Episode 71: Gratitude, Holidays,& Rivals

On November 30, Kasie and Rex were live just blocks from where the state’s big rivalry football game would be played in a few short hours. Here are the show notes: 

Theme for the day

Thanksgiving Weekend – Gratitude, Holidays in fiction, and Rivals


  • Gratitude for Writers
  • How’d NaNoWriMo turn out?
  • Holidays in fiction (oh the possible drama!)
  • Rivals / Rivalry and what makes a good nemesis
people holding wine glasses
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

Lots to do this week. We’re live in Columbia, S.C. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and it’s a BIG weekend in the city.

Writers are some of the luckiest people around. Just think of it: we get to call “reading” work; we get to tell stories that get people emotional, excited, and thrilled; we get to create characters and live with them all the time. What other things do writers have to be grateful for?

This blog has a few ideas:

  • We get to choose when and where we work
  • We spend less money on our work clothes
  • We get to explore big questions
  • We get to create things that didn’t exist before

We also have a very public way of thanking the people who help us on our published projects, the Acknowledgements page. Do you read this page on books you read? How did you decide to write yours? This blog has a “how to.” Cuz you know we love to write about writing.

Segment 2

We also want to take this opportunity to talk about how valuable holidays can be in your work. There are a lot of advantages to adding a holiday to your story:

  • You get people together out of ordinary circumstances
  • You can force drama and disagreements because those people are all gathered together
  • You can layer in the complexities of history and relationships when these people are forced to be around one another
  • You can use the holiday’s stress to push people past their breaking points
  • The rituals — decorations, songs, scents, tastes — create familiarity with your reader
  • There are expectations of holidays that a normal Tuesday or Wednesday doesn’t carry, those expectations create circumstances that feed drama.

In our episodes on ritual, we talked about the way special occasions like weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies create dynamics that are ripe for drama. Holidays are like that, too. They have so much baggage:

  • Tradition(s)
  • Forced cheer
  • Inevitable grief (for those you’ve lost who are not here to share in the new memories)
  • Forced manners and politeness
  • Drinking, lots of drinking
  • People for whom the holiday means so much and others who couldn’t care less
  • New families getting to know one another
  • “The way we’ve always done it” meets “How we’ll be doing it now”
  • So much pressure — every little change becomes a “new” tradition, but does it have to?

Just pressure. And pressure creates drama. And drama makes a good story.

Segment 3

Even fantasy fiction takes advantage of the concept of ritual and holidays — special occasions that change circumstances and force drama — to create a dynamic scene. In fantasy novels, the traditional holidays could be part of the faith system (Christmas), could be part of the world’s natural environment (solstice), or could be about a coming-of-age (Bar Mitzvah) or a relationship (marriage). In any case, they should have the familiar tropes — a ceremony, a meal, a promise or commitment — and the unique style of the world you’ve created.

Some things to remember about these holiday scenes:

  • We have to be different on the other side.
  • Something major in the plot should have changed — don’t waste a ritual or holiday one some small subtle change, these are for BIG moments, big shifts
  • Take advantage of the cliche — the accoutrements we all recognize (tree, stockings, jingle bells) help establish familiarity, but distinguish the experience with something odd — the pickle, the songs with bawdy lyrics — so your holiday is different, unique, like everyone’s actually is.

Segment 4

Let’s talk about the Patreon Special Offer. Here’s what Patreon is:

  • An online site through which you can support the show.

Here’s how it works:

  • Become a member at Patreon.com/WriteOnSC and commit to a certain amount per month. We will then provide you with extras as part of your membership.

Why should you do it?

  • We are teaching clinics here every week, honestly, but the work we’re doing can be supplemented with the extras – exercises for writers, critiques of their work, behind the scenes content, how-to lessons. Stuff that will help writers get better at the craft.

What’s the Special Offer?

  • Now until December 13, if you sign up to be a Patron, we’ll send you two extra short stories. Mine is the 2016 Carrie McCray Award winning story “Cover Up” all about getting a tattoo touched up and uncovering a much younger version of oneself. The story is in print in that year’s issue of The Petigru Review, but inaccessible anywhere else. That was before the online journal, so this is a treat.

Online responses and updates from our SC Writers’ community:

Some of our SCWA writers received Pushcart Prize nominations including:

  • Tim Raymond
  • Amber Wheeler Bacon
  • Amy Collini
  • Martha Petersen
  • Lauren Camp
  • Miriam Bird Greenberg

Congratulations to those writers.

Mary Beth Gibson shares: “I’m excited to announce my third and final book in The Duncullen Saga is released in print and Kindle versions on Amazon. (https://amzn.to/2R2XjQw). Thanks to the wonderful members of SCWA for bringing me so much farther than I ever could’ve on my own.” Congratulations, Mary Beth! We’ve added the links to the show notes.

Finally, the Clemson University Tigers come to town today to take on in-state rival the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. The game kicks off at noon at Williams Bryce Stadium and means a lot for pride and bragging rights in the state.

A lot of folks don’t care anything about football and that’s fine. A lot of folks care too much about football and that’s worrisome. Overall, just try to have fun, remember we’re all South Carolinians, and that sportsmanship means something. Have fun out there and Go Tigers!

Ready to support Write On SC? Go to Patreon.com.WriteOnSC and become a contributor.

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