Selling Christmas sounds dreadfully pragmatic, doesn't it? Writing about Christmas to SELL something seems wrong.
Oh. So. Wrong.
Except it's not, of course, any more than it's wrong to hang strings of lights, boughs of holly, mistletoe or garland. Or put up a creche, a nativity scene, a quiet corner of prayer and reflection...
My favorite garland?
Strings of cranberries and popcorn, alternated on the string. We did that all the time when the kids were small... they'd do small strings and I'd knot them together for larger ones. I miss that, stringing berries and popcorn.
So let's destroy Myth #1: Selling Christmas is Wrong.
Commercializing a blessed holy day of the church has been taken to extremes, but if your work requires either selling boxes of twinkle lights in a retail store, fancy cakes in a bakery or lovely books with two orphaned boys on the front....
It's not necessarily commercializing... it's offering opportunity. The gal who's too busy to bake is glad that Wegman's, Tops or Kroger's is offering Christmas delights, the guy whose wife is nagging him about making the porch more festive is thrilled to find a string of reasonably-priced lights at Wal-Mart and the person looking for a warm, inspirational story of God's love within us, can find that in the pages of a good book.
God has actually done the legwork for you!
Oh, that GOD!!!! :) The Nativity story has all the earmarks of successful fiction in a true-life-tale.
Lack of choice.
An unwed mother.
A father challenged to forgive or believe...
The common man, coming together.
A country-setting in a small town (I LOVE THESE SO MUCH!!!)
Building trust, faith and hope.... Reaching within for the strength to carry on.
Good prevails over evil and a happy ending.
Man, in his/her flawed personage, fills in the blanks of the story. Our internal struggles... our self-doubts... our pain, our suffering, our selfishness. Regret, bad choices, youthful indiscretion... all of this comes to the fore at Christmastime when we see the sacrificial goodness in Mary and Joseph, common folk with an uncommon destiny.
Readers identify with indiscretions conquered at Christmas-time, unlike any other time of year because the season of light comes at the height of northern darkness. Short days, cloud-riddled-skies. Long, drawn-out dark nights.
Unto us a Child is born....
Unto us a Son is given.
So babies work VERY WELL in Christmas stories, past and present. Even folks who don't love babies in the "general" love them at Christmas... the idea of Christ, born in a manger opens even the Scroogiest, Grinchiest "babies annoy me" heart to healing.
Regret.... There's no time like Christmas to list our regrets. The promises broken... the relationships cast aside.... hurt feelings.... empty arms.... words spoken in haste, regretted at leisure.
I love this Trans-Siberian Orchestra song of regret, when the old man spies his child, a child he gave up on long ago in a fit of anguish and agony, all faith cast aside. His wife dead, his child deformed... The child, now a full-grown man with disabilities, is helping others in the NICU of a Bronx hospital...If you don't own any Trans-Siberian Orchestra music, I'll have to give it as a gift/prize sometime because it inspires me deeply when I work.
And that story of a father who walked away from his handicapped newborn... providing in name only... and then God's chance for redemption forty years later... I cannot read this without seeing all of us in the story, shouldering our responsibilities and confronting our regrets. (Story behind "The Lost Christmas Eve" is here... Feel free to read the scenario of the rock opera and then come back.)
Getting to the HEA is tough in reality.... It should be similar in fiction. This particular TSO opera inspired a story I wrote several years ago, unpublished as yet, but a Christmas tale I love... Of a man who rejects suicide because of the intervention of a bridge derelict... He goes on to change the lives of thousands with his works of charity while healing his personal wounds evades him for years.
Christmas stories evoke EMOTION. If bars of music put a stranglehold on our hearts, then our written words must do the same. And being Christmas, it shouldn't flounder in really DARK, DEEP EMOTION without something joyous surrounding the darkness... That "joy" can be the grace and generosity of others... Kindly old folk, making things nice for young families down on their luck. Filling baskets of food and/or toys. Raising money for a NICU.... Raising money for storm victims.... In the darkness there needs to be that ray of light, Christ among us. And no matter how bad things are for those main characters, that beam of light should beckon them.
I don't employ a lot of romantic passion in Christmas stories. I try to evoke the spirit of sacrificial love, tested hearts and valor, a chance to begin anew... To me Christmas is more about the inner sanctum of emotion than romantic love, but the romantic love should spring organically from the healing heart.
In Yuletide Hearts (Love Inspired, December 2011) the hero is willing to walk away from his dream... and the girl... when he realizes he received the dream through illicit means unknown to him. A true marine, he's willing to forego the happily ever after in his grasp because he knows no one will understand his true feelings. He'll be the subject of doubt and talk and he's lived that all his life: He won't subject the heroine and her wonderful son to a similar fate. That makes Matt Cavanaugh, the reformed bad boy, a true hero.
Putting others first. As did Mary, Joseph, and that babe born in the manger, a good Christmas story should rock with self-sacrifice. Heros and heroines who are AFRAID of sacrifice get the boot in my books because those people annoy the heck out of me in real life.
(Are you beginning to understand that I'm not the best person to play with in the sandbox???? :) )
The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite rendition of that wonderful Dickens' tale, and I'll tell you why: Singing mice and rats and poor folk trying to find a way to make merry in the dirty streets of London bring cheer to those opening minutes. Minute creatures, tucked in niches, in window wells, in hay wagons.
I LOVE THE WHIMSY OF IT!!!! :)
And the music: beautiful, lovely, fun, captivating. I want Scrooge's redemption, but I also want the little critters to have food... to be warm. And Tiny Tim.... Played by Kermit the Frog's nephew.... Is just wonderful...
(Excuse me while I wipe a tear!!!! SNIFFLE!!!!)
Mind you I am not so forgiving when those same woodland critters make their way into my farmhouse... I am somewhat two-faced in the matter of "mouse-in-the-house" and I reward my farm cats well for hunting... Do you know how many vermin can live on 40 ACRES OF HARVESTED CORN DROPPINGS?????
(I do not do the math because I'd have to employ an anti-mouse/rat/mole/chipmunk/squirrel (gray and red) force-field shield because the numbers are staggering!!! Ooops... back to cute critters at Christmas!!!)
I've been blessed to have Christmas books out the past two years and I'm hoping there will be more in my future. The mix of joy and suffering, pain and redemption at Christmas can heal heart and soul.
Eggnog and cookies help spur that healing (you may or may not have known that, happy to help, you're welcome!!!!), so come on inside, leave a comment, and I'll throw your name in the cat dish (after they've eaten, of course, no rodents allowed in the dish. Usually)... I've got a lovely Christmas Card Collection of stories to send your way....
|A little bit of Christmas love by two of my favorite authors Linda Goodnight and Mary Connealy....|
For unto us a child is born.... :)