Wednesday, November 26, 2008


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Holidays are a great opportunity to enrich your manuscript. The trick is not to just mention a holiday in passing, but to add vivid descriptions of how one is celebrated in your character's life.

You can draw on this by your own experience. Think of a holiday, such as Thanksgiving. What's the weather like outside? That will depend on where you live and/or the climate vagaries of the fictional year you create.

Who is invited to your character's house to celebrate the holiday? Who prepares the meal? The mother, the wife, the son, the daughter, one, some, or all? Who helps? How is the table set? That may depend on the station in life of your characters, whether they're well-off or perhaps just-married college students.

What is on the menu? Does it reflect the main character's ethnicity, or perhaps some quirk? Many people eat turkey for Thanksgiving, but maybe your character is alone and eating spam.

What about guilt? There are lots of possibilities for that, such as a dinner guest who forgot to bring a hostess gift. Then there's the working wife who feels bad because she uses canned gravy and ready-made dressing instead of making them from scratch.

Or what about the eternal ying and yang of invitations to the husband's and wife's houses on the same day, at the same time? Where to go? Who to please?

Can you think of any holiday descriptions from your own novel or someone else's that stand out in your mind? Please share.


Morgan is also at, &

Morgan Mandel


  1. And some things depend on the age of your characters. I for sure no longer feel guilty for using short cuts, like not making something from scratch!

  2. I've never been a make it from scratch person, but there are some who feel compelled. I admire them for doing it, but not if they complain about it. It's their choice.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Hubby and I make everything from scratch. He even grew our pie pumpkins. LOL. I think it's safe to say we're process-oriented folks. Thanksgiving memories? My brother and I have birthdays that fall around T-Day, and we always dreaded the years the B-day would land on the T-day. Dad's dinner toast always began, "This year we give thanks for two turkeys...." Ho-ho, Pops. Groan.

    Have a safe and grateful holiday everyone. And thanks to all the editors here for their great posts!


  4. It's a day late, but perhaps still relavant. Morgan asked how we use holidays in our stories, and I thought of my central character in One Small Victory. Her son died in late summer, so the first Thanksgiving was a challenge. Her mother decides they should scrap the traditional dinner that had always been at her house and the family that is left should go to a restaurant.

    When people are grieving it is often easier to go through the holidays when they don't do the traditional, while others may find the tradition a comfort in grief. Neither is right or wrong, and in fiction it is just important that it fit the character.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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