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Write a Holiday Tale that Isn't a Turkey
©) 2003 Caterina Christakos
Find links to more articles on how to write at bottom of page.
When we write stories, with the purpose of sharing them with
we enter into an agreement where we allow our reader to see a
glimpse of our heart, our souls and our memories. If we truly want
them to be immersed in the tale, we actively immerse ourselves in
those memories so that a glimmer of what we saw, heard and felt
This is especially true with holiday tales. The best way to convey a
holiday scene is to take a trip back in time through the wonderful
world of our unconscious. Here are some great ways to delve back
into our child hood memories and incorporate them into our holiday
1) Sit in a darkened room and close your eyes. Allow yourself to go
back in time to the very first Christmas that you can remember. Take
a deep breath and relax. What are the scents, sounds and feelings
that come up? What is the first picture that pops into your mind?
Is it the sound of children racing down the stairs that comes to you
first? The feel of your heart pounding when you awoke and found that
Christmas was really here? The warmth of your parents' blankets as
you bounced on them, anxious to wake them up?
The autumn and winter holidays will always be associated, for me,
with my grandmother's cooking and pumpkin pies. I remember running
into her little house, and the sound of the front door's slam behind
me. I was immediately engulfed in warmth. The scent of nutmeg and
cinnamon and pumpkin seeds physically drew me forward, until I was
wrapped in my grandmother's embrace.
2) Recreate the scene. Since a prime trigger for me is the scent of
pumpkin pies, I often order pumpkin scented candles from Yankee
Candles. I sit on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket, light the
candles and wait. Within moments, the scent has pulled me back to my
grandmother's kitchen. And I hear the sound of my cousins pounding
down the hall after me, each of us anxious to win the first warm
You can do the same. If a scent triggers your memories, you can
either bake the cake or cookie or brew the eggnog. Or you can get
one of those scented candles and simply light it.
If the feel of sweaters immediately transports you back to your snow
throwing days, slip one on. If you are like me and live in Florida,
turn the air way up first. Close your eyes and hear the sound of
children shouting as they try to nail each other with snowballs.
Picture their fresh flushed faces.
3) If there is a particular holiday character that sparks your
memories, rent holiday movies. Some of my favorites are Frosty the
Snowman and Miracle on Thirty fourth street. Watch one for a while,
until you get the holiday feeling, then turn the sound off. Watch
the pictures and let your mind go.
4) Use all of these pictures and sensations and feelings in your
If you are writing about a little girl in a big family, think back
to what holiday dinners were like for you. Did everyone talk at
once? Does your character like this or does she feel overwhelmed?
What is it like to be the smallest one in a room full of adults? Is
there a cousin or neighbor that is constantly picking on her? Do
the children get bored and decide to explore the forbidden attic?
5) Once you have a scene in mind, write down all of these questions.
Don't worry about answering them until you have run out of
questions. Then think back to the picture, sound or feeling that you
associate with and answer the questions.
6) Now describe everything that you can about the characters. What
are their ages? What do they look like? Are they the youngest or
oldest in their family? Where do they live? What is their favorite
thing? What are their best friend's names? Who is their arch nemesis
Get as much detail as possible down.
Once you can describe all of these things, the pieces of your story
will begin to fall into place. More importantly, your characters and
your scenes will be real and alive. Be brave and put as much of
yourself into these stories and your characters. Your readers will
love you for it.
Caterina Christakos is the author of How to Write a Children's Book
in 30 Days or Less. For more writing tips go to:
More on how to