Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holidramas (or We Are Fa-mi-ly)

Tip of the Day: If $10 electric beaters seem too good a deal to be true, they probably are.

Real life family dramas can be draining enough, but when they are rampant through the holidays, well, get the wine bottle opener ready. Or lock the liquor cabinet, depending on your guests.

Because of the amped-up drama surrounding times that are supposed to be Jolly and Chipper and full of Good Cheer, adding a holiday family gathering into your manuscript can be a great way to increase tension or set the scene for a solid familial blow-up. Besides, you can get the whole family in one location for the ultimate audience for your MC's explosion/revelation/meltdown!

(Ellen Wittlinger's PARROTFISH is an excellent example of using Christmas as the backdrop for a climax/beginning resolution scene. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Ellen Wittlinger)

I need to follow my own advice on this. So far I have two books that feature Independence Day, and one that features a birthday party. Good, but not nearly as potentially theatrical as Thanksgiving through New Years.

However, in writing such scenes since they often do include family, be careful not to too accurately portray your own Crazy Aunt Luella or Drunken Grandpa Pete, lest they recognize themselves upon publication. Unless they thrive on that sort of thing.

This year, family dramas are abounding, but I don't want to exploit the fam's holidrama even if I do find it somewhat amusing. How do you find the balance between writing real minor characters who mirror your own family and flat-out stealing Cheating Cousin Kyle's exact hilarious personality and situation for the sake of your story?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing


Kate Fall said...

How is it that I haven't read Parrotfish yet? I've been meaning to read it forever.

Me, I say steal away. :) But definitely, you have a great point about adding in holidays for extra drama and subtext. I wanted to work Halloween into my Hex Queen book but I couldn't get the time frame to work. However, Christmas might go into something I have half-baked on my hard drive.

Ellen Wittlinger said...

Hey, Deena, thanks for the shoutout! I LOVE using holidays as a way to up the family drama quotient in a book. I'd been meaning to use that "Christmas House" stuff for years and finally found the right book for it. So glad you liked it!

C.K. said...

Good point, there's so much tension and drama inherent in the holidays (and weddings - two good examples of this are Margot at the Wedding and Rachel Getting Married)- people thinking things should be perfect, wanting everyone to get along.

The Christmas stuff in Parrotfish was so cool!

I actually began I Know It's Over on Christmas Eve because I thought it was the worst possible time for Nick to hear the news.