“Twas was the night before Christmas, when all through the Manor House Veterinary Clinic not a creature was stirring, not even Little Daisy, the King Charles spaniel bitch that had been spayed late that afternoon as the last procedure of the day.”
This is the opening sentence of a new story I’ve written for my fiendish alter-ego Jim Mullaney’s upcoming second short story collection. Although it clearly (and deliberately, I might add) paraphrases the famous poem, the story itself, a tale of horror entitled Noel, most certainly does not promote peace and goodwill to all men. To be honest, it doesn’t promote peace and goodwill to women, children, or animals, either. Or, in fact, to anyone or anything. It’s all a bit grim, but old Jim doesn’t worry about that kind of thing.
That’s the way (ho-ho-ho) he likes it.
Nevertheless, what the story does do is to highlight, once again, the important place that socially and culturally significant days hold in works of fiction. How many novels and movies over the years have been tied to ‘special’ days, seasons, and events?
Friday the 13th. Wedding days. St. Valentine’s Day. Halloween. Christmas. Birthdays. Anniversaries. The Day of the Dead. Saint’s days. Feast Days. Er… May the Fourth?
I’m sure that there are many, many more in many different cultures and countries, and the reason they are referenced so often in fiction is that in most cases these are the occasions which memorably bring people together – family, friends, colleagues, or simply the like-minded. They are shared experiences. They are important moments in a year otherwise filled, for most people, with a lot of hard work and little time to play. The memories of such occasions are precious and treasured… and they are remembered.
The shorthand, for a writer, is that a reader’s understanding of the background (the colours, the accents, the props) for such a story is usually already hard-wired into their brains, which means that there’s a lot less work to do when it comes to submerging them beneath the murky waters of your imagination. People feel that they understand this world before they’ve even entered it, and they tend not to struggle when you hold them down. They’re comfortable, they’re confident, and therefore in the perfect condition to be bent to your creative will.
Or, if you write the kind of stories I produce for the fiend Mullaney, your readers will be in the perfect state of suggestion to have their expectations wilfully subverted, and their fictional fancy finagled by the frolicsome fingers of a perverted practitioner of periodically purple prose.
Or something like that.
Why not take a tour online and see if you can count the number of books for sale with a Christmas theme before Santa arrives? You may be surprised.
Season’s greetings to all.