Friday, November 14, 2014

Scary Night to New Beginning

by Earl53 in MorgueFile
When I was a child, each holiday occupied a place distinctly its own. Gorgeous autumn colors led up to rows of corn shocks in fields depleted by the harvest of luscious ears of the succulent grain, bright orange pumpkins dotted the brown earth, and root vegetables found their way into storage for winter’s hearty meals. On the heels of this seasonal change came Halloween with trick-or-treaters knocking on neighbors’ doors in hopes of finding candied apples and other sweets to add to their burgeoning goody bags.

After the treats were consumed and blustery November winds rearranged piles of dead leaves (hopefully into the neighbors’ yards), thoughts turned to Thanksgiving menus and plans for family gatherings. Black Friday didn’t exist, at least by its dark name, and Native Americans, Pilgrims, turkeys, and cornucopias graced school artwork and home decorations.

by Earl53 in MorgueFile
Following Thanksgiving, merchants and families eased into what is now referred to as the holiday season. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, snowmen, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias set the tone for festivities, and the observations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa shared the space for celebrants of those holidays.
by Earl53 in MorgueFile
Capping the celebrations, a lot of people then and now observe the New Year with a late night, a big party, and too much booze. The New Year, which should, according to some, equate to a new beginning, starts out with a hangover and a bad mood from too many excesses.

No more can any of these holidays claim exclusivity in any sense. Each one crashes headlong into the next until we have one long, expensive, almost irritating season that leaves a lot of folks weary, several pounds heavier, and deeper in debt. The distinction has disappeared.

What does all this have to do with writing? Nothing. And everything.

Many people celebrate one or more of these occasions, and a few observe none of them. In all cases, however, they make great grist for the writing mill. Readers relate to familiarities. Debbie Macomber, for example, has made good use of Christmas to create successful books for her numerous fans. Others have tapped into the sinister aspects of Halloween to create thrillers. Early Thanksgiving celebrations lend themselves to historical fiction pieces, while modern day get-togethers fit well into women’s fiction and family sagas. I am less familiar with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but both offer opportunities to learn about customs and practices of other peoples and cultures and to share that knowledge through story and characters. I always like my readers to take something new away from each novel, and I love to learn fascinating facts through research to give my stories interest and depth.

How do you use celebrations and holidays in your books? Do your characters observe practices that are not your own? It is said we should write what we know, but surely we can broaden our horizons by bringing elements into our stories from outside our own little worlds and our comfort zones. What do you think?

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at DenverEditor.com.

8 comments :

  1. Linda, so far, no plot points in my stories have happened on a particular holiday, and since my characters tend to be too self-absorbed to think about things that aren't immediately under their noses (I can't imagine where they get that from), holidays never seem to be referenced.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't include holidays, either, Christopher. But I know some writers do, and they're a reference point many readers relate to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. About the only holiday I've incorporated into any of my work is Valentine's Day. The short story was written because the publisher wanted Valentine's Day stories, and I figured I'd give it a shot. I don't tie my novels into holidays; I'd rather they be 'timeless' although if the book is set during a holiday month, I won't ignore that it's there. Easy to have a character give another one a gift, but it's not ever been a theme for me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like the idea of timelessness. Also, because of the number and variety of observances around the world, it seems somewhat limiting to use holidays unless they have specific relevance to characters and/or plot.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As a writer of fantasy, I find it interesting to create holidays, initiations, and celebrations that mark different occasions and help to delineate different customs in my worlds. Reactions to a character’s memories of past events provide insight into the character’s behavior. Celebrating important moments with family and friends in the real world or the worlds of fantasy fiction allow for interactions that might not otherwise occur. I rarely mimic our holidays, but work to find unique celebratory events for my characters and the worlds they people.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This unique adaptation of celebrations helps to bring realism to fantasy--a bridge from the familiar to the unknown for the reader. The writer is limited only by his or her imagination (and of course the parameters of the fantasy culture), and the reader is the beneficiary of this creativity.

    ReplyDelete
  7. debby turner harrisNovember 17, 2014 at 4:19 AM

    I quite agree. Holidays are the seasonal fruits of on-going tradition. Introducing elements of tradition (including holidays) into your fantasy world renders that world much more "real" to your readers.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I keep trying to remember to get a seasonal book done. Then, when it's very late, I try and haven't gotten one ready yet!

    ReplyDelete

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.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...