Friday, April 10, 2009

unpacking Christmas

I find that Christmas works itself into my stories a lot. It's sort of like when I used to go house shopping and envision the placement of a Christmas tree before contemplating things like the price of the house, for instance. Does that make me sentimental, I asked myself the other day?

Why is the chronicling of ritual--the anticipation of gatherings--so important to me? In STL I've spent about 100 pages on various Christmas-time scenes with my little family, Messmeir. It's the distillation of family, I suppose, that I'm after with all this yuletide reportage. The pure drops of love, dysfunction, hierarchy, personality--all things that inform character development.

I read some "Christmas morning" pages at workshop last night. Three characters plus a dog assembled around the fake Costco tree, trying to create new ritual after the death of one of the character's mothers. Because this novel includes current day phenomena, I had Annika with her laptop, trying to evoke her missing father via Skype. A far cry from a traditional Christmas scene, and the culmination of the scenes before, where all ritual had been broken down due to various chaotic fiascoes.

I have to add another layer to the scene; tie it more tightly to the chapters that proceed it. The good news is, that I seem to have accomplished my main objective with this scene--to plant the seeds for a new alliance between Fifi and Annika--the first positive connection between two characters in my book.

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