Originally posted 20.12.11
Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat, etc. etc. With the season of goodwill almost upon us, my thoughts have turned to how best to handle the event in my writing. I’m not thinking necessarily about stories about Christmas like Dickens’ Christmas Carol ; more how to use Christmas as a plot device in any work.
Of all the books I read at school, one of the few scenes I can remember well and that has influenced my enjoyment of thriller genre occurs at Christmas. I can’t recall the name of the book but it revolves around the kidnapping of a young boy. A woman in the kidnapper’s gang takes pity on him and makes a proper Christmas dinner for everyone. This then descends into an argument with the lead kidnapper spoiling it by pouring custard over the turkey. This showed me how you can use the festival to either break up tension or increase it.
It can also be used to give characters access to objects and situations they would not normally or previously have had through the gifting of presents and the meeting of friends and family at parties. J K Rowling makes great use of Christmas in the Harry Potter novels. It is then that Harry gets his invisibility cloak, a deus ex machina device if I ever saw one. The festive period is also when they are free to explore more, as the other children have gone home.
The rituals around this time of year allow the writer to freely have people form relationships and have arguments without it seeming out of character as people do do all sorts of crazy stuff at this time of year. Just think of your last Christmas office party for proof.
I do have concerns about including Christmas in my writing though, however useful it maybe. You need to treat it with a certain amount of respect. Whilst only being a day, the build up takes at least a month so this needs to be included to some respect as it suddenly being Christmas without your character mentioning it before would look out of place.