Making Personal Celebrations Impersonal

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By Susan A.J. Lyttek

I intentionally chose this date to write a blog because it’s the 35th anniversary of my (and my husband’s) church wedding. You might notice that I’m oddly specific. We had eloped in June of the same year, so it’s not technically our marriage anniversary, though we do celebrate both dates.

Our story is almost strange enough to be fiction. So how do we use the celebrations in our lives to create fictional festivities that people will enjoy reading about?

  • Make the event specific. In the next Talbott family mystery releasing June 2019, A Wedding to Die For, Jeanine’s dad Robert Jensen and Margo Banet are planning a wedding. They want to hurry the planning, though, in order to marry on the one-year anniversary of when they met—June 8th. They decide this just before Easter and announce it to Jeanine and the family. She panics because as anyone who’s been involved in a wedding knows, that’s not enough time to plan an elaborate shindig. Those specifics add to the tension in the story and make the reader wonder how it will all work out.
  • Make the event realistic. Even if you write fantasy and plan an imaginary holiday, make sure the celebration has a reason. If a person’s name has cultural importance, for instance, the society might celebrate a name day instead of a birthday. Or create a holiday that is seasonal like many of our own. In Prophet Warrior, my unpublished fantasy, there was one point in the planetary cycle where the weather calmed for a significant period of time. This allowed for the Gathering, a time for all the tribes to assemble, trade news and celebrate births and comings of age. Since the weather on the planet was so hostile most of the time, the predictable calm logically allowed for and gave credence to the huge celebration.
  • Make the event relatable. Any holiday which gathers people together will have the impact of the human element. Someone will be rubbed the wrong way in spite of the best of intentions. In A Wedding to Die For, the obsessively controlling and meeting focused agendas of the wedding planner, Trish, make Jeanine a bit nuts. Part of the issue is that Jeanine herself tends to control (or try to control) situations so her plans and the plans of the hired planner often clash. Of course, when Trish is found dead, Jeanine has to wonder who else she might have clashed with leading to a host of motives and rabbit trails concerning her demise.
  • Make the event fun. What would you do if you could regarding a specific observance or party? Allow your characters to do just that. Margo and Robert choose to have their wedding on a mountain top. Their reasoning? They aren’t getting any younger and so they want to add a bit of the zany into anything they do. Not only does their decision provide the setting to story, but it gives insight into their relationship.

As you plan the merriment and observances for your stories, consider the above details. After all, in so many tales, it is the celebrations that we remember because those moments add humanity to our characters by giving them moments of joy in the midst of all the trials.

Because don’t we all need those glimmers of happiness?

How to use our celebrations to create fictional festivities by @SusanLyttek #ACFWBlogs #amwriting Click To Tweet

Susan A. J. Lyttek, author of four novels, (fifth under contract!) award-winning writer, blogger, wife and mother to two homeschool graduates, writes in time snippets and in colorful notebooks. She also enjoys training up the next generation of writers by coaching 5th to 12th grade homeschool students at her local co-op.



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