Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Writing Lessons from a Christmas Tree

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

“Mom, why is Moses on our Christmas tree?”
“Moses? We don’t have Moses on the tree. You know the only ornaments allowed on the tree are those that have all three members of the Holy Family.”
For years I have collected nativity ornaments. My mother started my collection while I was still living at home and dated each one so I would remember when it was added to my collection.

My daughter’s question caught me totally off guard. She walked over to the tree and pointed. “See, there he is.” She reached up and removed a small basket with a tiny naked baby glued in it.
“What? I have made an exception all these years to my total family rule because I thought that was Jesus and one of you children made that in Sunday school and your teacher just couldn’t find little mangers and…” I looked again at Jesus/Moses. “You are right. I guess this is Moses in his little basket heading to the river to float so he will be safe.”

Our Christmas tree decorating had a very unexpected twist—the discovery of an imposter that somehow for years had remained unidentified. I guess I can’t really call Mosses an imposter because he really wasn’t trying to impersonate Jesus. But my error in judgment has created delight for me and my family every time we look at the tree and see Moses hanging proudly among the Holy Families.

Remembering my Christmas twist reminds me how important it is to create a twist every now and then in my writing. Of course, there’s nothing better than being a solid, established, predictable writer upon whom readers can depend to always tell an understandable and realistic story. But putting a twist in there every now and then keeps your readers on their literary toes.

A twist can be a number of things in your writing but the most important thing when using a plot twist is the element of surprise. You want your readers to slap their foreheads and say, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming.”

Usually near the end of the story, the twist creates a radical change in the direction of the story or in one of the characters. Maybe the hero turns out to be the villain. Or perhaps you have read hundreds of pages with anticipation as to who is the perpetrator and in the last scene he or she walks out the door with his or her back to the reader and the story leaves you hanging until the next book in the series. Perhaps your hero is heading to the altar with the woman of his dreams for what promises to be a storybook wedding and she becomes a runaway bride.

Any number of things can create a twist. Just remember it must be a radical change in direction,
totally unexpected, and eliminate what is obvious.

During this special season of the year, I hope you will find lots of twists. Maybe you’ll find one on your tree (or under it), in the novel you are writing (yes, writers are sometimes the first to discover a twist even in their own writing), or in your family story as an answer to long time, faithful prayers.

Let’s all join Moses in hanging around with Jesus as we celebrate His birth.

Writing Lessons from a Christmas Tree - @LindaGilden on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Linda Gilden is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She loves to take one subject and create multiple articles from that information. Linda finds great joy (and lots of writing material) in time spend with her family. Her favorite activity is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing children.

To find out more about Linda, her writing, and her ministry, visit You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. I love it Ms. Linda. Keeping a reader "off balance" does help to retain their interest in our stories. Wonderful idea! Thanks so much for sharing; a wonderful "secret ingredient" for success. God's blessings...

  2. What a cute story with a simple lesson for all writers. Thanks for sharing, Linda, and Merry Christmas!

  3. Is good to surprise readers with story twists. Better yet if the twist is not so surprising in retrospect.
    Since it could be argue the figure of Moses was one of several precursors of Jesus in the Bible, the 'twist' is not so out of context.
    The lesson is, surprise your readers with twists but don't cheat them with twist that are out of character or out of context.
    By the way, this was an excellent post, Linda. So much wisdom packed within such a lovely story.
    May your Nativity ornament collection continue growing for many, many years.

  4. What a great story. Merry Christmas