In fiction, holidays offer opportunities for both character and plot development.
use a calendar as I write, to keep track of how many days have gone by
in the characters' lives, when the weekends should come, when the
seasons must change, etc. When I was writing The Secret Year, I
realized at one point in the story that Thanksgiving was coming up. I'd
already established that the main character had an older brother in
college. It made sense that the brother would come home for
Thanksgiving. The brother's visit enabled me to explore a character who
had been, until then, offstage. I asked myself all sorts of questions:
Who was he, how did he fit into the family, how did his story relate to
the main character's? This new person in the story enabled us to see
sides of all the other characters that we hadn't seen yet.
the holiday itself, Thanksgiving, also played a role. In the US, we have
expectations of Thanksgiving: an image of family and togetherness and
bountiful food and special traditions. For many families, the reality
doesn't always live up to the ideal, and in that difference between
expectation and reality, there is room for a story to grow. There is
also room for story in the mere fact that many people (who often know
one another well, flaws and all, and who have strong emotions about one
another) gather in a small space.
When you gather your
characters' families together, add traditions and memories and hopes and
histories, what do they say to one another?