Anyway, with Christmas now only one week away, I began to wonder what writing wisdom might be gleaned from the music of the season. From the traditional “Away in a Manger” to Elvis’s “Blue Christmas,” here are five Christmas songs and the writing truths they reveal:
1) “Away in a Manger”: I don’t care if you are reading this while at work in a busy office. Don’t be shy. Go ahead and belt out the opening lines of this Christmas classic. What do you have? Within the first four measures, you already know about the no-crib issue.
If you want to pull in the reader, start with a problem that needs overcome.
2) “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: There’s more to be learned from Rudolph than the proper hyphenation of phrasal adjectives*. In fact, the writing truth embedded in the song is as illuminating as Rudolph’s nose:
A single unique trait is often enough to create a memorable character.
3) “Blue Christmas”: Elvis had snow. He’d finished decorating the Christmas tree. But none of that could pull him from the doldrums of a blue Christmas. He was missing his “Dear.”
Have your protagonist struggle with the loss of something or someone he cares about.
4) “Christmas Don’t Be Late” as sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks: The squeaky voices of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore get really annoying, really fast. My tolerance of their singing definitely doesn’t extend to listening to the whole song. So . . . when you write, I don’t care if your character is a singing chipmunk or a granny who grew up deep in the mountains of Kentucky.
Don’t overdo dialectical speech in yer dialogue. It’ll get distractin’.
5) “The Christmas Song” (a.k.a., “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”): Written on a hot summer day in 1944, “The Christmas Song” went from a few lines penciled in a notebook to a finished song in about 40 minutes. No, you probably won’t crank out a timeless masterpiece in under an hour. But . . .
You never know when the muse might strike.
Sometimes you just need to sit down, start writing, and see what happens.
Now, before you give your muse an opportunity to inspire, take a moment. Pick a Christmas carol. Pause and ponder. Then share with us some holiday-based writing wisdom of your own.
|*Note: If you have no idea what a phrasal adjectives is, you may not know why you should never write about a “ten year old boy.” Thus, in the spirit of the season, I offer this ever-so-useful link as my grammatical gift to you: Grammarist: Phrasal adjectives.|