Holiday Heaven or Hell: A Writing Prompt for Points of View Practice

holiday heaven or hell writing prompt

Do Christmas trees still entrance you? Are you excited to put them up? Or are they a hassle and an obligation?

What do the holidays mean to you? Have you been looking forward to Christmas since December 26th, 2015, or dreading the holiday’s approach since big box stores starting playing carols in September? Why do people even have such different points of views in the first place? Explore the reasons  with this writing prompt: Holiday Heaven or Hell.

What Makes the Holidays Heaven or Hell?

This is a multi-step writing prompt that starts with general brainstorming and more specific character exploration. Together, they build up to the prompt for the final writing exercise.

Brainstorming Holiday Points of View

The Holiday Heaven or Hell brainstorming activity opens the door to point of view by considering what would make the holidays heavenly or hellish. The process is pretty simple: ask yourself each question and list the answers. These answers may vary from person to person, but here are some ideas.

What would make the holidays hellish?

Not just what would make Christmas time annoying or unexciting. What would make it miserable, intolerable, or downright depressing?

  • death of a loved one
  • serious illness
  • lack of food
  • financial troubles
  • extreme weather
  • abuse (including bullying)
  • bad memories of any or all of the above
  • any combination of these
What would make the holidays heavenly?

What would make Christmas or the season the highlight of the year? What would make it a treasured memory, something to really look forward to?

  • time with loved ones (particularly people you see once a year)
  • good presents (the more, the better)
  • tasty foods (especially ones you rarely get)
  • fun activities (more than usual)

Character Exploration with Holiday Points of View

If you did the brainstorming exercise already, you’re warmed up to think about what makes people experience the holidays as Heaven or Hell. Now, take that thought process and apply it to specific characters.

You can try it with any character (a stereotype, a character from a book, one of your own, etc.). Here’s a list to try your teeth out on. Think about each character and ask yourself how the holidays would make that character feel.

  • a child who believes in Santa and has a good, loving family who celebrates Christmas
  • a child who secretly believes in Santa because school friends talked about him and has a good, loving family who does not celebrate Christmas and, in fact, refuses to allow any mention of it in the house
  • an old man in a nursing home whose wife is dead and whose children never visit
  • a poor mother whose child is happy with the shelter dinner and hand-made gifts
  • a rich woman with no family who spends Christmas at the ski lodge, pursuing her favorite hobby
  • a man who is married but unable to have children and is a mall Santa each year because he likes to think of all the visiting children as his grandchildren
  • a couple who have twins but lost one of them last December but whose remaining child is very excited and happy about Christmas

That’s quite a variety of perspectives. You probably noticed that they’re not all cut-and-dried Heaven or Hell either. Even with incomplete characters like these, you start to see mixed feelings and inner conflicts about the holiday season.

The Holiday Heaven or Hell Writing Prompt

Ok, folks, it’s time to take what you’ve done so far and use it in a Holiday story of your own (short or otherwise). Answer the following questions to get started.

  • Who is the main character?
  • What is his/her holiday point of view?
  • Why is that point of view a conflict? (Who opposes it, or what is interfering with what the character wants to happen this holiday season?)

Now, go, write your story. Explore the details of the Holidays (and life) that can turn them into sheer Heaven, Hell, or some mix of the two.

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