A reader who’s read both Forgotten April and What Happened in Granite Creek noted that the holidays — Thanksgiving in both and Christmas and New Year’s in Forgotten April — play pivotal roles in my plots. She’s absolutely correct, and she got me thinking about it; I’m not sure I made the connection until she pointed it out to me.
So why do I include holidays? Why are they central to my plots?
- For me, holidays add instant tension. And what’s a good book without some tension? Think about it: the Christmas season is one of the most stressful times of the years. And the last few Thanksgivings, I’ve heard news stories of some wacky murders taking place in family homes, usually fueled by arguments and too much drinking.
- Holidays are relatable. In America, everyone “gets” what Thanksgiving is, so that common knowledge is something that enriches the experience for readers, at least those who are stateside (and I imagine most readers who are familiar with American history will understand what Thanksgiving is, at least on some level). Even if a reader’s Thanksgivings have all been happy and fun, he or she will probably be intrigued (even more so, perhaps) by ones that fall apart. Even holidays that a particular reader doesn’t celebrate, he or she will probably understand on some level, especially in the US (it’s hard to avoid all the Christmas stuff from Labor Day to 12/25, even if you don’t celebrate).
- Holidays bring out the best in people. That’s what we’re led to believe, anyway. And while this might be true to a certain extent, I think it’s equally true that holidays can bring out the worst in all of us as well…or, at least, reveal those dark sides we all have (ever been around a recently scorned woman on Valentine’s Day?).
- Holidays help anchor the story in time. This was important in What Happened in Granite Creek especially since the timeline jumps around (on purpose).
I’m trying to think of novels I’ve read where holidays play a role. Bridget Jones’s Diary comes to mind (a Christmas gathering plays a pivotal role in the beginning and in the end).
Here’s a clip from a Thanksgiving movie I really enjoyed called Home for the Holidays. I know it won’t be for everyone (the friend I saw this movie with HATED it because he thought it was so depressing; I thought it was brilliantly honest). It has a great cast, and Jodi Foster directed (it was her directorial debut, I think). NOTE: There’s some naughty language contained within. Consider yourself warned!
Your turn — what books have you read where the holidays play a role, increase tension, and reveal interesting character traits.
Oh, and happy Thanksgiving for those who’ll be celebrating this week! 🙂