Michaeline: Happy Year of the Monkey!

May your 2016 be full of magic and weirdness! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

May your 2016 be full of magic and weirdness! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I just love a New Year . . . any New Year! It feels like a fresh white screen, where all past mistakes are forgotten, and the clumsiness of the old year are left behind in the files.

In Japan, 2016 is the year of the fire monkey. (What’s this? Tokyo Weekender explains.) Japan basically follows the Chinese zodiac, but Japanese society follows the Western calendar. It depends on who you talk to about whether the Chinese lunar calendar or the Western solar calendar is in effect as far as fortune-telling goes. This article from Rappler in the Philippines explains what we have in store for this year from Feb. 8. If you believe in this sort of stuff.

For me, zodiacs are fascinating examples of the power of fiction. Usually, the personality traits are things that apply to a lot of different people. Like real people, they encompass contradictions. And if a person just isn’t the typical Monkey (or Libra, for that matter), there are extenuating factors, rising moons or metallic elements that explain away the discrepancies. Giving a character the same traits as a zodiac sign does tend to create a well-rounded person.

The cool thing about horoscopes is that they leave huge gaps that can be filled in by a writer (or astrologist), and are further filled in by the reader or listener. In a lot of ways, our novels are the same. We give the reader a springboard, and their imaginations fill in the rest.

Looking around in the real world with a strictly logical eye, it’s obvious that zodiacs are not destiny. One-twelfth of the population is not walking around being clever, intelligent and rather naughty like monkeys. We all bring our own flourishes to our basic personalities, and if you use zodiac traits for a character, your own embellishments will create a one-of-a-kind character. Let’s go beyond the stereotypes in 2016, and find new ways to express old traits.

And with that, I wish you all a very happy year of writing and creativity!

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Happy Year of the Monkey!

  1. I’ve always had fun with astrology, although I can’t say I understand the nuances. But it’s a helpful way to shape characters, I agree. Plus, the dichotomy of the Chinese lunar calendar and the Western solar calendar sounds like one could create interesting multi-cultural characters!

    Over the Christmas holiday I was with a group of people who were working on enneagrams as a way to characterize people and understand behavior better. That could be another good fictional character-building device. So many methodologies, so little time. 🙂

    • Oh, there was a guy who gave us a lecture on enneagrams. It was so much fun! I think ultimately, it’s like horoscopes (if I’m remembering it right). If I happen to have a personality characteristic that doesn’t fit, then I look opposite to my “sign”, or I can look at the neighboring “signs” that have spillover. Or even the neighboring signs of my opposite “sign”. LOL, this makes it a brilliant device for creating personalities, IMO. You just keep searching until you find the characteristics that click with your character.

      I don’t know much about astrology, myself. I got a book once and cast my chart, but this was pre-internet, so it was somewhat difficult. But fun! I don’t remember anything but my sun sign at this point . . . .

    • I think it could be a lot of fun. And Kay mentioned enneagrams. There’s also the old intuitive/extrovert Briggs-Meyers. Or Japanese tend to say people have different personalities because of their blood types. I think the important thing is to use these tools to discover a character, not to shoehorn him or her into role.

      I imagine the conversation in my head going something like this: “Well, he’s bossy. Leo. OK. Is he a grand-stander? Um, no, but that’s OK. Oh, but he’s definitely proud and I think he should have great hair!”

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