First, I’m thinking of my story world as often as possible. This doesn’t mean it has to be front and center all the time; it shouldn’t be --- can’t be --- if I’m leading any kind of normally productive existence where I have to focus on things like, oh, driving, interacting with my nearest and dearest, earning a living, and things of that nature. But percolating away on the back burner of my consciousness... ah, now that’s a different matter. If thoughts of my world are left gently simmering on that back burner, deliciously thickening throughout the day like a fine soup whose flavours are melding together, there’s no telling what little gems my subconscious will occasionally throw out (up?) onto the shores of my conscious frontier for me to pick up. And while some of those gems will be lumps of carbon, some are sure to be diamonds. What would a major festival (religious or secular) look like in my world? What practices would it involve? And possibly most importantly, how could I weave it into the tapestry of my narrative? Would it just be some minor textural point for readers to admire in passing, or --- quite deliciously --- would it become a major plot point that influences the entire story?
Second, it’s details like that which make the difference in a story. Of course, you can tell a story in a terse, Spartan manner if you really want to... but for most readers, little details make the story. Stephen King calls this chrome; I call it texture. Either label is descriptive of what you’re trying to accomplish. Let me give you a very simple example from my novel. In Arrinor, people don’t eat breakfast, lunch and dinner; they have firstmeal, midmeal, and evenmeal. Why? Because I determined at some point that I wanted that little detail to be a little alien without being alienating. It reinforced that here was a place that was a little different in a realistic way. It added some spice. My editor certainly remarked on it. Now, while I enjoy vanilla, adding something else to it every once in a while is not a bad thing. If you can add small details that are interesting and different without being ostentatious and distracting, you add an enormous amount of interest to your story.
Let’s return to Christmas in Arrinor. At the moment, it’s a rather moot point, as, in my novel, my protagonist left England in May and arrived in Arrinor at some indeterminate time in the year... I was never really specific, other than it was plainly obvious from my writing that it wasn’t even winter, much less Christmas. But Christmas... mmmm. Omitting the insanely materialistic orgy of consumer spending that Christmas has regrettably become in the last 75 years or so --- especially in the last decade or two --- Christmas is a wondrous moment in the year. The Edwardians and Victorians got it, I think (Dickens’ descriptions of Christmas sound far more Christmassy than ours, frankly). So it got me to thinking... first of all, what would we call Christmas in Arrinor? Not Christmas. Lightmas? Hmm. Possibly... one of the things we celebrate about Christmas is the light in the darkness, both literally at that time of year in northern latitudes, and metaphorically. Anyway, that’s something I can tinker with when (not if) it comes up in book two... or three... or whatever. It will be fun to come up with something that is recognizable as something perhaps similar to Christmas, but with subtle --- or major --- differences.
In the meantime, back down here in mundane reality, if you’re looking for that perfect Christmas gift for the literate someone in your life... well, I happen to know a great novel available here in either hard copy or digital version.