Lesson Six: Christmas
(Sorry for the delay with this, it was quite difficult to find resources on this topic and I was delayed by personal things as well.)
We have reached that time of year once again. The season where it is snowing for some of us and scorching hot for the rest, but we become united in having shopping malls transform into displays of red and green, accompanied by the same songs playing on constant repeat as we search desperately for last minute gifts around a five metre high, over decorated tree that symbolizes materialism and serves as the centrepiece and main tradition of this time of year.
I am, of course, referring to Christmas time. And when we are not out shopping, cooking, entertaining family members and decorating our houses in yuletide glory, many of us end up watching the same sort of Christmas specials that air every year. These range from classics like What a Wonderful Life, to animations like Frosty the Snowman and Charlie Brown, and the more modern movies like Love Actually and Die Hard, my personal favourite Christmas tale. With the Christmas Writing Competition upon us, I thought I would make a few helpful suggestions about what could be done.
Firstly, there are certain characteristics you should ensure you include in any Christmas story. Just like a film noir needs a femme fatale and action movies need a villain, anything Christmas related should contain some of the following general ideas: snow, family, trees, presents, making the journey home, snowmen, Santa, reindeer are just some of the tropes that identify your story as being Christmas themed. You need to include some of these ideas to really cover the idea of the holidays and show you know what you are talking about. This applies even if you write a negative Christmas story about how terrible the holiday is: we won’t know why it is terrible unless you suggest some reasons why. If you want to write about Hannukah, Kwanza or even Festivus, simply change those things to include what symbolises the holiday time for you. I would recommend though that you do not make up your own complicated new holiday or something, no matter how clever you may think it is: there is a word limit here, and it would be easier to regurgitate old storylines and ideas than trying to work up something entirely new that would take up too many words to explain.
It is key to keep your story focussed around something small. You may do a story about a family gathering, but do not dwell into what every aunt, uncle, cousin, mother, father, sibling is thinking. As is key with any short story or text, have a central character and base the story around them: make the readers connect with this person, develop some feeling about the holidays or Pokemon or both, give us someone we want to read about rather than a lot of abstract characters or undeveloped ideas. Similarly, there are many aspect of the holiday season you can include, such as family, thankfulness, new beginnings, old memories, or even materialism. However, don’t try and write some insightful piece about all of this. Choose one or two things that sum up what the holidays mean for you and write from the heart, putting these ideas into the character and do something personal rather than try and earn brownie points by doing some Aaron Sorkin-inspired Christmas-political piece.
The holiday season provides us with plenty of unique things never seen at any other time in the year, from the many decorations, the snow, the stress, the warm fuzzy feelings and the bright lights and joy. There is plenty of fodder for you to describe, and it makes sense to try and include some of these brilliant descriptions that you will rarely get to use elsewhere, so feel free to sprinkle about words like festive, holy, jolly, merry, joyous, those sorts of words we always see around this time of year (as well as the only ones Google regurgitated to me). Be careful though not to go too overboard such as writing endless paragraphs about every decoration and Christmas tree your character sees, as it will become both repetitive and time wasting.
When it comes to Pokemon and Christmas, the two can go together quite nicely. With the introduction of weather giving us snow strewn routes, cities, mountains and now even winter, there are plenty of perfect settings for any type of Christmas story. The games are based around the idea of a child/teenager leaving home and going off travelling: that is almost perfect Christmas time fodder there with the character returning home for the holidays. Stantler, Delibird and even Jynx and Ponyta have been used to symbolise the holiday season, and plots can be built up around them or any Ice type Pokemon that are designed for these sorts of winter-Christmas stories. A word of caution: try and avoid battles unless you only show the end or beginning, as they can be quite length if you do them well, and if you do them poorly, it will only lessen your work. Pokemon do not have to be treated like tools for war or performance in this sort of story. While you could include training or a small battle, Pokemon can be used for so much more, and based on the same idea mentioned above, focussing on the relationship between one Pokemon and the trainer could be more effective than trying to cover all six Pokemon on a team.
The important thing with this is that you are basically writing a short story that needs to work in elements of a Pokemon story and a Christmas story. Here are some final tips to help get you go:
- Don’t be afraid to write something a bit dark, depressing or action packed, as long as it still connects to Christmas ideas. Just look at Die Hard, an action movie that manages to hold onto the important ideals of Christmas such as family. Just remember the word limit if you choose the action route.
- Include your Pokemon in a relevant way. Try not to just throw in a battle in the middle of the story and never reference them outside of this. For some trainers, they could be a second family when they are out travelling through the snow on their own (think Snow Way Out), so a story could always be built around that.
- Write a Christmas story that you actually know about. Don’t write something that could be a storyline for Friends or some other generalized sitcom: use your own Christmas memories and feelings to produce this piece rather than copying out a Hallmark greeting card. And writing a plotline about your sort of Christmas will make things easier for you to write about.
For any extra tips, look at the links below. Otherwise, I hope you all have a Happy Holiday and have fun with your writing! And please note these are just ideas, not a checklist of what you have to do to win. They are my ideas and things I have found online and are not necessarily the same things the other judges will be considering.
Writing Tips and Ideas for a Short Story with a Christmas Theme | Suite101
20 Famous Christmas Stories