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  • Writer's pictureNic Benson

Christmas can be a difficult time for writers

Christmas can be a difficult time for writers. If you’re of the introvert persuasion, as many of us are, weeks of enforced socialisation can be difficult; couple that with the fact that various relatives are stuffed into all the quiet corners of the house, and opportunities for stealing away to scribble become limited.

However, all is not lost. We’ve provided a handy guide to how you can use the Christmas holidays to your writerly advantage, even when you haven’t managed to get near your desk for days.

Presents Tense

Watch what your nearest and dearest are buying each other to gain valuable insights into their relationships. Has Uncle Derek bought Auntie Sheila an exercise bike? Has your brother bought his girlfriend a bottle of screen wash and an ice scraper? Has your mum bought you a key ring and a book on ‘How To Save For A Deposit On A House’?

Gifts are a perfect vehicle for ‘Show Don’t Tell’ - what messages could your characters be giving each other through their choice of gifts?

Family Misfortunes

Stay sober for as long as you can manage it. That way, you can watch as the bonhomie disappears at the same rate as the Beaujolais, and old family arguments and work grudges are reprised like re-runs of The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special.

While we’re not suggesting you copy down your family’s less-salubrious moments verbatim, dynamics are the root of drama, and it can be instructive to watch how people behave when they’re back in the bosom of their family. Does someone usually take the role of Scapegoat? Is there a Joker in the pack? Who’s the Golden Child?

When you get back to your desk, it might be interesting to put some of your characters together in various permutations, and see how they behave; it can be an interesting way of adding an extra dimension to characters that somehow seem a bit flat on the page.

It’s Good To Talk

Christmas might be the only time when you get a chance to spend any time talking to the older or more distant members of your family, and if you’re a writer, you have more reason than most to do so. Every family has stories, and most of them will be stranger than any fiction that you could ever dream up.

Even better, if you have a relative who is into researching your family’s ancestry, as many of us do, they’ll love to tell you who and what they’ve discovered growing on your family tree. Causes of death; time spent in prison; links to royalty; secret babies… your family history might be as full of inspiration as you are of roast spuds. At the very least, there’ll be some fantastic old names for you to adopt for your characters – the Victorians were particularly fond of an exotic monicker.

This is one occasion where it would be acceptable to have a notebook or your phone handy to make notes. Most people and their stories get lost in time – so why not use your writing to bring them back to life?

Don’t forget, writers need to be magpies and vultures, and Christmas will provide plenty of material, so long as you keep your eyes and ears open. If you do this, the various festive shenanigans going on around you will ensure that you’ll enter your new writing year armed with not only (at least) nine scented candles, but plenty of new material, to illuminate your writing.


This year, we've been taking Christmas tropes and abusing them in the best possible way. Keep your eyes open for our Twistmas series, featuring unconventional Christmas themed short fiction and poetry, coming to the website on December 20th.

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Imagery by Thought Catalog, Kira auf der Heide and Surface via Unsplash


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