Essential Advice For Writing The Christmas-Themed Story

Essential Advice For Writing The Christmas-Themed Story


Do you want to know more about writing a Christmas-themed story? In this post, we give you essential advice for writing the Christmas-themed story.

The holiday season is the time for family, friends, and feasts. Decorations are unpacked, lights are fired up, and songs about holiday cheer go on every shopping mall’s playlist.

Are you as jolly about the holidays as Santa Claus himself, or do you feel more like the Grinch?

For writers, holiday themes and Christmas stories are a unique and rich storytelling opportunity.

The Christmas story can be many things.

It can be set on Christmas day, or before/after. It can deal with romance, or it can cross over into the horror genre. Stories dealing with holiday themes can also be written, submitted, or read throughout the year.

Christmas stories are versatile, vast, and universal.

Here’s what writers should know about the Christmas story, and how to write a good one.

Unwrapping The Christmas-Themed Story

Let’s start by unwrapping the Christmas story genre. 

What Are Christmas Stories?

Christmas stories can be defined as ones which:

  1. Use Christmas-related themes,
  2. Are set around Christmas-time,
  3. Employ holiday themes, settings, or characters.

Stories can be traditional, but might also be very far from it. A Christmas Carol is a traditional Christmas tale, but the horror movie Krampus also counts.

Writers should remember that holiday traditions differ between households (and between countries, too). Different holiday traditions are a rich library for writers to research.

Must-Read: 10 Perfect Writing Prompts For Christmas

Which Genre Are Christmas Stories?

Well, which genre are zombie stories?

The term ‘Christmas Stories’ is a broad definition, and almost any genre could be made to fit. A holiday story can be family-oriented or meant for kids, but it can also be horror, romance, thriller, police procedural, or (insert genre here).

That’s why they can be fun.

When Should Christmas Stories Be Written?

Individual publications are likely to have submission times for stories featuring Christmas or the holidays. If you have an appropriate holiday story, contact the editor and ask.

As for when you should write them, that’s up to you.

Are Christmas Stories Always Fiction?

They don’t have to be.

Feature articles, essays, blog posts, press releases, and other forms of non-fiction writing might also incorporate common holiday themes.

For this post, let’s stick to fiction.

Christmas fiction can also be partially based on true events. Feel free to use real holiday events as inspiration, but beware of using real names, accurate settings, or of potential embarrassment or slander.

Who Reads Christmas-Themed Stories?

Anyone and everyone.

While Christmas and individual holiday traditions aren’t universal, storytelling is.

It’s an excellent way to measure the strength of your story. Imagine that a reader doesn’t celebrate or know the mentioned holiday, would they still consider it a good story?

If the answer could be yes, you might have a good plot.

A Christmas Carol is a Christmas story enjoyed all over the world, and adapted into literally hundreds of different versions. It’s been read by kids, read by adults, and changed into almost unrecognisable formats. Why? Because it’s good.

Essential Advice For Writing The Christmas-Themed Story

9 Christmas Tale Tips For Writers

Writing a Christmas story? Adapting another story you’ve written into one that incorporates Christmas as a theme?

Putting together a great Christmas-themed tale is like decorating the tree for the year. It’s necessary to really think about each element you’ll be hanging on the tree, and how they’re going to fit when you look at the whole thing.

Here’s where to start.

  1. Choose Your Genre

A Christmas story can fit into any genre. As long as the theme, time, or general feel of the holiday season is appropriate, you’ve got yourself a Christmas story.

Choose a suitable genre before starting your outline. This way, you’ll have a better idea of where you’re going with this. Your job, as the writer, becomes a little easier.

  1. Describe Your Story In A Sentence

Can you describe the entire plot or premise of your story in 1 to 2 sentences? If you can’t, then the plot needs some more thought before you get to writing.

Condensing your own story in a short synopsis is an excellent way for a writer to spot ideas that can work (versus ones that might fall short).

  1. Use Worldwide Themes

Christmas stories can use themes the writer is familiar with, like Christmas trees or Santa Claus. But Christmas stories can also use themes from any culture in the world – as long as the writer does adequate research.

Use Santa Claus, use Krampus, use any tradition surrounding the time of year or season you like.

You’re the writer, aren’t you?

  1. Plan Your Story’s Plot

Stories (in general) are easier to write when the writer themselves know where they’re going.

Without an outline, writing feels like fumbling around in your cupboard for sugar in the dark. You might accidentally add salt to your coffee instead.

When writing a story, switch on the damn lights! Look around. What do you see? Do some planning. Plan the story’s plot.

Or use The Holiday Plot Generator

  1. Who Needs Lessons?

Does every story need a lesson?

No, but every story needs a coherent plot.

Storytelling with forced lessons or morals can put readers and editors off. Nobody enjoys being preached to or patronised, and you should never be the writer who does it. Focus on telling a good story, first and foremost.

  1. Showing Versus Telling

It seems like such an obvious question, but I’m going to ask it anyway: how will readers know that your story is either set during the holidays, or carries a holiday theme?

A writer can’t just start with, ‘It was Christmas on that day…’

That’s lazy writing.

A writer can show the theme, time period, or setting of the story in a myriad of ways. Use them, instead of spelling things out for the reader.

  1. Characters & The Holidays

Characters are just as diverse as real people. Fictional characters should have depth, background, opinions, and they should react to situations they’re being placed in.

When we’re talking about the holidays, keep in mind that there are different histories, reactions, and opinions about holiday times. Incorporate this into your characters.

Did one character grow up with roast turkey dinners at Christmas, and the other remembers his grandmother’s pork instead?

These little details define us. Even if readers won’t read this particular information, write it down for the background of your character to bring some life to them.

  1. Christmas Shouldn’t Be Overwhelming

A Christmas story needs the appropriate elements, themes, or time.

But the reader should never feel like they’re drowning in the spirit of Christmas, gasping for air. Don’t hang the reader up with Christmas lights, or cover your story in a large, neon CHRISTMAS HERE sign.

Be subtle, describe, and imply the theme.

  1. Beware Spoiler Alerts

Internet access has made information freely and widely available with a click. It has also come to mean that younger readers can easily find your blog or story – even if it doesn’t fit a PG theme.

When it comes to holiday stories, be careful of spoilers for younger ones even in stories for slightly older readers.

Can you pull off a story with a holiday theme? You won’t know until you’ve tried. Best of luck!

If you want help, try The Holiday Plot Generator

 By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.

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Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Peter Barnett

    I have a couple of Christmas stories about children at Christmas which you seem to have left out of your genre. Loss of a parent at this time of year and how the father gives the girl a way to cope with the loss with a handmade dolls house with her mother as a doll. Would this be classed as a poignant story?

    • Writers Write

      Hello Peter
      You can write a Christmas-themed story in any genre. Yours sounds like a perfect fit for the season!

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