winterj-1367153_1280After all the hoopla of December and Christmas, January can be a huge letdown. New Year’s Day is a major holiday but it’s on the first day and feels like just an extension of Christmas. Below are some ways to explore January without letting it get you down.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. At the libraries where I worked, this always seemed a strange time to me. Half the staff was gone a vacation days, so nothing significant could get done. Customer visits dropped off, making it a good week to accomplish those little jobs that had piled up all year. But the atmosphere was one of waiting — waiting for the thrill of Christmas to wear off, waiting for the day of January 1. Such an in between time would be a good setting for characters to wrap up old business or experience something strange or unusual.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year saw a full moon on New Year’s Day. I couldn’t find any special superstition or folklore associated with a full moon on this day, but it would be fun to invent one for a tale of speculative fiction. Richard Matheson wrote a fantasy short story. “Deadline”, about a man who lives and grows old in one year, born at the first tick of New Year’s Day and dying on the last second.

I’ve also read another short story, many years ago, about a man who waits outside a cemetery to talk to his dead father because he believes the living can speak to the dead on either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. I can’t remember which eve it is. It’s a wonderful short story and I have never been able to find it again. Ray Bradbury may be the author. If anyone knows this story, please tell me!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A perfect setting for exploring race relations. Since most kids have the day off school, and the weather is often cold and snowy, a children’s story or middle-grade fiction book about race relations concerning kids having fun on their day off seems appropriate.

Weather. Although the days are getting longer, you can’t tell it in January. The dark and the cold are suitable for any gritty or grim tale, whether urban, suburban, or rural. The weather especially lends itself to stories of survival.

The reason January doesn’t get me down is that it’s the Birthday Month at my house. All my kids and I were born in January. For several years now, at the end of the month, we celebrate the kids’ birthdays along with their winter-born cousins’s birthdays at one big birthday blow-out bash. I find it very helpful to have a modest celebration to plan for after all the work of Christmas. I’d rather not stop cold turkey.

Do you have a month with special, personal significance? Maybe it’s because of your family, friends, job, or where you live. Such a personal celebration can provide loads of inspiration.

How can you use January as a setting?