We know them, we love them, and we poke fun at them. At least, I poke fun at them.
Now, I’d like to make it clear that I love Christmas. At this point, I can almost recite my favorite Christmas movies from memory.
And even though I might roll my eyes at the obvious cliches, I roll my eyes in love. The eye roll comes from a place of deep-seated respect.
I’m not hating on Christmas movies. I’m just here to point out the cliches.
As always, if you discover these cliches in your own story, that’s okay. One cliche isn’t a problem. The problem is when you have nothing BUT cliches in your story.
So let’s get into it!
5. The Miracle of Childbirth
Considering the original Christmas story, with Mary giving birth to baby Jesus, this cliche kind of makes sense.
If Christmas movies happened in real life, every baby would be born on Christmas Day. However, babies are born at all times in the year. There are 364 other days on the calendar.
But for the author’s convenience, all the characters had a wild time in March, and now all the babies are being born just in time for Christmas.
How about some other holiday for the baby to be born? Thanksgiving? New Years?
Or perhaps the baby is already born, and the story focuses on something other than the birth? Perhaps the baby needs surgery or something.
4. Ho Ho Ho
Would Christmas really be complete without the jolly man in the red suit?
In most of the children’s stories, the plot centers around Kris Kringle and the unbelief of small children. Usually, Santa is portrayed as a gift-giving, joyful old elf who loves everyone and inspires the world to love Christmas.
In everything else, Santa is twisted into as many different forms as possible.
- Santa is drunk
- Santa is a thief
- Santa is insane
- Santa isn’t Santa
Maybe we could have a Christmas story without Santa Claus?
No? Okay. But could we get a story where the grown ups believe in Santa too?
I mean, if Santa really exists in the story world, the first people to figure it out should be adults.
3. Release the Scrooges
In Dickens’ own words, Scrooge is a man who can be described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”
Doesn’t that sound like every adult in every Christmas story ever?
- Always hates Christmas
- Was probably hurt by someone else on Christmas (family member died, went through a divorce, messy breakup, etc)
- Doesn’t believe in Santa Claus
- Changes drastically by the end of the story
- Doesn’t pay the consequences for their actions
That last point is what really gets me.
Let’s say we have a character named Mia. Mia is a jerk to everyone else in the story, but at last, a child shows her the true meaning of Christmas.
Mia would still be a jerk.
Even if Mia actually changed, she wouldn’t become an angel overnight. Personality changes take a LONG time to appear.
And nobody would invite her to the Christmas parties the next day. They would assume, “Oh, it’s Mia. She’s a jerk.” It would take a long time before people treated her like a nice person.
2. Give to the Poor
This goes hand in hand with the Scrooge character.
If you’re writing a Christmas story, throw in some poor people, just so the rich characters can feel some empathy. Don’t let the poor people have their own developed characters, or their own storylines.
Because economic status is a character trait, right?
If your character is homeless, let them be a fully-fleshed character first. THEN add their financial situation on top of that.
Characters should be human, first and foremost. Their economic struggles are not a character trait. Poverty is not a character trait.
If a character exists only to make the main characters look generous, couldn’t you accomplish the same thing with a stray dog?
Charitable giving is great. I support giving to help those in need. But if the character exists just to be helped, they probably shouldn’t be in the story.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always snow on Christmas. And yet, so many stories use snow as a foolproof way to show the audience, “Hey look! Everything’s happy again!”
- Is your story set in a region where the word “blizzard” means soft-serve ice cream from Dairy Queen and nothing else? Does it “occasionally” snow in this area, but not enough to count on it? Then chances of snow falling on December 25th are pretty slim.
Also, what’s so happy about snow? Is there a way you could make the snow more of an annoyance than a signal for everyone to be happy?
Sure, your characters can have a white Christmas. But maybe, for once, they don’t want to have snow. Maybe they want a warm, sunny Christmas for a change.
And that’s it for today’s post! Are there any other cliches that I missed? Leave a comment and let me know!
Thanks for reading, and have a very Merry Christmas!
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