The Art of Christmas Stories

Merry Christmas Eve. I hope that those of you who downloaded an Advent Story have enjoyed it – have you read the last episode yet or saving it for later on? As promised, I’m writing this blog to let you know which was the most popular story this year, but first, I’ve been giving some thought to Christmas stories in general.

Christmas is a time for stories, from literary classics to the popular Christmas films. The TV schedules are bursting with festive favourites and Christmas specials. But despite the abundance, it seems to me that there are four basic types of story. Nearly all Christmas stories can be put into one of the categories, or cross-over into two. Once you start to think about it, you’ll be able to spot the categories for yourself – to help you, I can demonstrate this with my own Advent stories.

The first type is probably the most well-known, immortalised by Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol is so famous that the adaptations and retellings are probably beyond counting. I don’t know if Dickens invented the story of a Christmas-hating character transformed into the most ardent Christmas enthusiast, but he deserves the credit for popularising it. Even if the character isn’t called Scrooge, he or she is recognisable in many forms – the Grinch is the most obvious example, but I’m sure you will know many others. In the process of learning about the true spirit of Christmas, the character becomes an all-round better person, so I call it the Christmas Redemption story. Of my stories, Mrs Christmas fits into this category, along with The Very Special Christmas Star, in which the Christmas message is delivered to a grumpy old uncle via a talking puppy.

The second type is closely connected, in that the spirit of Christmas is used to bring about another important change. This one involves the bringing together of former enemies, or divided friends or family. Christmas reminds us that we have more in common than that which divides us, and differences can be put aside for the season. Warring neighbours Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick finally become the best of friends in the film Deck the Halls, and Kevin McAllister’s scary neighbour is reunited with his son and grand-daughter thanks to Kevin’s intervention. Of my stories, Chorister Rock fits into this category, with rival choirboys Nigel and Cuthbert realising that they have more in common than they originally thought with the setting up of a choir rock band. So does Elf and Safety, where Father Christmas’s workshop is divided by a dispute over whether to hang holly in the workshop or not; thankfully, the elves resolve their differences in time for Christmas.

Christmas brings out the best in people, and this can be seen in the third category, which is the helping of others less fortunate than the main character. Despite the fact that people are miserably and suffering through-out the year, it seems that this can’t be allowed at Christmas, and extra steps will be taken to improve even the most dire situations. When Scrooge took the prize turkey round to the Cratchits, he started a trend that books, TV and films can’t resist. Of my Advent stories, The Magic of Carol Singing comes into this category, with the characters of Dan and David fitting nicely into this role, fore-shadowing the roles they will play later in life in The Most Beloved Boy. I would also include The Carol Singer, my most mysterious story, because the unexplained singing heard by the villagers seems to have a restorative effect over Alison’s ill mother.

The fourth category could be said to involve elements of each of the other three categories, but gets a category of its own due to the fact that it is Christmas itself that is under threat. No-one wants their Christmas ruined, but the excitement it can add to a story makes an excellent plot for films and books – think of Arthur Christmas, or The Box of Delights. The biggest threat to Christmas in my stories comes in Disaster at the Christmas Pudding Factory, where Peter’s mischievous plan to bake the biggest Christmas pudding in the world almost brings the factory to a close. After some consideration, I decided to put Bunny and Pup’s Big Christmas Adventure into this category, as Bunny and Pup disrupt the natural order of Christmas and have to hurry back to restore normality.

So, that’s four categories, and eight stories that fit nicely into the theory. However, you might have noticed that two of my stories haven’t been mentioned yet. And that is where my theory falls down. Because it seems that there is another category, one much harder to define. One of those stories is The Advent Diary of Amanda Brown, a simple tale about an ordinary girl’s ordinary count-down to Christmas. There are no disasters, no feuding relatives and the most exciting event is waiting to see who is going to get the big solo in the Christmas Eve service. The other story is A Shepherd’s Tale, in which Joe the shepherd boy has a mystical experience in the fields at midnight. If there is a message, it is that Christmas is even more magical than first believed. And that is the closest I can get to classifying the fifth category – Christmas is wonderful as it is. It doesn’t need adventure or redemption, or morals and lessons. Maybe you won’t see it in the films or Christmas specials, but it will be happening in homes around the world, even this year. And funnily enough, these two stories are my most popular. In the months of November and December, The Advent Diary of Amanda Brown was downloaded the most, closely followed by A Shepherd’s Tale. Another interesting fact is that these two stories are downloaded regularly through-out the year – maybe this magic is something we need all year round.

So there we go, the five categories of Christmas stories. Whatever you are doing for Christmas, I hope the disasters and transformations stay in the stories, and that you have an ordinary, magical Christmas safely and peacefully at home. Merry Christmas.

Published by mjschofieldauthor

Writer, story teller, author, novelist, wordsmith - the only thing I cannot imagine is not writing.

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