January in Fiction

In 2022, this blog will address the months of the year, what their names mean, what they symbolize, and how authors use them in novels. I am a ponderer, using writing to work through my thought processes and to make choices about directions to take. I use symbols, visuals, and language to build levels of meaning. I like to figure things out for myself. My goal in choosing this topic is to delve more deeply into how I am using the months in my own writing.

The Origins of “January”

In early Rome, the citizens venerated the god Janus, whom they believed opened the heavenly gates at dawn and closed them at dusk.  Janus thus ruled over all beginnings, gates, doors, and other entrances.  The god was depicted as having one head with a face looking forward and a second face looking backward. Rome was known for its “Jani,” free-standing ceremonial gates through which armies could leave the city or return. During this early period, the months were divided into Kalends—which marked the first phases of the moon, Nones—the next phase, Ides—the full moon of the month, and the remaining days were called market days. Eventually, the name January, derived from Janus, came to mark the first month of the year in the Roman Republican, Julian, and Gregorian calendars. It is a fitting name to mark the beginning of our current calendar system which is designed to include 365 days with a leap year every four years to make up for the differential in the time it takes for the earth to circle the sun.

Uses of January in Current Fiction

Months can be used to set the mood. Because January is known as “the cruelest month,” Jean Hanff Korelitz in The Plot, uses the month of January for the setting of a writing retreat in “a snowbound latter-day spa town.” When the protagonist, Jacob, drives into the parking lot behind the creative arts center, the roads are icy, his Prius is losing its power, the hill is steep, and he is not feeling optimistic. The reactions that the visiting writers have to the cold weather reveal both their bad manners and unwillingness to cooperate.

Months can also be used to set clues throughout a novel. In These Toxic Things, Rachel Howzell Hall uses calendar dates to mark murders that occurred over a long period: “The second result leads me to an even briefer article on Beverly Prescott from Galveston, Texas. Found January 1, 1979, she was discovered near the Framers Export grain elevator as investigators combed through debris after an explosion that killed eighteen people. But Prescott’s autopsy confirmed that her death happened before December 29, and that the initials DD had been carved into her back.” The dates and times provide hints about the murderer’s history of violence.

January can also be used to set a historical stage or demarcate endings and beginnings across cultures. In Finding the Bones, Avery Russell describes Americans’ general lack of awareness of the status of events in Europe during the early period of the First World War: “Resettled in the Village by early January 1915, Charlie had entered an intellectual and artistic milieu grown more conscious of itself as a cultural influence and, thanks to England’s having cut the cables between Germany and America, immured in a cheerful solipsism.”

January in My Fiction

In one of my novels, events that occur in January lead the protagonist to change her place of residence. In another, soldiers return from the war. I am still working out the placement of January in my third novel.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

This year, I plan to publish my second volume of poetry.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

I am working on the secondary characters in this book.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I continue to do research and some writing each month.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: Kate Jonuska—the author of The Dictionary of Fiction Critique, Transference, and a collaborator on several anthologies—wrote an informative article on BWA for the December 2021, Boulder Magazine. At the end of December 2021, I was elected to serve as president of BWA for 2022.

Denver Women’s Press Club:

I provided a DWPC member with feedback on 25 pages of her work. In return, she will give me feedback on 25 pages in February.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read the RMFW newsletter and follow the links to other writers’ blogs.

Women Writing the West: I might join a WWW novel critique group in 2022. I follow their groups.io discussions.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, a blog per month in 2022:

Today is January 7, 2022, I am posting my first blog of 2022 which is my 49th blog on writing fiction since I began on January 1, 2018. I would like to wish my readers a Happy New Year, however, given the way 2021 ended for so many, I am inclined to share the Chinese blessing, “May you live in boring times.” 

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