Thursday, December 25, 2014

X-Mas in Writing

It's been looking a lot like X-Mas outside. I love the Holiday Season. Even though work seems to triple during this time, there is a special spirit out there. People are friendlier and more willing to give.
You can use this spirit for your writing. Holidays and special are a great source to support conflict and tension.


  • X-Mas: You could use the spirit and holiday feelings to create conflict in the protagonist. He might have just returned from a war zone and the spirit seemed unreal or a relative might have stage four cancer and the protagonist questions the meaning of live. 
  • New Years Eve: Use the spirit of new beginning with all the new years solutions to create a turning point I the protagonist's life. He might feel the need for change, but he is neglecting it until a plot twist on New Years Eve lets him embrace the change.
  • Pentecost: If you want to know how to use pentecost just read Pentecost from Joanna Penn. It is a brilliant example using the spirit and meaning of a  Holiday in a story.
  • 4th of July: Same here - I love how the movie Independence day uses this date to create tension. On July 1st you know there are still three days to go. But there is more to it - using the 4th of July implies the bigger cause. This is not a simple fight. It is all or nothing. It is about everything we believe in.  

Special Days

  • Birthday or Anniversaries: Birthdays and Anniversaries are a ticking clock. Every year we are shown our own mortality and that the number of years are finite. That is why we celebrate - it is less of an accomplishment, more an achievement.
  • Weddings: Despite the option to divorce, weddings have a notion being final. This creates tension - in the bridal pair as well as in the bridal party. Sisters/brothers could be jealous or here could be a rival amongst them. There are tons of fils out there covering this - My Best Friend's Wedding, Made of Honor or The Wedding Planer just to name some of them. You want novels as example? Here you go: Great Expectations where the marriage of Estella increases the tension by seemingly moving them out of reach for the protagonist.

Other Religion's holidays or special days
Even holidays of other religions might help to create tension in a novel, be it on Diwali, during Ramadan or Hadj or on Yom Kippur. However, there are two things you need to remember when doing so. First, treat the holiday with respect the way you want to have things treated that matter to you. Second, understand the holiday, its customs and meanings and especially they way people feel and celebrate it. If you are not sure, ask for help.

Other special days/historic days
There is an almost countless number of special or historic days or times you can use, discovery of America, Russian Revolution, assassination of JFK, Tchernobyl-incident etc.
The broader known the better, but you can also use less known events. On December 22, 1974 the Comoros voted for their independency from France. This is hardly general knowledge, but we all understand the notion of independence and freedom and therefore it creates tension.

You could also use general events, like the Superbowl or the inauguration of a president. It doesn't have to have a direct connection with the event, but the event itself creates a collective feeling. We have all memories accompanied with one of these days.

But why is it that these examples work? Because all these dates and events are important in some way.  They matter and whenever something matters there is a high chance/risk for conflict.

Merry X-Mas and Happy Holidays
Your writer in a foreign land

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