Writing Exercise – Christmas with your Characters

For the month of December, my posts will all be Christmas-themed, just to be festive (or annoying, depending on your point of view). You can love it or hate it, celebrate it with joy or celebrate a different winter-time festival—but either way, Christmas is here and so is its impact on our culture. So I figured it would be appropriate if my blog reflected that.

I love Christmas (just in case my regular readers hadn’t picked up on that yet!) And every year starting about mid-November, I get a strong urge to write a Christmas story, or at least a Christmas scene, even if the current project I’m working on has nothing to do with Christmas.

I often do write at least a partial scene that involves Christmas, and it can be a fun and insightful writing exercise. Especially if your story does not involve Christmas, writing a Christmas scene with your main characters can be a way to learn something about your characters that you may not have known before.

For example, if your story takes place most anywhere on earth sometime during the past 2,000 years, it’s likely that at least one of the characters has at least heard of Christmas, right? So what might that character’s Christmas traditions be like? Take a moment and just imagine, and then write it down.

Does your character come from a dysfunctional family where no one gets along and holiday gathering consist of arguing and watching  TV? So what if that character was invited to a classy Christmas party with their new spouse’s happy, well-adjusted family? How does your character react?

What if your Native American character is just learning to trust the ranchers who moved into his territory, and they invite him to spend Christmas day with them on their new farm? Does he just watch through the window as they bring a tree into the house and sing songs around the old piano, or does he go inside?

Really, this writing exercise doesn’t even have to be about Christmas at all. Use a different holiday—any holiday. Or some other special event—a wedding, a football game, a concert, a family reunion.

This sort of writing exercise works best if it’s about an event that is not part of the plot of your story. It’s intended to get you to explore a side of your character that you hadn’t thought of before, to add depth to their personality and background.

So if your story is about a teenage boy who follows his two favorite bands all over the country in hopes of becoming a rock star one day, then writing a scene with him at a concert would be important for the story, but not a unique exercise.

But for a crime drama about a hardened cop who’s forgotten how to enjoy himself, writing a scene with him at a concert might be a way for you to discover what your character is like when he unwinds.

Or send the rock star boy or the hardened cop home to the grandparents house in the country for Christmas. Now what does the character do?

If you’re taking some writing time over the holidays, then try this exercise with one or more of your characters. It doesn’t have to be about Christmas, or any other winter-time festival. Just put your character in some setting that is logical for their life, but may not occur in the actual plot. And then write!

Spend some quality time this holiday with your characters, and get to know them a little bit better.

And have a merry Christmas!

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