad used to get his holy water from the St Benedict’s font, and kept it in a little glass bottle. He would pour a bit of Holy Water into his hand and cast away. He had a good technique by the time I came along at number eleven.

There is the old salt over the left shoulder ritual to hit the Devil in the eye if you spill the salt, but that’s never been too convincing for me. What’s the Devil care about sodium chloride anyway?

For myself – I have one that I have never been able to shake that was passed onto me by my mother. If your ears are ringing, it means someone is talking about you. If it’s your left ear it’s something bad – if it’s your right ear it’s something good. You might say I live in fear of left-sided ear infections. This is totally crazy, and yet I can’t shake it. It has a spooky king of logic. If my tinnitus worsens I could be in for permanent paranoia.

What superstitions do you have? Or interesting rituals – the more bizarre the better!

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