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Creating Memorable Christmas Characters


December has been a great beginning to the Christmas season for us. Seeing the Christmas lights in Branson, a couple of familiar holiday stories, then dinner and a Christmas show kicked it off. Following that were two wonderful holiday meetings with writers. And seeing the grandkids in their school Christmas programs topped it all off!

There’s nothing like Christmas lights and the singing of carols to get you in a happy holiday spirit. Top that with the smell of cookies from the oven, the taste of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket throw and a holiday movie and you’ve got all the five senses covered! Ok, I’m back to thinking like a writer again.

I’m writing in between all of these Christmas ‘sens-ations’ because I know that if I stop for very long, it will be so much harder when I come back to it. (And because I’ve got the edits for some revisions of TOAD that I want to keep up with, too).

There are so many Christmas stories that we love to read or watch on video or TV year after year! I think it’s the characters that really make the stories so memorable. Here are a few to think about.

A song that the junior high school band played reminded me of this one. You might recognize the following words, taken randomly, from a well known Christmas song—

…you’re as cuddly as a cactus
…your brain is full of spiders
…you’re a nasty, wasty skunk
…your heart is full of unwashed socks
and so on, from “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

Wow, what a guy! What great similes and metaphors.

Then there’s the familiar story of someone who’s left out because they’re different, and ends up saving the day—
who else, but “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!”

Character drives the story. Rudolph is rather quiet, and it takes Santa to recognize his importance. But when you change your character, the story changes, too! When Rudolph is sick on Christmas Eve, he calls on his cousin Leroy to cover for him. Leroy shows up driving his pick-up truck and wearing a John Deere tractor hat.

Leroy is a more confident character. It’s his actions and appearance that show us his character. At the start, the other reindeer aren’t too sure about a reindeer who goes ‘two-stepping across the sky,’ and makes ‘jingle bells with a rebel yell.’ But he soon has them all ‘scootin’ a hoof on every single roof, by the light of a neon moon.’ It’s “Leroy the Red-Neck Reindeer!”

Think about “The Night Before Christmas,” and its many variations. Or “Snowmen at Night” and “Snowmen at Christmas.” Put the characters in a different setting and you have a new story.

Narrow in on a specific Christmas character and you might have come up with “Drummer Boy” (by Loren Long). Or focus on the animals in the barn instead of people on the first Christmas night and you might have written “The Animals’ Christmas Eve,” the Little Golden Book, by Gale Wiersum.

In “It’s a Wonderful Life” it’s the main character, George, who changes at the end of the story when Clarence, his guardian angel, helps him to see the impact that he made on many lives. The movie was based on the short story, “The Greatest Gift,” written by Philip VanDoren Stern in 1939. Unable to find a publisher, Stern sent his 21-page booklet to friends at Christmas in 1943. It was published in Readers’ Digest and Good Housekeeping magazines, and Stern privately published the story in 1945, when it came to the attention of producer David Hempstead. The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” came out in 1946 and became one of the 100 best American films ever made.

Wishing you all wonderful Christmas characters, and a wonderful season of celebrating the holidays!  Read More 
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