When I was invited to write a story for the anthology that eventually became Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, it was May. I responded, “Sure I can do that.” I actually had no idea of what to write, nor what made a Christmas story different from a regular story, but it wasn’t due until August, and I thought that would be plenty of time to think of something. But August came around, with its blistering days and nights, and it seemed impossible to think about Christmas. How was I ever going to write a Christmas story?
Beyond taking place in December, what made these different from other stories?
In my usual fashion when confronted with a dilemma, I opened Google. “How to write a Christmas story” was my question. Nothing showed up. Really? Had no one ever tackled this question before?
I did more digging and found a few articles. Most of them quoted something from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Fair enough. In that book, we have such themes as disappointment, fear, poverty, and finally, transformation. That was interesting enough for me to continue. I switched to movies. Not that I watched any of them in August, of course. Christmas movies definitely were not on the viewing agenda right then. “Miracle on 34th Street,” as far as I remembered, was about a little girl who longed for a father. It ended with things working out. “It’s a Wonderful Life” deals with financial struggles, suicidal thoughts, and other bleak subjects, but ends up with George Bailey realizing he has had a wonderful life, in spite of every problem.
So, it seemed to me that Christmas stories take place in December, the characters struggle with serious problems, and something changes their perspective and gives them hope or the courage to transform. Actually, either they transform or they help someone else transform. Think “Grinch.”
Aha! I was set. I thought about my novel, Who She Is. It’s about a poor teenage girl in the 1960s who desperately wants to run the Boston Marathon. She’s been promised a college scholarship if she finishes with a good time. The problem is that women weren’t allowed back then. Even worse, her parents refuse to allow her to do it. Worse than that, she starts to have flashbacks while she’s running that lead her to think something very odd is going on with her family. The book involves her trying to unravel the family secret while training for the marathon.
But there already was a Christmas scene in the book. Still, I figured there’s always room for more. And that’s where I started. I discovered a way to write all of the necessary elements into my story and, I have to say, I’m pretty proud of it.
To find out the problems that my character, Faye, faces and how she transforms, you’ll need to read Tangled Lights and Silent Nights. There are twenty stories from different authors. Even if you don’t like mine (and I think you will), you’ll find something you like. There are some fascinating stories of transformation in its pages. Whatever genre you like to read, it’s there, from women’s fiction to mysteries to fantasy.
Oh, and did I mention that the whole thing is for charity? Helping others is the ultimate Christmas story.