I love this blog post by Linda Rodriguez over at the Writers Who Kill blog about the importance of tapping into our history as writers and, I've interpreted, telling the readers about our characters' histories and the culture(s) within which the story exists. Here's the money quote from Linda's post:
"Everyone comes from somewhere. Perhaps from an urban slum, perhaps from a pristine upscale suburb, perhaps from an up-and-down series of foster homes, perhaps from great wealth or poverty or anything in between. Everyone comes from some place, some culture, some family. Somewhere where people talk and think a certain way and hold certain expectations. Too many otherwise good manuscripts, however, exist in limbo, in a cultural vacuum."
I could not agree more and it's worth reading the entire post here.
If I'm honest, this is a weakness for me. Perhaps because I don't have a strong grasp of my own history and culture. I was born in Canada and that's where my extended family still lives. But I moved with my parents and siblings to Florida when I was five years old. I've not met most of my cousins and I don't remember much about those who I did know. I don't feel connected to my hometown. Sure, even that history informs my writing, and I certainly could have done more to learn about and get connected to my roots.
But this is not an excuse, and I'll work on tapping into where I come from and adding the depth of character and culture good stories need in my next project.