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Elements of a Good Christmas Story

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This year, I’ve felt more in the Christmas spirit than I have in a long time.  It might be because my wife and I are expecting a baby in six short months.  It might be because my neighbors have young ones who are so excited by the prospect of having Santa visit their homes.

And it might be because my heart’s grown three sizes this year.

Whatever the cause, I’ve been watching Christmas movies almost non-stop this weekend as my wife and I transform our home into a Christmas wonderland.  We have lights and decorations on the tree, stockings hung on the entertainment center (no fireplace at our house), and a giant inflatable snowman floating in our snow-covered lawn.

That’s started me thinking:  what is it that makes some Christmas stories “good”, and others swept into the “not gonna watch again” pile?

Element 1:  Good music

All of the movies that I enjoy the most include good Christmas music.

Examples (by no means complete):

Element 2:  Relatable Characters

All of the movies I watched included characters that were relatable.  They made mistakes (getting on a train with a strange man), were not “perfect” according to social standards (Rudolph’s nose), and didn’t always know about what was happening around them (scheduling a Christmas vacation while the kids were away).

Examples (by no means complete):

Element 3:  Snow

Every one of the examples above (and hence the reason why no examples are included here) includes a story where snow is a main element.  There’s definitely something about the cleansing magic of a winter snow that helps people focus on the Christmas season.

Element 4:  Santa

Santa embodies the Christmas spirit, making an accessible character regardless of one’s religion.  I can’t help but want to emulate his generosity in giving presents with no thought of anything in return.  This is part of the reason my wife and I always donate toys around this time so that children we don’t know can have something at Christmas.

While many stories use Santa as a character, there are a few that stand out as being about the big man himself.

These are the common threads I noticed in the stories I watched. Of course, there were also other underlying themes (love, forgiveness, joy), and lots of good character development opportunities, but these pieces seemed to be in all of the movies I watched this weekend.

What other things do you notice in a Christmas story?  Do you notice more the themes of love, forgiveness, and joy?  Are you more focused on the religious aspects of the holiday (this post focused on the secular aspects)?  What do you do to get in the spirit of Christmas?

Combining Two Stories

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Recently I came up with another storyline that I would like to work on. I have 5 or 6 story lines that I am working on right now.

After starting work on my new story line and getting about 10 pages into the story, I realized that this story could be combined with another story that I have plodding along on. This story had come to stand still and I have been trying to figure out where I wanted to take it.

The first story is a ghost story told in the first person and the second story is a teen drama story told in the second person.

I know these two story lines can mesh nicely together, but after I copied and pasted them together I realized that there are some MAJOR inconsistencies that I need to fix besides the different perspectives.

For example, in my first story, the heroine is finishing high school via the web and has not made friends in her new town, but has a potential love interest. In the second story, the heroine is in school and is working on a history project, has friends but no love interests.

However, instead of focusing on how these stories do not work together, I have been busy working on making these stories work together. I want to take the teen drama and blend it into the ghost story.

I think the process of combining the two stories so they will work as one will be a complicated process that will keep me busy for a few days.

Because so much work that needs to be done and the fact that I cannot edit my own work while on a computer, I have to print the story off and work on etching out a new story line and fix the inconsistencies, thus making a brand new story.

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