Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.

This week features Shannon looking into aspects of relationship and character, to the reader as well to other characters in a story.

This is an updated version of a column previously done at a sister site.

The holidays are supposed to make things jolly and bright, right?

So how does that affect characters?

When we see that Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch can even be moved by the season, does it make it a requirement that every character should be?

I’d argue not.

Ultimately, a character should be true to what that character is. In both the above characters, their attitude is part of trying to block out specific emotions that are part of their character whole, and as a result, creating a lopsided characterization of their full selves.

However, perhaps a character in a story set in the holiday season clearly just isn’t redeemable. For them to do so would not be authentic to themselves or perhaps even a larger story. In the end, the story needs to dictate. Granted, dark thought about the holiday season aren’t what anyone hopes for, but perhaps a story might need to make that point to help the reader find brightness in him or herself.

One thing I’ve given some thought to over time on this subject is reader expectation. Society (at least where I live) creates the expectation – largely through marketing – that holiday stories all end with cheery and bright happy endings. Therefore, selling a story that does not meet this criteria would seem to be a daunting task. If you intend to market a story that doesn’t meet this criteria, it certainly would create some extra hurdles, but I wouldn’t let it keep you from writing the story that you want to tell. It’s just something to be aware of it you would want to take the step of selling it.

Until next time!