Ruthy here, and we're talking about Christmas stories today. There is a reason that Christmas stories
People love them.
People love them.
There is a reason that Hallmark Channel puts on a different new Christmas movie/night for 30 days... because people love them.
And raise your hand if you have holiday favorites!
(raised hand high, waving for attention, of course!!!!) Most of us do.
So what are the elements that draw us in for the most endearing Christmas stories?
The Four "R's":
Reflection, redemption, renewal and reward.
Are you familiar with TSO? Their music? Their stories set to music?
TSO is famous for its Christmas rock operas, stories set to music, imagery, majesty, crescendo, pianissimo, whispers, shouts, gamuts of expressionism... Their "Lost Christmas Eve" CD was what formed the image of Conor Bradstreet in my head, the hero of my first independent release "Try, Try Again"...
The vision of this rich man lamenting the lights of the holiday and the light of faith, turning his back on the holiness of a Virgin birth because it takes him back to a birth gone amok, a child left deformed, a young mother gone too soon.
Oh, too soon.
And that's what a good Christmas story does, it wraps the wonder of that first Christmas around you, choke-holding your heart, the thought of a baby, a tiny babe, born in the squalor of a stable, because no matter how sweetly we doll it up on a greeting card, a stable is the lowliest of lows... but safe. Quiet. Dark. Unsought, unfound except in dire need.
The music from this album and TSO's "A Christmas Attic" shaped the storyline for "Try, Try Again" and it embodied "reflection" in the loss of a child and a new child coming into the family... Redemption in the form of Conor's new spirit of giving from his heart and not just his pocketbook... Renewal in Alicia's soul as it unwound in a tight spiral of outspoken anger, fermenting over time. And reward in the second chance of new life, old love.
So this is what you GRAB HOLD OF when you want to write a Christmas story, what writers everywhere have known and used and lauded and shared... the miracle of faith restored, life renewed.
Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" must be the reigning king of the Christmas story, known internationally and withstanding the test of time, a story of a greedy, terse man's redemption, his second chance, God's olive branch extended if Scrooge will only grab hold... hang on. And change.
|The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite rendition of this Dickens' classic. Go ahead. Laugh. But I love it!|
Trailer For Muppet Christmas Carol!!!!!
The hero's reward becomes your readers' reward. (Vince Mooney will love that!!!!)
I could cite you many more good examples, but there's only so many hours in the day and you've probably all seen or read the gamut, so let's keep this simple:
Reflective plots for Christmas: Plots involving babies, small children, loss, lack of funds, darkness, hidden, unplanned pregnancy, single mothers, fathers overwhelmed by the task at hand, sacrificial love, putting others first.... If you gently dissect the Christmas story, you can take snippets from that to create a new story, reflective of the first Christmas. And that's a big draw to people's hearts (and editors) at Christmas.
Redemptive plots for Christmas: Guilt, forgiveness, grudges, abandonment, anger, shunning, loss of faith, desertion, wrath. Anne Tyler's "Saint Maybe" is one of my favorites of this style. "A Christmas Carol" would fall into this grouping. My upcoming Kirkwood Lake book "The Lawman's Holiday Wish" splits itself between reflective and redemptive and reward.... And I'm giving away a few copies today, so you can win it before you can buy it and see for yourselves... Because I love youse, that's why. :)
HERE!!!! :) (Come on, you knew I'd give you the link at least once, right? And it just got 4-STARS from Romantic Times, so it's really a delightful pair of stories for one price, a "two-fer"!)
Reward plots for Christmas: Money isn't everything, Spirit above want, need above greed, putting others first, self-sacrifice for others, self-sacrifice for the good of the whole (soldier stories fit this niche nicely), self-realization/awareness, replacing pride with humility. (Richard Paul Evans "The Christmas Box" is a great example of this one, the young father finally understanding that the first gift of Christmas was a child).
I think the best stories embrace more than one of these and that works well for Christmas because people expect it to be the Season of Miracles. But that kind of story also examines the human side of Christmas, the frailty of the human condition, our penchant for sin because it's just darn easy to mess up... and we love to see the story unfold to show us any one or more of the "R's", because we identify with them.
Using the four "R's" in story-building helps me to lock in a Moral Premise, an organic depth to the story that kind of (hopefully!!!) rises from the narrow beginnings into an expanding property, like the Biblical analogy of grains of wheat, sprouting and working together to form a field... One grain feeds little... but left to grow, it blossoms and fruits and spreads. And that's how I like a story to grow....
And at Christmas time, the beautiful story of the first Christmas offers all the story elements we'll ever need.
Hey, come on in, let's chat about whatever you'd like!!! AND... I'm giving away a few copies of both Christmas books today, Love Finds You in the City at Christmas and The Lawman's Second Chance...
And they let me put a great Tres Leche cake recipe in "The Lawman's Second Chance" so can you imagine the fun Mandy and I had developing this recipe??? And the pounds we gained???? :)
Leaving a comment gets your name put in the cat dish for my books today... and also into the weekly drawing for wonderful birthday bash stuff!!!! (Delves into bag to discern weekly prize....)
Ah, yes!!! :)
THE HANDCRAFTED KINDLE BAG!!!! AND THE COOL PEN WITH THE WOODEN STYLUS!!!!
I'll bring coffee is Helen doesn't stop by, but if she does, grab a cuppa, there's homemade pumpkin roll with chocolate chips and cream cheese frosting, help yourselves...