by Mindy Obenhaus
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s August 1st, but as I’m typing this it’s still July, so humor me. Besides, I’m fresh off the heels of the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas in July, so I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss Christmas stories.
We all love a good romance, but build it around the holiday season and it’s like adding whipped cream to a hot fudge sundae. It’s sweeter and more indulgent.
So what makes a good Christmas story?
Just like any other story, the hero and heroine still need a goal, motivation and conflict. Yet now Christmas can be part of that conflict.
In my book The Deputy’s Holiday Family, the heroine is raising her 5 yo niece whose mother passed away earlier in the year and she wants nothing more than to give the little girl the best Christmas ever. Except our heroine recently lost her job and is forced to return to her hometown to stay with her mother for the holidays. Her Christmas-averse mother who forbids anything Christmas in her house. No tree, no lights, no music, nothing.
While many of the ingredients that go into a good Christmas story are the same as any other story, they’re elevated. Like the difference between custard and crème brulee (I’m obviously hooked on desserts today and crème brulee is one of my faves).
Let’s take a look at some of those necessary components.
What is the story about? Good vs. evil, forgiveness, letting go of the past…
Since I’ve only written one Christmas story, I thought I’d ask someone with more experience about some of her favorite holiday themes.
Ruth Logan Herne, known to most of us as Ruthy, says she likes to use, “Overcoming. Finding truth and faith. Trust. Forgiveness.... and all around the faith of that young couple, and that baby in the manger. Everything you do in that story should stem from those emotions.”
Even if you’re not writing for the Christian market, you can still incorporate the true meaning of Christmas. Why do we celebrate and what makes it so special?
There’s something about the holidays that we all react to, good or bad. The sights, sounds and smells trigger memories that can make us smile or want to withdraw from the world.
Ruthy says, “A Christmas story should be rife with emotion. Loss or poverty or longing or guilt or sorrow.... these are the things that come to light in the Christmas season."
"When we anticipate Christmas it's with either joy or trepidation.... and people of faith have either a deeper reason to welcome the joy of the holidays or a deeper anger that life and/or love hasn't gone their way even if they're people of faith. It's not that a holiday story needs a faith conversion, it's more that a holiday story helps inspire a return to the faithful, loving person we were before either life or loss messed us over. So those emotions are always a part of my Christmas stories, including the sweet historical novella collection I've got coming out this fall... and a beautiful novel for Shepherd's Crossing that comes out in mid-November from Love Inspired.”
Visuals and other heart-tugging stuff
When I asked my friend and fellow Love Inspired author, Jill Kemerer, what makes a good Christmas book, she said, “Think Hallmark Channel. They’re fun with all the feels. Plenty of heartwarming moments and visual happy places.”
All the feels. I love that. And she’s right. Ever notice how many Hallmark Christmas movies center around towns with extravagant Christmas celebrations.
Ruthy had this to say about the other elements of a good holiday story. “Joy, peace, twinkle lights, carols (they either love 'em or hate 'em!!!) faith either shared or born again, realization of the true Christmas story, the real nativity... sacrifice works beautifully in Christmas stories, think "Gift of the Magi", "Little Women" and Jo sacrificing her hair, the things we do from heart... that have little to do with pocketbook. And I love to show "simple Christmas" when folks are low on money. Money doesn't make Christmas. Love does. So paper angels, glittered snowflakes, a single strand of lights, bush trimmings to decorate the manger scene, cutting up old Christmas cards to make new ones... Sugar cookies. Pumpkin bread or cake. When we make the simple seem sacrificial it absolutely paints the best picture for the reader.”
How do you feel about Christmas stories? Do you love them or feel like they’re over done? Have you ever written or wanted to write one? What elements do you feel are crucial? What can you do without?
Oh, and since we’re talking Christmas, let’s giveaway some presents. I’m going to give one copy of my book, The Deputy’s Holiday Family, to THREE lucky commenters. Good luck!
Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com