When the book is released in Spring 2021 I want everyone to know that chapter 24 is in my top five most challenging chapters I ever worked on. Why? It was a holiday chapter! Not only was it a challenge in itself to show how eight different characters celebrate a holiday, but I also had characters that would typically not celebrate certain holidays due to cultural background and had to work them into situations that were suitable. It took me quite a while to iron out details and figure out what was too direct or too indirect but I managed to finish! I still thinking about what that process of writing that chapter was like which brings me to where we are right now.
Here are some things to consider when writing holiday chapters!
-Really know about the holiday you're going to write about. If you're writing about holidays that aren't commonly known or are connected to specific cultures or religions then you need to do research to avoid accidentally offending anyone or getting something wrong.
-Think about your characters and their overall personalities and thought process. How would they realistically react to this holiday? Are they happy to participate? Do they feel forced to join in the holiday activities? Are they a bit sad this time? Why do they feel the way they feel?
-Try not to make it a perfect Hallmark moment. This is no shade toward Hallmark, I love Hallmark movies and I love the coziness within them during holidays but you don't want to make everything a perfect cozy moment for your story. You want your readers to be able to feel that your characters are people they could meet in real life. It's okay for your characters to have a happy holiday experience but maybe keep from having a completely cookie-cutter moment.
-Holiday chapters don't have to be super serious though! Despite my previous statement, I do believe that holiday chapters can provide a nice break from everything else going on in the story. If it is appropriate for the flow of your story and the dynamics of your characters, you could use a holiday chapter to break up some drama and tension. Give your characters (and yourself) a sweet little break.
-Food is great! We love food! I will gladly read about what food is on the table. Does your character have a favorite? Is there a certain dish on the table that the character has to pretend to like? Does your character try to hide some of the leftovers for themselves later?
-Are people more or less polite during this time? Sometimes, when we are celebrating holidays we allow for snide remarks or the urge to start conflict to be ignored in favor of enjoying the holiday. Other times we might not be in the holiday spirit to a point that we provoke people into arguments.
-Family. Some families are wonderful and others are a nightmare, which category does your character's family fall into? Does it make the holidays fun or does your character barely get by?
-Gifts. Are gifts involved? Are there certain gifts people are expected to bring? Are the gifts bought or made?
-Try to fit the holidays into your plot. When I began the timeline in my story I had completely overlooked that major holidays would be coming up within that timeline. I was so focused on the other aspects of the story that I realized it would be unrealistic if I didn't make holiday chapters so I tried to find ways to work the holidays into my plot or help bring a better understanding to my characters. Use that chapter to reveal more about your character or amplify a situation.
-While it's important to tackle the chapter with some strategy and thought, it should still be fun! Have fun! Come up with crazy ideas, come up with cute ideas, go the traditional route, go the untraditional route, and make it the most wonderful chapter for you. Make it for you first then edit it for everyone else while still letting your presence be known.
Holiday chapters can be stressful but sometimes they are the most joyous to write! Enjoy writing everyone!