Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas carols and writing

What writing lessons can one take from Christmas carols? T. P. Jagger examined that question this week on the From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog. He suggested five carols and the writing truths they offer.

If you want to pull in the reader,
start with a problem that needs to be overcome.
Do so quickly.
In the first four measures of Away in a Manger, we are aware of the no crib issue.

Have the protagonist struggle with
the loss of something or someone.
In Elvis’ Blue Christmas, the season just isn’t the same without his special someone.

Jagger can only take so much of Alvin and the Chipmunks’ Christmas Don’t Be Late and thus:
Don’t overdo dialectical speech in dialog.

A single unique trait is often enough
to create a memorable character.
Think Rudolph.

You never know when the muse will strike so you need to
just sit down, start writing, and see what happens.
The Christmas Song (a.k.a. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) was written in about 40 minutes on a hot summer day in 1944.

Readers to the blog offered other truths:
We Wish You a Merry Christmas shows the magic of 3s.
Frosty the Snowman embodies magical realism.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is a reminder includes humor.
The prelude to White Christmas, “The sun is shining/ The grass is green/ The orange and plan trees talks about sunny, warm palm trees sway/ There’s never been such a day in Beverly Hills, L.A” is such a contrast to the rest of the song. Lesson to learn: get your setting right.

If I may throw in one more bit of writing wisdom, throw in a plot twist as does the last line of I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

What lessons can other carols offer writers?

(This article also posted at

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