This post from business author and speaker Anita Agers-Brooks offers wonderful literary gifts ideas if you are still have people on your Christmas gift list. I love that writing gifts can be personalized. From the twelve ideas Ms. Angers-Brooks lists, I especially like #1, #2, #10, and #11. #10 concerns using puns as gifts ideas, and I have a definite weakness for punny humor.
I have to exercise some imagination here because I try to get all my shopping done in November to avoid the crowds of holiday shoppers.
The cozy smells of cinnamon and baking bread wafting from the coffee shops taunt the strained faces and aggressive gestures of the shoppers, who push, stalk, and shove their way to their destinations. The Christmas carols blaring from hidden speakers also sing of a mood absent from the crowd it wraps in its cheery melodies. But, maybe, a few shoppers will escape the press of people, squeeze into a coffee shop, and let the tastes of the season remind them why they are doing what they are doing. Then the carols will feel as sweet as they sound.
Of course, it’s hard to think of December without thinking of Christmas. The whole month seems to be nothing but a headlong rush to the 25th. But I want to discuss some other ways to use December before I get to the gigantic holiday at the end of it.
Winter Solstice — The shortest day of the year seems like a good setting for a clash between the forces of good and evil in any genre. I have an idea for a story of crime fiction where a serial killer is finally confronted during sunset on this day. A work of speculative fiction could give a fantastic meaning to the solstice.
School break — My kids finish their first semester at the start of Christmas vacation. The break would be a good setting for wrapping up a school story or kicking one off.
Christmas — So much has been written about, during, and because of this holiday, it’s difficult to find something fresh to say. And yet those of us writers who love the holiday always want to try. If you want to write a Christmas story, I encourage you to examine your own experiences and traditions to give your story a unique quality, whether it is a plot, voice, or character.
Here’s my idea:
The Lody family live in a cramped trailer in the remote mountains of West Virginia and must do their laundry at the Laundromat in the county seat miles away. Seventeen-year-old Junior Lody sees an ad online for a stackable washer and dryer while working Christmas Eve. He enlists the help of his brother, cousin, and uncle to take a road trip to get the washer-dryer in Maryland and bring it home in time for Christmas.
I like the idea of a road trip during Christmas because with the winter weather, especially in the mountains, so much can go wrong. Also, the deadline of getting a gift in time for Christmas Day gives the character’s an urgent motive.
Some of the most interesting holiday events are the unplanned, unforeseeable holiday disasters. As long as they aren’t tragic, these disasters can provide inspiration for your writing. Sharing disaster stories is one of my families favorite pastimes when we get together. Everyone who was involved pitches in during the retelling. A camaraderie develops between the people who weathered the disaster. That bond alone is enough reason to write down family disaster stories, polish them, and if you think it would make a nice gift, give the finished product to those who lived the story.
When I was in high school, my parents had both been sick in December, so holiday activities were postponed or cancelled. It was just a few days before Christmas, and we still didn’t have a tree. I drove my junior high-aged sister and my elementary school-aged sister to the local church where we always bought our cut tree.
But when we pulled into the parking lot, no trees were on display, no person taking money from customers. The only sign that the Christmas tree farmer had used the lot were four or five Christmas trees thrown down beside the lot. I didn’t know what to do.
Junior high sis took charge. Yelling at the top of her lungs, she asked, “Does anybody want any money for this tree?”
The trees were ours. We loaded one into the station wagon, placed a sister in the back because there was no room in the front seat, and headed home with our hot, I mean free, tree. It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories.
The Christmas I was nineteen is know in my family as the Year of the Plague. On Christmas Eve, starting with me, a stomach virus felled each member of my family until by Christmas morning, only my dad was left standing. Collapsed around the house, the rest of us lay wondering if death really was such a bad option.
My oldest sister, coming in that morning from out of town, stayed at my grandparents. She really enjoyed the extra time with them. I believe the Year of the Plague is one of her favorite Christmas memories.