I’ve never written a holiday story. The closest I’ve ever come, I’d say, is “The Psychometry of Snow,” in The Bears of Winter, and even then I don’t mention that it’s taking place close to Christmas, just that it’s winter.
Partly this came from my, uh, “aversion” to the holiday season, given my retail profession for so long. It’s been a long time since I was jolly for the holidays, so to speak, and though that’s coming back now, I didn’t really feel it whenever I’d sit down at the keyboard.
But then I started reading them. I’d always read a few holiday stories that spoke to me (often re-reading them, because brainpower in December was at a minimum, and a re-read is less challenging than a fresh book), and – again, thanks to not being a retail Christmas guy any more – I’ve found a few new ones, especially audiobooks, and I’ll be talking about them throughout this month, and how I’m really starting to like reading holiday themed stories at this time of year. Especially novellas.
Two things, though, still play in my head with holiday stories. One, as a queer writer, is the notion of a chosen family. I don’t much connect with the “Christmas solves everything!” mixed with “Families are important!” vibe that seems to crash through so many stories, and I watch for those carefully, and try to find stories that instead focus on people finding their own way through the holiday.
Two, as a former grinch working his way back to the love of the season, I’m not a huge fan of grimdark holiday stories. No horror for my holidays, thanks.
But, all that said, I’d never tried writing one myself. I had no real notion of what to write, or how I’d ever create a character who cared about the holidays.
Until last month.
Last month I did NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, and I cheated. Well, okay, I didn’t cheat – but I didn’t write a novel. I wrote multiple novellas and a short story. Over the course of November, I wrote more than sixty thousand words, and part of those words was a novella with no current title (though I’m potentially going with “Ornamental”) that is absolutely Christmas themed. In fact, the story itself takes place over almost two decades, with each piece of the story being centred around a particular year’s Christmas.
It’s not-so-loosely based on my own history and traditions around Christmas ornaments, and at the start of the story, the main character finds himself in the same position I was in: facing his first Christmas alone as a young adult, buying a Christmas tree and then realizing he has no ornaments.
As you check in with him, year after year, you see his life changing, his friends growing, and what began as a very grim holiday evolving into something different. Something hopeful. And maybe – just maybe – even something full of love.
It needs a tonne of work, as obviously it’s just a draft, and I haven’t even named all the characters in it (I know, I know, so many writers find this baffling, but it’s a thing I struggle with, okay?)
So how about you? Have you written any holiday stories? Or do you have any you love more than others?