Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Holiday Conflict in the Stories We Write

by DiAnn Mills

Adding a twist to a story’s setting gives it a psychological zip. Holidays are no exception. As your characters enter the season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, place them in scenes where they are caught off guard—where they believe their mental, emotional, and physical world is safe until they are hit with conflict from unexpected places. What about a holiday is unpleasant for your character? What does the character appreciate about the holiday that hits him/ her blindside?

No matter what genre, depth of story satisfies the reader. Here are a few examples of how you can weave the fall/winter seasons into your plot with obstacles that create problems for your characters.


Romance - Your hero invites the heroine to his parents farm for a traditional dinner, but he fails to inform his mother that the heroine is gluten-free and vegan. What he believes is the perfect setting for his parents to fall in love with the heroine ends up being a catastrophe when the menu includes all the items she can’t eat.

Historical - A family looks forward to enjoying a harvest festival when several members of the family become ill with smallpox.

Suspense - Your heroine joins up with a boyhood friend during the Thanksgiving holiday when a bad guy opens fire and wounds the boyfriend. The heroine chases the bad guy through the woods, but her foot snaps a fallen branch, the bad guy is alerted and gets away. 

Speculative - Perhaps Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in your story world, but feasts are always in style. While the characters in your story are enjoying a grand festival, they are attacked by an enemy.


Romance - A hero plans to propose to the woman of his dreams on Christmas, but he finds her in the arms of another man and suspects the worst.

Historical - A father struggles with his health and lack of money to give his four children gifts for Christmas. When he fails, he learns the best gift he can give is his love.

Suspense - A female criminal celebrates the season with her family and friends, providing an opportunity for law enforcement to make an arrest. Only the criminal’s boyfriend happens to be one of the arresting officers.

Speculative - All celebrations are forbidden in a world ruled by those who seek to control their people through oppression and persecution. But one person defies the mandate to bring happiness to others.

New Year's

Romance – A man rushes to catch the last flight out of New York to reach his wife by January 1 to prevent her filling for divorce. The couple have been separated since the summer, and he wants to restore their marriage. A winter storm delays the flight for two days. He calls his wife, but another man answers.

Historical – A farmer has experienced a bad year with his crops, and his family has just enough food to last until January 1. On the 31st, he treks toward town to ask the pastor for help. A snowstorm hits, and he’s lost in a blizzard.

Suspense – A businesswoman made the mistake of borrowing from a loan shark to keep her business from closing. She’s missed her deadline twice. Now the amount with interest is due on December 31 or the loan shark will burn down her warehouse. She makes a substantial sale to cover the loan, but on December 30th, the purchaser backs out of the deal. 

Speculative –Aliens invade a peaceful planet during a New Year celebration. Caught off-guard, the inhabitants are forced to give up all their children or the planet will be destroyed.

Consider your story. Is it set during an upcoming holiday? Instead of using a celebration to add a break to your character’s life, weave an unpredictable twist. Does snow and ice interfere with a deadline? Does last minute shopping for a special dinner cause an unexpected encounter with fate? Take the holiday challenge and deepen your story. You’ll be amazed at the results.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. 

She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. Connect here:


  1. when I first started writing, the hardest thing for me was to be mean to my characters. Because I wrote women's fiction, I didn't have the usual bad guy. My critique partners, bless their hearts, kept on me until I finally "got it." lol You give some good hints for new writers on how to do that.

  2. Thanks for this, DiAnn. Good ideas here. And COVID-19 compliance behavior & beliefs have given us plenty to weave into the story.

  3. We grow so close to our characters that they become real to us!

  4. Wow, thanks for all the good idea prompts! It's been hard to write this year, but I'll take these tips into 2021, and maybe - with God's help - I can get some more stories written.