The 12 Prompts of Christmas (Everything's a Writing Prompt Part 5)

Christmas-themed things can be a bit of a landmine for storytellers. It’s pretty easy for them to veer into cliché or maudlin territory, and a lot of the familiar themes and plots have been written to death.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get inspiration from the holiday season, though. Here are some prompts that can get your brain going on some stories in the Christmas spirit.

1. The Christmas card.

It’s time for your character to send out their annual Christmas card to friends and family, filling them in on everything that’s happened over the past year—and, let me tell you, this past year has been a doozy. Write a story in the format of a year-end letter, that contains at least 3 details you wouldn’t expect someone to talk about in their yearly Christmas card.

2. Dinner drama.

  1. List 5 things that could go wrong during a holiday dinner.

  2. Rank those 5 things from least to most disastrous.

  3. Write a story that starts just as the first thing on the list goes wrong, then escalates through the rest.

3. Let it snow.

Winter weather has a pesky way of interrupting travel plans. For this prompt, your characters are en-route to their holiday festivities when they’re interrupted by a sudden storm. What do they do next? Set a timer for 10 minutes and freewrite the scene.

4. The heirloom.

A lot of holiday decorations get passed down from one generation to the next. For this prompt, you can think of a real-world heirloom from your family or make one up. Write a piece where an older family member explains to a younger one the story of a beloved ornament, tree topper, nativity scene, or other holiday decoration.

5. The gift quest.

‘Twas the night before Christmas—and your protagonist still hasn’t gotten that gift: the super-special toy that every kid needs to have, or the perfect thing to finally tell their crush how they feel, or the right thing to bring for a gift exchange at their new job. Whatever they need to buy, they’re running out of time. Write a story that starts with them at the store, trying to find the perfect present.

6. The stranger.

Guests are usually welcome at a holiday gathering—but, normally, it’s someone you know. For this story, a complete stranger shows up to a holiday party. What are they doing there? Where did they come from? Brainstorm some options, then choose the one that catches your interest the most, set a timer for 10 minutes, and freewrite what happens.

7. Carol remix.

  1. Choose a Christmas carol. Any one will do.

  2. What is the first location mentioned in the carol? This could be directly stated (“away in a manger…”) or implied (“I saw three ships come sailing in…”). This is the setting of your prompt.

  3. Pick 2 nouns and 2 adjectives from the lyrics of the carol. These must be used in the story, poem, or whatever else you’re writing.

  4. Write a piece that takes place in that setting and uses those 4 words.

8. Christmas3000.

Let’s take a trip with the ghost of Christmas future. Think of a point sometime 100 or more years into the future. Are people on spaceships? Or maybe civilization has collapsed and it’s more post-apocalyptic than futuristic. In either case, write a story that takes place on Christmas day in a far distant future.

9. The unexpected gift.

There’s a gift under the tree that doesn’t belong. Maybe the mailman (or Santa) brought it to the wrong house. Or maybe it magically appeared—that’s up to you. Brainstorm what the gift is and how it got there. Then, write a scene that starts with someone opening this present and see where it takes you from there.

10. The true story.

You ever wonder why the 12 days of Christmas ends with a partridge in a pear tree? Or why people are supposed to kiss under mistletoe? No, don’t look it up—come up with your own reason. Pick a Christmas tradition or concept that you’ve always found a bit bizarre and write your own fable or legend explaining how it came to be.

11. Bah humbug.

What’s your least favorite thing about the holiday season? Brainstorm some of the top reasons someone might hate the holidays, and use these to come up with the most uncomfortable, boring, or straight-up miserable holiday event you can think of. Plop a character down in it who is absolutely over it. Start writing.

12. Dear diary.

How does Santa spent his time the rest of the year—or, maybe more interesting, what do the elves get up to? The reindeer? Pick a character from a Christmas story and write their diary entries from any days other than the Christmas season.


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