05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Monday, October 28, 2013

Overheard on... Romancing the Genres

“Do you think Jesus lit a menorah?”

November is Holiday Story Time at Romancing the Genres- a gentle reminder I get every year to begin browsing holiday children’s books for my daughter. One of the books I found this year, called A CHRISTMASMENORAH: How a Town Fought Hate, by Janice Cohn, challenges the typical expectations from a Holiday book though.
During this last year my monthly Romancing the Genres post has explored the question of literary tension. Now, with a new year almost upon us, I’ve decided it is time to change the focus a bit- from tension to character depth. Who are the characters we love (or hate?) as readers and writers? Why do we relate to them? How do they draw us in or push us away?
As a writer I consider this question often. But it was while looking at Holiday stories that I finally grasped the greatest barrier to writing deep characters: stereotypes.  Just as last year I discussed how sentimental clichés affect authentic holiday writing, the example of Jesus as a character enlightened my understanding of easily trapped we can become in stereotypes. Without deep point of view the sweet character easily becomes Pollyanna while the buxom blond becomes Marilyn Monroe.
Our stereotype of Jesus is informed by the traditions of him and Christmas which have been built over centuries. Somehow Jesus in a manger goes directly from baby to adult with few images of his life in between. But somewhere along the line this baby grew up, first becoming a toddler, then a young boy, and then, even a teenager. Just like all kids his mom and dad probably fought with him. He had friends- people he liked and didn’t like. He even may have grumbled about his studies. And though he probably didn’t light a menorah, other than in the temple it was very rare back then to have candles, he did celebrate Hanukkah.
To write a ‘Holiday Story’ is to include all of the aspects of the season, not only the ones that stem from stereotypes.
Last year I proposed a writing/reading exercise about avoiding clichés. It seemed appropriate to bring it back out this year with the twist of developing a holiday character who didn’t enjoy any of these stereotypical holiday symbols. Give it a try, and then ask the guest authors what they do to avoid stereotypes in their writing.
Here are some traditional Holiday items. Without using any of these symbols, can you write a holiday paragraph from one character’s point of view? Include it in the comments section so we can all appreciate the hard work. Or as a reader, let us know the non-traditional triggers that remind you of the holidays.
Either way, whatever you do, do NOT use any of these words or symbols:
- Turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc.
- Christmas Tree
- Stockings
- Candy-canes, gold coins
- Santa or his reindeer
- Sugar-plums (or any reference to the Nutcracker)
- Pilgrims, Mayflower
- Cookies
- presents
- candles
- dreidel
Here is to a wonderful Holiday Season for everyone.
Deanne Wilsted


Sarah Raplee said...

Awesome idea, Deanne! I'll write one and get back to you here.

Judith Ashley said...

Thoughtful post. I'll see what I can do with your suggestion.

Diana Mcc. said...

Interesting! I'll give it some thought!

Paty Jager said...

Great post! When I get my have to's done today I'll work on a paragraph.

Sarah Raplee said...

Nick followed the sound of his wife's wobbly alto rendition of a Spanish carol down the hallway to the nursery. The melody drew him the way the Pied Piper's music drew the children of Hamlin in an old fairy tale. The magic made resistance futile. He peered into the moonlit nursery at his beautiful, nightgowned wife rocking their newborn son as she sang. Nick lost his breath. was this how joseph had felt watching Mary with the infant Jesus?