Merry Christmas, Wordlings! *showers everyone with snow and glitter and Christmas cheer* I love Christmas in case you can't tell ^ ^
We all love the holidays! If it's not Christmas that we love, there's another one that tops it. And if you don't love ANY holiday....well lets pretend you do because that's insanity ;)
On this very special holiday, I decided it would be appropriate to write about holidays in the stories we read and write. I'm in the mood after all :D Onwards! *runs through snow like puppy below*
When we writers write a novel, world-building is one of those things that really defines the story. If I say, "The Maze Runner", you probably think of the Glade or the maze itself. When I say, "Harry Potter", you think Hogwarts. When I say "The Hobbit" you might envision the Shire. Places and the unique worlds in the stories we read (especially when it comes to speculative fiction) are elements that we CAN'T forget. I mean seriously, if you 'forgot' about District 12 when I say "The Hunger Games", you probably didn't read the book. Without the world of the story, I would argue that there would be no story at all.
So how about those holidays you were mentioning, Cassia?
I'm glad you asked!
In our society, Christmas is a pretty big holiday but that doesn't mean it will hold the same significance in your story world. Maybe Christmas is nothing more than a piece of history or maybe it never existed to begin with. Especially in the case of fantasy and science fiction novels, the holiday/holidays in the story world are probably straight from the author's imagination.
Think about some of the books I mentioned above. In "The Maze Runner", there's a sort of welcoming party after every new Greenie arrives; in "The Hunger Games" the Reaping starts the story and the rest of the novel REVOLVES around the twisted yearly 'celebration' of the Hunger Games. "Harry Potter" has Quidditch, "Divergent" has the choosing ceremony and the people of the "Chrysalids" killed deviations while they sung hymns.
When making up holidays, it's important thing to remember that they have to MEAN something in the story. If you make up a holiday but it doesn't show something about the character or the world, it probably isn't worth keeping.
Real Life holidays
Whether it's a birthday, Christmas, or Halloween, holidays that we regard in the world as we know it can be just as effective story as the fictional ones can. If you're writing or reading historical, contemporary, mystery etc, the holidays that we're familiar with might be the most common.
The benefit of using a familiar holiday is just that it's just that: familiar. Your readers will know exactly what you're talking about and the tone of the holiday will set the tone of the scenes you write surrounding that holiday. You can even use it for irony. Maybe someone dies on Christmas eve or someone is reunited with their long lost brother on Halloween. There's loads of possibilities with the holidays we're familiar with!
How Holidays Can Augment Your Story
Holidays have a significant tie to the culture and world they come from and more importantly, the people. Whether made up, real or based on a one that's real, holidays will enhance both world building and character development if used correctly and at the right time of the story.
How does the society feel about the holiday? Does this line up with what the main character thinks or does it contrast? What does the holiday mean for the plot? How does the celebration define the world?
Answering these questions will make your fictional holiday really come to life in your novel.
If you're interested in learning a little more about this, one of my favourite blogs, Go Teen Writers has wrote about this back in July. You can read the post here!