Writing a Good Christmas Story: Four Things to Consider

Santa Checking His ListI totally get it.

Each year the media world is starving for new holiday stories. They want them for the bookshelves, for the TV screens, and the cinemas. So why wouldn’t any struggling writer (which is 98% of us) not want to give the old Santa Claus an adventure or two?

It pays the bills and, maybe, you will unwrap the golden present. In other words, create a holiday tale that becomes a classic, one that audiences return to yearly… which can also pay the bills yearly as well.

The problem is that for all of the attempts to make that blessed holiday classic it so, so rarely happens. Most holiday tales disappear at the end of the year. The books and the DVDs end up in the bargain bins, and the TV specials and movies are shown at random times in the early morning (if they are shown at all).

Recently, I reviewed a new collection of holiday short stories called My True Love Gave to Me (edited by Stephanie Perkins). My review will be on WKAR’s Current State later this month. I don’t want to say too much about my review here, but the book, in the end, just left me feeling sad.

Not exactly a Christmas feeling, I know, and probably not the one most of those contributors were hoping for. But it is a common feeling for me each year as I dare to check out the new holiday samplings from my fellow writers.

So why is it so difficult to write a good Christmas story? Basically, it is because most holiday writers seem to forget four important stocking-stuffing-ho-ho-ho points. These points are what separate the classics from… well… anything on the Hallmark Channel. Continue reading

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Adapting Tolkien

Growing up, I would read J.R.R. Tolkien’s works once a year. Yeah, I was that kid.

I wanted to escape to Middle Earth, and unlike other writers and novels (where I was happy with just having the book), there was always something about his creation that made me wonder about adaptations. I wanted to hear, see, and visit Middle Earth and other mediums would only get me closer to that escapism goal. So I would “try out” every version I could get my hands on.

The Lord of the Rings is not a perfect book. It is a classic, but it is not perfect. That is fine, there are very few perfect books out there (I can only think of Pride and Prejudice and A Christmas Carol off of the top of my head). What “perfect” means to me is that there are no fluctuations in the plot that are unexplained, everything is tied up in a neat bow and there is little to debate because it is all perfectly there on the page. Whew…

Frankly, if that was done with Tolkien we wouldn’t have all of the fun things to debate! Like, why does the ring’s power change over the course of the series is an easy example of what I mean.

The fact is Tolkien didn’t write like other people. He would begin a story at the very beginning and write until he ran out of ideas… But instead of just fixing what he did and moving forward; he would, instead, start over at the beginning again. It’s one of the reason we have so many different versions of The Lord of the Rings to look at thanks to his son’s (Christopher) later releases.

While I can NOT imagine writing a book like that, it does explain to me a few snags I have always noticed about the final version of the book, besides the ring’s changing power. Why, for example, the narrator’s voice changes over the book from cutesy (for example, in the beginning we have Tom Bombadil and a curious fox… Yes, there is a fox that is curious; go back and check it out) to extremely dark.  It’s almost like he discovered what he wanted the series to be like at Weathertop, and didn’t care about going back and changing the beginning.

Yes, to say it again, The Lord of the Rings is classic, but it is not perfect; and since I love the world and the characters I have devoured every adaptation I could get my hands on. Here are my thoughts on the radio, TV, and film versions of the great Oxford professor’s epic. Continue reading