Christmas Complications #amwriting

Over the years, I’ve done all manner of holiday decorating. When I was little, we always went out and bought a “live” (meaning dead) tree. We decorated it with fat lights and glass ornaments.

Later, Mom and I had a small, artificial tree. Sometimes we made ornaments. We were very crafty, Mom and I. One year, we decoupaged festive napkins onto Styrofoam balls and loaded them with glitter. (I love glitter.) One year, we cut religious symbols out of Styrofoam flats and highlighted them with gold, silver, pearls, and sequins; they were called Christmans, as I recall.

When the kids were little, decorating was a very big deal, and featured a lot of do-it-yourself and memories-of-times-past. Also: arguments. We live in the woods, so there was always an expedition to get a tree. Arguments. And hot cocoa.

For a few years, after the kids were gone, I went out and cut evergreen branches and pinecones and so on, and decorated all Yule-ish. I asked my husband to cut me a little tree and I decorated it with small ornaments.

Then I wearied of slaughtering greenery and went to Salvation Army and bought a tiny artificial tree, already decorated with somebody else’s ornaments. That pleased me greatly, and I still use it.

This year, I hardly decorated at all. Next year, I might go all-out.

CallieTHE POINT IS, a holiday — any holiday — is a great way to explore a character. My pal, Jane Peyton, set her vampire comedy WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE during the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. The events and locales Callie frequents — and why — and the attitudes of the various characters to them are not just local color, they’re instrumental in showing who the characters are. It’s a way of showing not telling that’s at once effective and entertaining.

Go thou and do likewise.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Make a list of five holidays in your character’s world. How did your character celebrate them when a child? An adolescent? An adult? How would they have preferred to celebrate them? Mind you, you don’t need to put any of this into a story, but it can be a useful tool in learning to know your character better.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Christmas Complications #amwriting

  1. Jane

    January 4, 2016 at 9:53am

    Thanks for the shout-out, pal. I had always wanted to set a story at the KY Derby, but only when I realized it had to be a vampire story did the scenes start appearing in my head.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 4, 2016 at 10:05am

      The town is FILLED with vampires during the Derby Festival, only they suck green, not red. And I ain’t talkin’ about Vulcans, Dan Antion!

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  2. Holly Jahangiri

    January 5, 2016 at 5:54pm

    We had to give up on real trees when my daughter was little; turns out, she was allergic. Turns out, I probably was (a little) too. They smell lovely, but only until your nose is all stuffed up and you can’t smell them anyway. So I got the most realistic artificial tree I could find, and realized that if it lasted as long as it did, it paid for itself and then some, at today’s “live tree” prices. And it didn’t shed needles. I replaced it with another from Balsam Hill – one that’s pre-lit so I don’t have to mess with untangling lights each year.

    And now, I realize that ornaments have been lost or damaged or broken over the years, and it may be time to replenish the box of them, but I’m not sure I have the heart to. We spent Christmas in Dallas, with my in-laws and daughter and her boyfriend, and it was lovely. And I don’t have to dismantle the joy come January and pack it all back up in the attic.

    My alter ego, if she were decorating, would leave the tree up year round, you know, and festoon it with symbols of the season – whatever season it may be. It is, after all, an EVERGREEN tree. There might be one tiny book ornament that was never put into a box, but hung from the tree year round.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 5, 2016 at 6:07pm

      I’ve done that! I did it in college. I had a tiny little tree, and made ornaments for it each month of the school year. πŸ™‚

      There’s a lot to be said for not decorating. Rather, there’s a lot to be said for not having to UNdecorate.

      As for your alter ego, I’m sure that she and her family decorations now include a pratty and Fair Trade hand-knitted Tellurian mufflers. A book hung from the tree? How gruesome!!!

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      • Holly Jahangiri

        January 5, 2016 at 7:08pm

        Gruesome? Well, you know me. But no, a symbol, only–not a living book. πŸ™‚ Unless it’s Tibetan Book of the Dead, method acting, again.

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  3. Shelly

    January 9, 2016 at 3:11pm

    I love small artificial Christmas Trees.

    Our big artificial Christmas tree and all our ornaments we’ve been collecting for 25+ years all went up in smoke in the #ValleyFire. Luckily, our small artificial tree never made it out to storage in the garage, so we still have it.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 9, 2016 at 4:21pm

      I like big trees in other people’s houses and a tiny tree in my house. When Christmas is over, I just pick it up, lights and ornaments and all, stuff it in a box, and stick it in the closet. BOOM! heh

      Wow, I’m so sorry about your fire loss. It hurts to lose memorabilia. πŸ™

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