Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Heartwarming Holiday Tale of...

Y’know, I just realized something. This might be the last post of the year if I don’t do some off-day stuff.  I may have to reschedule some things...

That said... less than a week till Christmas. Writing’s probably (understandably) one of the last things on your mind. Or maybe it’s right there, teasing you with cool new ideas. Perhaps even holiday-themed ideas.

Writing stories that revolve around Christmas—or any holiday—is tempting.  It’s very relatable. A lot of the groundwork is already done for us as far as setting goes. Heck, depending on my characters, a lot of backstory may already be done. A Christmas story can be kinda freeing and give us an instant theme to go with. Or go against. Everything becomes more shocking and dynamic when set against a bunch of innocent carolers trying to sing “Joy to the World.” Except maybe another group of carolers.

Plus, let’s just be honest. Christmas stories are lucrative.  Forget superheroes, there’s a fair argument to be made that Christmas stories are one of the best-selling genres out there, especially if you write screenplays. Seriously. Think of all those cable and streaming channels that are just brimming with original movies about dogs and holiday romances. I was in a holiday-themed anthology a couple years back, and I know there’ve been several more since then.

Forgive me for sounding all capitalist, but... there’s a lot of money to be made off Christmas.

Now, that said...

If I’m thinking about a clever idea for a holiday story I do need to be a little careful.  The ugly truth is, it’s all been done before.  All of it.  No matter how clever or original I think my take is, there’s a good chance someone’s done it before.  Because, as I mentioned above, this is a huge market and lots of folks have written lots of stories.

Look at it this way.  Think of all the different versions of A Christmas Carol you’ve ever seen or heard of.  There’ve been books, plays, movies, and animated specials. We’ve all seen it done dozens and dozens of times, set in the past, present, and future. There’ve been versions of it that leaned toward drama, toward comedy, horror, sci-fi, you name it. I’d guess at least thirty or forty television shows have done takes of it, too. Heck, just in the past couple years they’ve done it on Ducktales, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, and Family Guy.

How about Santa? There’s Santa Claus origin stories. Evil Santa stories. Cool Santa. Robot Santa. Son of Santa. Daughter of Santa. Brother of Santa. New Santa. Heck, at this point I’ve seen multiple stories where Santa’s an action star defending his workshop from invaders. Like, it’s pretty much a solid subgenre at this point.

Heck, at this point Krampus is pretty commonplace. He shows up in a bunch of books. Just typing the name into IMDb gives me over a dozen movies where he’s specifically mentioned in the title, and I could probably come up with just as many where he isn’t. There’ve probably been another dozen or so supernatural-themed shows where he’s appeared in as well (he had an appearance on Grimm that I really liked).

All done many times. In many ways. I’m not saying these stories can’t be done again, but this is one of those areas where I really need to be aware how often this relatively small pool of material’s been mined for ideas.

Except... weird as it sounds, there is kind of a niche where people love getting the same thing again and again. If you scroll through some of those big holiday movie listings at Netflix, Vudu, Tubi, or whatever platform you like to use, you’ll see the same themes showing up again and again in hundreds of movies. Literally, hundreds. Holiday romance. Small towns. Loveable pets. Holiday romance in small towns. Loveable pets saving the holidays in small towns. Seriously, you’re chuckling but you probably know a dozen stories like this, right? I think there’s a whole holiday romance subgenre.

My point being, if I want to appeal to that market, it’s very important that I don’t do anything too new or radical. This audience is looking for a sort of comfort food. They want to know that he ends up with her, she ends up with him, and that the dog lives and saves Christmas. Breaking these traditions might arguably make a more interesting story, yeah, but that’s not what these are about. He ends up with her. She ends up with him. The dog saves Christmas. Done.

So think about stories this holiday season.  Do I want them as a general background? Do I want to put a clever spin on something old? Do I want to lean into one of those niches? Whichever one I’m thinking about... I should put in a little extra thought. Just to be safe.

Next time, performance reviews.

Until then... I wish you all a peaceful Solstice, happy Hanukkah, merry Christmas, joyous Kwanzaa, gleeful Boxing Day, and a glorious Ascension of Tzeentch.

Now go write.

No comments:

Post a Comment