As promised, I’m continuing writing tips, and today I am concentrating on the use of holidays in literature. No matter what culture you have or what country you live in, you probably celebrate holidays. I think this is a beautiful thing. Not only do holidays give us an opportunity to remember aspects of life like love, parents, or independence–they also allow us to dedicate the entire day to it. So why not use holidays in our novels to do the same thing?
There actually are reasons to NOT do this. They can easily come across as cheesy or distracting instead of symbolic. This brings me to my first rule:
Pick a Holiday Carefully:
Holidays are often unnecessary, so choose carefully if you decide to use one. This is simply a personal preference, but I think holidays become something more when the author uses it in a symbolic manner rather than an event that simply happens. But I think that goes for an entire novel. All events should mean something within the plot, so why shouldn’t a holiday? For example, Minutes Before Sunset begins on Independence Day (Happy belated Fourth by the way!) I did this for three reasons:
- Irony: Minutes Before Sunset has a huge theme about fate and choice. Independence Day is…well…as it sounds: Independence Day for America–the setting of the novel. Because of this, it can symbolize the beginning of independence. It can also symbolize the opposite: lack of independence. This is what I’m talking about. The holiday now has two meanings. It fits the plot, and it fits whatever the reader wants it to be.
- Symbolic: Minutes Before Sunset is about the Light and the Dark. To me, this holiday involve a major ritual that is very light versus the dark: fireworks. I thought it represented the powers well, but it also represented Eric’s confusion in the beginning.
- Timing: it fit. Although I don’t want to admit this is a reasoning, because it seems to take away the meaning, it is, without a doubt, one of the biggest things authors have to consider. Does it fit your plot without straining the time or the characters? Use the holiday if it fits naturally. If it doesn’t, move on to my next topic. You may want to consider it
Considering Creating Your Own Holiday: I think this is great in any kind of novel, not just sci-fi and fantasy. It can show a unique side to a character, family, or community, which, in turn, can create a more believable or relatable setting. This can also apply to creating a special event. Fun fact: Minutes Before Sunset has a “made-up” celebratory event: The Naming. This is when the shades receive their powers. I really enjoyed creating this, but, to my surprise, a lot of readers found interest in it as well:
Ky Grabowski wrote: “A part of the book I really liked was the naming ceremony that is held when kids turn of age to receive their powers. A big part of the Shade’s history. The ceremony is not all it’s shown to be with glitter and crowns. Eric shares his thoughts while watching it all unfold & he makes note that what was in store for the future was far from something to celebrate. They had responsibilities and a lot of pressure comes with that.” Read rest of her review here.
Basically: Holidays are great. That’s why there are entire books about them, like “A Dog Named Christmas” by Greg Kincaid.
I hope all of your writings are going well, and don’t forget that Goodreads Book of the Month, Minutes Before Sunset, is on sale for $3.89 (ebook) to celebrate the award! I’m also giving free copies away for review: email email@example.com