Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holidays Are Opportunities

Holidays are a great opportunity to enrich your manuscript. The trick is to not gloss over the  holliday, but to add vivid descriptions as to how the holiday is celebrated by your characters.

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. Such descriptions can add greatly to the setting of your story.

Who is invited to your character's house to celebrate the holiday? Is someone missing? Why? A rift in the family, illness, death? Who prepares the meal? The mother, the wife, the son, the daughter, one, some, or all? Who helps? Children, spouse, friend? How is the table set? Disposable plates, glasses, silverware or fine china and silver? Such details are a good way to show the station in life of your characters, whether they're well-off, just-married, college students, maybe, or members of a large family.

What's on the menu? Does it reflect a character's ethnicity, a quirk, or maybe an effort to please someone who's held dear or who's domineering? Many people eat turkey for Thanksgiving, but maybe your character is alone and eating spam. Why?

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 or mother or single who feels bad because she uses canned gravy and ready-made dressing instead of making them from scratch. Why does she work? Is it because she needs the money, wants to get away from home for a while, or has a high profile position? I'm using the female gender here, because it's the women who usually cook the holiday meals, but there are exceptions. If so, that's another good difference to emphasize in your book.

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? That's a tough one.

What other holiday descriptions can you think of, either from your own novel or someone else's?


  1. nothing like a little holiday guilt when you show up with storebaked cookes at a cookie exchange. been there, done that!


  2. It's always fun to use holidays in some unique way in a story to move the plot along or show characterization. In One Small Victory - my suspense novel on Kindle - the central character does something different for Thanksgiving. Her oldest son was recently killed in a car accident, so she is not ready for the usual gathering and convinces the family to go to a restaurant instead. I use this scene to ratchet up the drama by having one of her other kids let loose with some of his anger and put her in a difficult spot with her mother.

  3. I wrote a Christmas story this year for a new publisher I have. Title: "A Christmas Wedding." It's contemporary, and the only thing in it is a wedding at Christmas time..but the wedding that eventually takes place, is not the hero or heroine's--"A Christmas Wedding" is really about one that will take place after this story end. Confused?
    I was married on Dec. 21, so my husband and I enjoy our day alone on the 21st.We have our own little ceremonies--very nice day. Celia


Your Comment Is Welcome