Writing Tip — Writing in Time: Fourth of July as Writing Inspiration

flagw-1446423_1280Since the Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is the only major holiday in the month, I thought I had to use it for my writing inspiration. But I felt completely uninspired. The Fourth of July was never one of the big holidays when I was growing up, and now my husband, kids, and I celebrate by attending a local parade and fireworks. Not a lot of inspiration there.

So I asked the kids in the writing workshop I led at my library. Talking over my dilemma with kids ranging in age from 9-12 kickstarted my imagination.

Alternative history: If you aren’t familiar with this subgenre of fantasy fiction, it means some key event in history is changed and the story is based on that. What if the Confederate States won the American Civil War? What if the Russian Czar had beaten the Communists? At my workshop, one boy wondered what would happen if there was no Independence Day in America. What had happened so that it never became a holiday? So many things in American history could have changed. Or maybe there is no American history because America didn’t win the Revolutionary War.

Family traditions: Someone else mentioned making ice cream with a manual machine. That got me to thinking about family traditions and if they are passed on. For my story, I can have an elderly grandmother try to hand crank an old ice cream machine for the family Fourth of July picnic. She’s always done it. But this year, she’s having trouble and eventually gives in and allows her granddaughter to help, passing on the torch of tradition.

Personal freedom: Freeing a character of some problem while he participates in Independence Day activities would be a nice match. Maybe he is freed from a sin that has burdened him for years. Or, during a community picnic, he realizes the truth behind a misconception he had of another person. Or he could finally cut ties with someone who is a negative influence in his life. The climax of the story could occur during a community fireworks display, where the soaring fireworks are a symbol of the character’s new freedom.

How would you use the Fourth of July as writing inspiration?

Writing Tip — Writing in Time: July as Writing Inspiration

american-flagsw-1854255_1280Some of the ideas for using July as writing inspiration I discussed in last year’s post, and some are extensions of those ideas.

Here in the U.S. July is synonymous with Independence Day since it is the only major holiday in the month. With its historical and political importance, Independence Day has great potential for inspiration. But I am only going to discuss what I’ve experienced personally, which are family and community celebrations of the holiday.

The small town near where we live outdoes itself to create an old-fashioned and highly satisfying Fourth of July celebration. A parade kicks things off, and anyone can enter riding anything from bikes to classic cars to classic tractors. The fire department provides barbecued chicken for lunch, and the town organizes activities, like softball games, pie eating contests, and tractor pulls. They used to invite a group that did tractor square dancing, which is just as goofy as it sounds. A local singer gives a concert and then to top off the day, fireworks!

That small town would be a great setting for a middle grade mystery. A group of kids notice something strange during the parade, run all over town during the day, looking for clues, and then solve the mystery during the fireworks display.

Family picnics during the Fourth of July are fertile settings to explore relationships. If I make the day especially hot, and it’s heading that direction where I live, the heat can symbolize tensions between relatives, and then in the cool of the night, when the fireworks go off, that tension can be resolved, positively or negatively. If I am writing about several relationships, I can have both positive and negative consequences..

Although I haven’t seen the movie, this quote 1953 science fiction movie It Came From Outer Space vividly sums up how to use heat to turn up the tension in a story.

“Did you know … more people are murdered at ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once — lower temperatures, people are easy-going. Over ninety -two, it’s too hot to move. But just ninety-two, people get irritable.”

How would you use July as writing inspiration?




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