Friday, July 13, 2007


Are you a paraskevidekatriaphobic? (Do you fear Friday the 13th?) Or, perhaps like me, you just fear the movie by that name and don't like to watch horror movies in general.

For this blog, I couldn't resist searching the Internet for examples of superstitions, in particular, why Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day. Some people claim that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood started on a Friday, and Christ was crucified on a Friday. Others say there isn't much reference to Friday the 13th being unlucky until about a century ago, leading them to claim this superstition is largely the result of hype by media.

Are writers more superstitious than others? I didn't find an answer to that. However, I did find some superstitions of writers, such as not giving a manuscript a title until it's complete for fear of not finishing it, and always using the same type of pen or the same color of paper to write a first draft.

Do you have a superstition about how you write? Perhaps you have to walk around your chair three times counterclockwise before sitting down to write? Or do you need thirteen chocolate kisses near your keyboard to write a love scene?

Whether you have superstitions or not about HOW you write, I have to agree that superstitions can make great story elements. One writer listed these as possible story foundations: a belief in specific events (Halloween), apparitions (vampires, werewolves and ghosts), charms and incantations (throwing salt over your shoulder, avoiding pavement cracks) and predicting the future (horoscopes, palm reading). Someone also suggested that superstitions about animals could make an interesting story. For instance, if a black cat walks toward you it brings luck; walking away means the luck goes too.

Have you used a superstition in one of your stories? Or have you made up a superstition for one of your characters? Here's a fun one for romances: If you want to see what your future husband looks like, sit down in front of a mirror and eat an apple before brushing your hair. An image of a man will appear behind your shoulder!

For grammar whizzes, I found these listed as the top 10 English grammar myths or superstitions:
1. Never split infinitives
2. Never use contractions in essay writing
3. Never begin a sentence with ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘because’ (conjunctions)
4. Never begin the essay title with prepositions
5. Never use first-person pronouns in academic writing
6. Never refer to the readers as ‘you’
7. Never use ‘between’ with more than two objects
8. Never use ‘since’ as because
9. Never use direct question
10. Two-syllable adjectives must use the suffix –er or suffix –est form to form comparative or superlative
For those who wish grammar was never invented, I also found a Web site that takes issue with each of the items on the above list.

Lastly, for those who want to protect from evil spirits or ward off bad luck, a Washington Post columnist offered these ancient rituals:
--Layer on the eyeliner and smoky eye shadow. Ancient Egyptians believed that makeup prevented the evil one from entering your eyes.
--Show the 'horned hand.' It looks like a secret greeting among Metallica-heads, but Italians do the mano cornuta for protection. To form the gesture, use your thumb to hold down your middle and ring fingers, then extend your pointer and pinkie like horns. Though this might ward off evil spirits, it could also attract heavy-metal rockers or University of Texas fans.
--Grab a carrot, a replica of the Washington Monument or any other phallic object. According to Romans, such objects seduce the evil spirit away from you. However, your carrot might then be possessed.

Another columnist suggested that we shouldn't label Friday the 13th "the unluckiest day of all," unless you break a mirror, walk under a ladder, spill the salt, or spy a black cat crossing your path. Then you might consider spending the day in the safety of your home with doors locked, shutters closed and fingers crossed.

However, simply because I like to go against "popular" opinion, I consider Friday the 13th a lucky day, and will expect traffic lights to all be green, people to adopt a record number of cats, and miracles to happen. (Guess that could be considered a reverse superstition.) Happy writing on this luckiest of days!


Anonymous said...

Oh Genene, what a fun post!

Growing up I was a bit superstitious about a few things, but as I got older and wiser I realized that all my Scotch/Irish blood was sometimes full of crap and I had no reason to deal with throwing the salt over my shoulder anymore or continue on my search for four-leaf clovers. :)

Although, I have been to and through the end of a rainbow and it was a very cool feeling. That may sound strange, but my kids were with me and can attest to it. LOL

I'm not one for having to do any sort of ritual act to write, other than actually sit my butt down and open my laptop to get busy. I don't consider Friday the 13th any more significant than any other day, but I refuse to watch any horror movies of the same name, or Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc...

Loved you examples and tidbits of info. I hope you adopt out lots of homeless kitties and puppies (the oldest ones first) today! Good luck and have a great Friday!

wavybrains said...

I'm not very superstitious, but I do have a few odd rituals--I always toss a bit of the salt I'm using in cooking. I read that one when I was an impressionable teen starting to cook, and it just became habit. I hate Halloween but that's more for personal reasons than superstitious. Friday the 13th doesn't bother me. A lot of the ladies on my pregnancy message board are all worried about the 13th today being bad luck, but honestly, I'd rather have my baby on Friday the 13th than Sept. 11th (which is a real possibility for me). Great, fun post Genene!

P.S. On the grammar rules, all those rules CAN be broken and/or manipulated, but it is ESSENTIAL that beginning writers learn the reasoning behind each rule. It's not about superstition or false belief, it's more about teaching writers how to be as clear as possible. Once you know the rules, THEN you can play with them all you want!

Paty Jager said...

Nope not superstitious at all! That's why I don't own a black or any cat, I never let anyone walk under a ladder, I don't step on cracks in the sidewalk, I was worried about giving a class on Friday the 13th, and I raised rabbits because I wanted all the lucky rabbit's feet I could get! LOL

I'm not really superstitious, but it sure sounded good! LOL

Great post Genene!

Danita Cahill said...

I agree with Piper, Genene. What a fun post!

I also agree with you, that Friday the 13th is LUCKY. Especially this one since today is my birthday. My son was also born on the 13th, so he will have a "lucky" Friday the 13th birthday every seven years or so.

I have a lot of anti-superstition in my newest book. The main character, a young widow, does not believe in anything she can't see or touch. Her old flame, who was raised in Louisiana, believes in all sorts of unbelievable things. Part of the heroine's character arc is her gradual change into "a believer". The research was fun. Heck, the whole book was fun, now that it's (about) done and looking back on it.

Ah, to have written is divine. Ha!~

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Danita!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I have a son who's birthday is on August 13th and we've never had an unlucky occasion due to the date. LOL

Wavy-- Don't you think tossing the salt makes the floor all icky feeling on your feet? :)

Karen Duvall said...

Wavy, now we'll know why your kitchen floor feels so gritty, lol!

Fun blog, Genene. I should be working, but I'd much rather be blogging, and this is a fun topic.

I'm not superstitious, but I was when I was a kid. I had lucky clothes that I'd wear on days I was hoping for something good to happen (like getting asked out by a boy I liked, or making cheerleader, etc.) But not anymore. Thirteenth-shmirteenth... Oh, no! My hair's on fire! Snort.

I most definitely use superstitions in my stories because they're weird and wonderfully entertaining. In fact, my current WIP is all about cursed objects and the heroine's job of having to steal them for someone else. She's not superstitious, but these curses are the result of spells, which she knows to be real. Superstitions are just phobias... at least that's what she says. Personally, I wouldn't know. 8^)


wavybrains said...

Trust me that salt gritty is the least of my kitchen floor's worries. I have three pets (all black, all very unlucky, 2 black cats, and one black dog) who think their job is to track dirt into the house. Plus, they like to play in their water bowl. And I live with 2 guys . . . just don't look down. I assume I'm going to have to start daily mopping when the baby starts crawling.

Oh Karen! I do have lucky clothing! My OB burst out laughing when she saw that I wore supergirl panties to the first appointment to hear the heatbeat. So, yes, I'll cop to lucky underwear. I had a lucky piece of jewelery but it broke, causing me to look over my shoulder for about a week.

It's funny how we take on other people's rituals too. My ex used have a ritual for seeing a car with one headlight, and I find myself doing the same thing!

Barbara said...

Happy Birthday, Danita! And thanks for the fun post, Genene. I'm surprised no one has taken you up on that 13 chocolate kisses next to the computer to write romances--that has possibilities! I was aware of several superstitions as a child and played with them, but can't remember ever really believing in them. Adding or having an element of superstition to a novel sounds like fun. Good idea!

Karen Duvall said...

Supergirl panties, Wavy? Oh, my. 8^) All I had was a Mickey Mouse shirt. Supergirl trumps Micky Mouse any day. Hee hee.


Genene said...

Happy birthday, Danita!

Your new book sounds very interesting. And, Karen, a heroine who steals cursed object for others? Very intriguing!

I'm disappointed that no one actually admitted to being superstitious! I think I cruised a 12-step program to get rid of superstitions when I was doing research. :) At least Wavy copped to Supergirl underwear!

Hope you all had a lucky and productive day!