Hello Readers, Writers, and Precious Patrons. Welcome to Issue 19 of Ask AJ. Check out our question from an anonymous reader.
I have decided that my next book will be one geared toward the Christmas holiday. What components should be in the book to give it a holiday feel?
It’s that time of year. Fall is in full bloom and the holidays will come and go before we know it. Starting in October and Halloween, and on through New Years, the time for spending with family and friends makes the Fall and Winter more special.
Our question this issue asks about components and or elements involving a Christmas time book, and I’ll base my response to writing a typical Christmas tale.
What Might A Reader Be Looking for In A Christmas Story?
While the holidays can bring fun and enjoyment, it also can bring stress. But one cure for what I just mentioned, is a good, uplifting book or movie. In this case, we will look into what a holiday book brings to the table.
Location, Weather, Snow
I personally love the idea of snow during the holidays. And yes, I know this may not sit well with our readers in the north and northeast – where there can be too much snow and it becomes a burden – but for storytelling sake, snow, at some point or another must be included.
There is something about looking out a frosty window as a snowflakes flow back and forth in the wind and fall to the ground to build on the layers of snow already there.
But you can’t have snow without wintery weather…cold wintery weather. So, the story and setting must take place in a region of the country where cold weather and snow will make their appearances every Winter.
The Spirit of Giving
Every holiday story doesn’t have to be an All Well That Ends Well tale. There can be mystery and elements of surprise in every story, and a Christmas story is no different.
The spirit of giving can be approached from several different angles, even one where there is conflict or a problem that needs to be solved.
One of my favorite Christmas books is “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham – yes, the same novelist known for his law firm thrillers. (In 2004, it was made into a movie named “Christmas With the Kranks” starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Dan Aykroyd – a very funny movie, if you have the time.)
In the book, Grisham captures all the elements of Christmas, good and bad, for the Krank family. The story takes twists and turns and deals with the Kranks battle with a neighbor over not getting into the Christmas spirit. In the end the story is all about giving and togetherness, and although comical, it captures the spirit of the holidays very well.
Christmas Music and Lights
Wherever there is Christmas, there must be Christmas music or tunes being played in the background of a few scenes in your book. It sets the tone and makes your scene, chapter, or paragraph realistic.
A subtle mention of music playing in the background here and there, will grab your reader and may set their memories running with thoughts from their childhood of similar times.
“Little Joey marveled at the flashes of multi-colored Christmas lights up and down his street, as Jingle Bells played in the background from hidden speakers in the neighbor’s shrubs.”
Most of the above are the obvious and cliché things involving Christmas, but they are all necessary components of a good story in that setting.
So now I bring you an obscure and not so obvious one…anticipation.
During the holiday season, especially at Christmas, anticipation can come in many forms and from different demographics and ages. The most popular example of seeing anticipation at its finest, are the children. It is easy to spot in a child’s eyes as they await Santa or the gifts he may bring in the middle of the night. It’s easy to see their eyes light up just before the Christmas tree lights are turned on for the first time. Their anticipation and joy are strong and genuine.
As storytellers, we have to be creative and dig deep to find other ways to tell a story or concept. I find that a good way to show anticipation is through the eyes of our older generations. They have lived life and know what the important things in life are, especially to them.
It’s not a knock on the younger generations. It’s merely the evolution of living life, where priorities change and trivial matters or possessions do not mean as much as spending time with their loved ones. The anticipation of our grandparents, waiting to see their kids and grandkids walk through the door, warms their hearts and souls and gives them the same gleam in their eyes as a child who is waiting for Santa.
As a writer, if you can capture that feeling and show it to your readers, I promise you, you will be a hit and truly capture a key component involving Christmas. Show, don’t tell, how anticipation is the real magic.
Joy and Love
Anticipation brings Joy. The two go hand in hand and in combining them, you will strengthen your tale and the effect it has on your readers.
If all else fails, think about what makes your Christmas special. With that, I’m certain you will come up with the concepts you are looking for.
I’ve gone over a few of the elements involved in a holiday story, and to each writer, they will vary, but one common thread in any Christmas story is in one way or another, is love. It will always come down to that, no matter how you get there.
Thanks for reading!
Do you have a question for AJ? Send to email@example.com. Your question could be used in an upcoming issue!