But evidently I was wrong. This Christmas story entry, for anyone who doesn’t know, has to be about carol singers. A month after receiving this assignment, I have largely accepted that it has thrown me for a loop.
I think I’ve finally figured out why, too. I mean, the humour aspect tripped me up initially. I had set myself on the idea of something nostalgic and kind of bittersweet as a theme and only discovered the comedy component to the competition after I’d started writing. I actually quite like my first attempt and, not being of the mindset to force a square peg into a round hole, have decided to finish that story as a separate project and think up something fresh for the competition. You know, something which is a bit more built for purpose.
I’ve done that now. Go, me. But the real headache factor to this story is twofold.
Firstly, there’s the whole issue of the singing. Yes, I know, singing is a necessary evil when writing about carol singers. You can’t exactly not mention it. It would be like writing about an artist and not mentioning pictures or omitting golf courses from a story about golfing.
But singing is a bit different, isn’t it? Other character pastimes and professions just involve a bit of research and throwing around some well-placed jargon. By contrast singing, of any description in storytelling, appears to involve spontaneously breaking into italics and defacing good prose with random sections of out-of-place verse to which the reader may or may not know a corresponding tune.
I’ll tell you what it is. It’s like a musical. A prose-based musical. And I’ve never really been a musicals fan. The closest I’ve gotten to a favourite musical is probably the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For real. I just find the whole practice of bursting into highly choreographed singing and dancing a bit… uncomfortable. I’m inclined to feel the same way about it onscreen as I would in real life: that perhaps I should call a police community support officer to check your pupils, breathalyse you and escort you home.
So, back to my point, how does one present singing in a story in a manner which doesn’t bring back horrifying memories of song fanfiction? Everything about trying to drop a song into a piece of fiction comes off like it’s been shoehorned in. Not to mention the corresponding What I Call Miranda Hart Syndrome. I mean, when do you stop? Is two lines enough or do we shoot for a whole verse? Do you throw in the chorus? Go for the whole twenty verse extended album version?
Can you just cherry-pick the bits which apply to a character’s subconscious or are international treaties forged on preventing such shows of blinding cheesiness? It all sounds frightfully close to corny, and Christmas carols already flirt with that old chestnut as it is.
Secondly there’s the door to door thing. It makes the plot kind of bitty if you’re working from the point of view of the carol singers – which I am. One house, then another, then another. It’ll take some serious thought to avoid the story becoming too repetitive, the main danger being distributing the characters and events too evenly. I think the trick to it will be not to focus on anyone but the most exceptional residents and try to make the story as much about the antics of the carol singers between their visits as possible.
I’m getting to grips with it, slowly. I actually really like my idea, to be honest. The problem is, as always, execution.
And, with that, I wish all of you a jolly good week, full of words which are spoken, not sung, and journeys unhindered by surprise bouts of back-up dancing.