Writing Tip — Writing in Time: Winter Solstice as Writing Inspiration

summer-solstice-1474745_1280With all the frantic activity associated with Christmas in the U.S., we Americans tend to overlook all other significant dates and holidays in December. Yet the winter solstice is the reason we celebrate Christmas in this month. Both the history and nature of the winter solstice makes for a rich vein of writing inspiration.

Many ancient cultures, according to The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump, figured out which day in the northern hemisphere had the shortest amount of daylight, all without the help of computers.

Babylonians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic tribes celebrated this time of year. Egyptians commemorated the birth of Ra, the sun god. Babylonians and Syrians saw the solstice as a symbol of returning fertility to the land. During the Celtic and Germanic holiday of Yule, noisy celebrations warded off evil spirits that roamed in the darkness.

In a brilliant move of counter-programming, the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth in December and compete against pagan holidays. We still use some of the pagan traditions and have given them new meanings based on Christianity, like lighting candles and decorating with evergreens.

The juxtaposition of the most hours of darkness and the happiest holiday on the Christian calendar makes a great symbol for the journey of a character. As December grows darker, the character experiences more and more adversity, hitting bottom on the day of the solstice. Then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hope is restored.

For speculative fiction, a villain reaches her most powerful state during the winter solstice. The hero, whose powers are at their weakest, must come up with a way to stop the villain from taking advantage of the solstice.

How can you use the winter solstice as writing inspiration?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: What’s the Christmas Story?

horse-w19244_1280This month on my blog, the theme is Christmas. Anything and everything Christmas.

For Monday Sparks, I’ll post a photo and suggest a style of writing or genre for a Christmas story. For the photo above, I chose historical fiction because it looks like sleighs are gliding ahead of a horse with a rider, who is watching them.

Here’s my version. It’s historical fiction, but as usual, I have to work in a sinister element:

With a nudge from my heel, Midnight slipped out of the tree line and onto the snow-clogged road.

Even without the heavy snowfall, I doubted Deke Black and the other man driving the sleighs ahead would notice me. They were having too much fun, singing and laughing, as the horses pulled the supplies for Old Man Turner’s annual Christmas party.

But I hung back, watching. Deke Black was my only link, and tonight was my last chance to get him to confess what he knew about Old Man Turner and the mine.

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