Skip to content

Month: January 2020

Writing “Who Mourns for St. Nicholas?” (Part 2)

Part 2 of an irregular and infrequent column on how I wrote my latest novella. Again, to properly absorb this post, you must enter the alternate reality where I am a fabulously successful and world-renowned author….

As Part 1 described, the major mythical characters fell into place fairly quickly. Nick was a cynical, tired, and reclusive version of St. Nicholas. I didn’t want to recreate the 1950’s version of Mrs. Claus (“Eat, Santa, Eat!”), so I rebranded her as Claudia, and made her the embodiment of “Christmas cheer”, while Nick was more about winter and the atmospherics of Christmas. That opened the possibility that both were being impacted differently by the modern world — Nick by climate change, and Claudia by increasing polarization and hatred of the other.

E.B., the Easter bunny, came quickly as well. as it seemed natural to me to make Nick and he rivals, and gave Nick some snobbery to round out his personality. A little farther along, the concept of a Halloween character came up, and I saw a good opportunity to satirize the growing popularity of Halloween at Christmas’ expense (witness the massive number of pop-up Halloween stores that magically appear every September). This character went through a couple of uninspiring names (Jack, Hal) before a lifetime of putting up with my dad’s puns kicked in and I came up with Sam Haines.

But for all the ease with which the mythical characters were developing, I felt they needed to interact with a plot in the “real” world. And this stymied me for a long time. I came up with the idea of Seamus’ Ride’s right-wing pundit early on, and thought that had potential, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with him. I also had the concept of walls in mind, thanks to the ongoing “build the wall” insanity, and I wrote some scenes involving a family trying to sneak around/through a border wall to get to a safer area, with the big reveal being that the border was now in the northern US. As bad as it sounds now, it was even worse when I was trying to write it.

So, for the first couple of weeks in October I spun in place, having a set of mythical characters I liked, headed to a general endpoint, but with no idea how to drive them there through interaction with regular humans. The resolution? Stay tuned for the next post…