I hope everyone had a good holiday.
I’ve been thinking about atmosphere. I wrote a Christmas-themed short story this week. I don’t write short fiction much, mostly because I’m not good at being concise. I think a good short story should pack a punch, or capture a moment, or surprise the reader, so what I was going for with this story was atmosphere: it’s Christmas, but the characters are lonely. It’s set in New York, where Christmas is a spectator sport, but the characters aren’t charmed by the decorations.
I myself managed to avoid New York Christmas almost entirely this year, as I haven’t been leaving my little corner of Brooklyn much. I spent five years working in the midst of Christmas Central: within a five-block radius of Rockefeller Center, Saks, and Bryant Park, the latter of which more recently became a holiday market/skating rink. Despite the cold and the crowds, a part of me always really liked all the lights and decorations. Everything seems more understated this year, perhaps because of the economy. Fewer houses are decorated, my family exchanged more modest gifts. It snowed a week ago, so we mostly had a white Christmas, but the rain last night washed a lot of it away. So you have to look a little harder to find the Christmas spirit.
And atmosphere is one of those things that I think can be key to a good story. Is it sad or dark or scary, joyous or romantic or bittersweet? A short story can sometimes be just a slice, in which case, getting the air of it right can really be the key.
Not to rain on everyone’s parade! I just spent two days with my family and am now recovering at home and, actually, quite enjoying lounging around and being lazy. So all is well here.