*Quick Reminder: I hope you’re all getting a 10-60K story ready for the Pitch Your Shorts pitch session coming January 10th.*
Most of us have a favorite holiday (or two). Sometimes we love a holiday because of the meaning behind the day. Sometimes we love a holiday because of the celebrations (fireworks, being with family, wearing costumes). And sometimes we love a holiday for the trappings (music, parades, TV specials).
But what really makes a holiday special, year after year? Why do we look forward to it?
In a word, memories.
We remember the celebrations of years past and how much we enjoyed it. Those memories are what make us anticipate upcoming holidays.
We’ve lived through thousands of Thursdays, but we probably can’t pick out any particular one unless something unusual struck us about that day. Similarly, the events of a holiday are different than our normal everyday life, so the memories stick out in our mind.
Christmas always stands out in my memories because there are so many “extras” I love about it. Above and beyond the gift-giving and family time, I enjoy baking Christmas cookies (584 this year!) to share, and I get warm fuzzies from Christmas songs.
One of my favorite Christmas memories from when I was a child is the Heat Miser song from The Year Without a Santa Claus TV special. Unlike other Christmas specials, this one wasn’t shown very often, and in the years before the powers that be released it on DVD (or even videotape), those who remembered this song felt like they belonged to a secret club.
A Writer’s Approach to Holidays
As writers, we can tap into the memories of our readers when we include holidays and celebrations in our stories. Susan Sipal recently blogged about the recurring recognition of Christmas in the Harry Potter books, and how the events and tones of the scenes reflected each story.
Our readers have strong emotions about holidays and we can use that to our advantage when we write holiday-themed scenes. Sometimes we might want to play into the stereotypical happy feelings, but other times we could go against type.
Imagine a heroine struggling for acceptance from her overly picky mother. A scene with them arguing about the heroine’s cooking ability could have extra punch if it took place during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another food-centric holiday. (Are there any holidays not about food? Not according to my family. *snicker*)
Or imagine a a hero faced with a choice that has been foreshadowed by one of his New Year’s Resolutions. We all know how often those are kept. *cough* So the reader won’t know which way he’ll decide until he acts.
In January, I’ll be revising one of my stories that I think could benefit from this tactic. I’m already ripping out the heart of one of the characters, but setting the scene during a holiday could make the emotions even more poignant. Hee.
Setting—the time and place of a scene—can be used to increase the tension and emotion for the characters and the reader. The next time you’re writing a scene that feels flat, see if changing the setting, like to a holiday, improves how events play out.
On an unrelated note:
January 1st is the deadline for nominating your favorite writing websites for Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. Several of my friends were finalists and winners in the Write to Done awards, and I’d love to see the same happen in this one.
To nominate a blog or website, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “101 Best Websites nomination” in the subject line. Write a brief note asking WD to consider the site for the 101 Best Websites list. Provide both the name of the site, as well as the URL.
For example: “Please consider adding Jami Gold, Paranormal Author at https://jamigold.com to your list of 101 Best Websites.” (And no, I’m not asking for votes. That was strictly for example’s sake. *smile*) So please take a minute and nominate your favorite writing website/blog.
And I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season, no matter what holidays you celebrate. *hands you a plateful of cookies*
What holiday memories stand out in your mind? Why do they stand out? Have you written any holiday scenes? Did you go “with” or “against” the stereotypical emotions of the holiday? Was anyone else a member of the Heat Miser/Cold Miser secret club? *smile*