Are you trying to write a festive novel but have run out of ideas? Or perhaps you need some snowy inspiration for your Christmas short story. In this article we will be sharing lots of fun Christmas writing prompts to kick-start your winter writing – plus we’ve also asked top Christmas book authors for their inspiring tips.
Why Write Christmas Novels?
Christmas is a magical time of year. And for many of us who experience it during the darkest, coldest months, it can be the only fun and joyous occasion of the entire season. That’s why Christmas novels are so popular. There’s nothing cosier, on a bleak winter’s day, than huddling under a blanket with a mug of hot cocoa and a book full of festive cheer, plus all the nostalgia and decadence that goes with it.
That’s not to say all Christmas books have to be romances or women’s fiction. The great thing about writing with Christmas in mind is that it can be applied to any genre – from festive chillers and thrillers, to horror stories and gruesome tales that take place during the most magical time of the year.
Read on to discover some great Christmas writing prompts, plus top tips from leading authors of festive books. Although bear in mind that these are adult writing prompts – so may not be suitable if you’re looking for December writing prompts for your classroom or children!
20 Christmas Story Starters And Festive Prompts
The great thing about writing a Christmas short story, novel or novella is that no one expects anything too serious in winter. So let your imagination run wild! As long as you include plenty of festive fun, nostalgic traditions, and a sprinkle of magic then you’re on to a winter winner.
Here are our twenty Christmas story ideas and prompts, split into four different Christmas genres….
- A teacher is putting on a school nativity play. She don’t get on with the new teaching assistant and things start to go terribly wrong…until they realise love is blooming among the mistletoe.
- She hates Christmas day at her parents as all they ever talk about is how she is single and childless. Except this year they’ve invited the neighbours – along with their three very different (and very attractive) sons!
- Her boyfriend dumped her on Christmas Eve, so she jets off to an exotic hot country to forget all about the festive season. But the local waiter refuses to let her remain sad and grumpy.
- Ever since his cat, Snowy, was run over on Christmas Day Tom has hated Christmas. This year he decides to stay home alone…until a cat appears on his doorstep. A cat belonging to his crazy new neighbour.
- Single mother, Carol, has to attend ten different Christmas school events for her three children and she’s at the end of her tether. Then she realises the same handsome man is at all of them too. Coincidence? Or fate?
- She’s gone on a trip to Lapland to get away for the winter as the man she has always loved is getting married over Christmas. But when she’s snowed in at a secluded log cabin only the rugged local Finnish guy can help her.
- She’s so frustrated with her annoying parents on Christmas Day that she goes on a long country walk, steps into a secluded old chapel, and finds herself face to face with a very handsome man. The only problem is she’s gone back 100 years in history.
- Christmas day 1998 was perfect because Danny, the boy next door, shared his first kiss with her. Guess who just moved in next door to her new house?
- Ivy has built a snowman. Not only has he come to life…but she’s fallen in love with him. Will their love last longer than the winter?
- She’s new to the village and is struggling to make friends. She’s thinking of going back home for Christmas, until the community pull together to convince her to stay…all orchestrated by one very special someone.
- A mother and father wake up one Christmas morning wondering why it’s so quiet. Where are the kids? They go into their room and the beds are empty, the stockings untouched. The window is open and the cookies have been eaten. Next to the carrot is a note.
- They thought renting a little cottage in the secluded countryside would be romantic for Christmas. Until they discovered a body.
- Nancy is overjoyed to be invited to the lavish New Year’s Eve party that the McPartlans throw every year. Except this year it’s different. This year, every hour on the hour, a new guest is discovered dead.
- Sally wants to stay home alone for Christmas. But someone has trapped her in her house, and now she can’t get out even if she tries.
- Christmas shopping on the high street is crazy. Holly is convinced she’s seen a store Santa bundling a woman into the back of a car. But no one believes her…until the woman turns up dead.
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- Father Christmas is real, but he’s not entering your house to leave gifts. It’s something a lot more sinister.
- Santa’s elves are real and they are living inside the walls of your house.
- When Harry kissed Anabelle under the mistletoe he didn’t expect her to grow fangs.
- Christmas day in a secluded log cabin is ever so romantic…unless you discover someone is trying to kill you.
- No one can hear you scream when it’s midnight, you’re in the middle of nowhere and the world is muffled with snow.
For added fun, why not mix and match some of these ideas or change their genres. Let’s see what wondrous seasonal ideas you can come up with!
10 Top Tips For Writing Seasonal Stories By Successful Christmas Authors
1. Seek Out Other Christmas Book Writers Writing At The Same Time As You
A Christmas Club, if you wish! it’s a great way of batting over and back in terms of keeping you in the flow and reminding you of those little things that might not be exactly obvious when writing out of season.Faith Hogan, author of On The First Day Of Christmas
2. Recreate The Sensory Atmosphere Of Christmas
You may want to light some scented candles that smell like Christmas trees, enjoy freshly baked mince pies, make the room dark and put up fairy lights etc. Even watching a Christmas movie or seeking out snowy landscapes (or other seasonal landscape depending on where you are in the world) on Youtube can help too.Beth Kempton, author of Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy
3. Plan Well Ahead!
I start my Christmas novellas as early as February!Victoria Connelly, author of Christmas with the Book Lovers
4. Follow Your Favourite Christmas Book Author On Social Media
Reach out and tell them about what you’re writing, they may be able to give you more tips! It’s always good to expand your circle of writers in the same genre as you!Faith Hogan, author of On The First Day Of Christmas
5. Research Christmas Traditions From All Around The World
Our Christmas novella is set in Lapland, and because our books are paranormal romance we created some fun monsters inspired by Finnish folklore, and added plenty of local Christmas customs too. Think outside of your own experiences and talk to people who have other wonderful and (sometimes creepy) customs.Caedis Knight, author of Goblins of Lapland
6. Make Notes Throughout The Winter
If you have a long lead time, make notes about your mood and emotions throughout the winter (or look back at old journals). Rereading them will help if you then have to write out of season.Beth Kempton, author of Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy
7. Give Them What They Came For
People who buy Christmas novels expect to see certain things. So give it to them! Make sure to describe the beautiful tree, the hot chocolate, the ice skating, the kiss under the mistletoe. Don’t try and be clever by adding a twist to what they’re expecting…it may fall flat.Caedis Knight, author of Goblins of Lapland
8. Listen To Lots Of Christmas music
I wrote my last Christmas book during a heatwave, at the height of the pandemic. I listened to a lot of Christmas music to get me in the right frame of mind.Rachel Wells, author of Alfie The Christmas Cat
9. Make a List (And Check It Twice)
Make a sheet with five columns for each sensory aspect of Christmas and jot down everything you can think of that’s Christmassy – from what you smell, see and hear, to what you expect to see at Christmas. This also helps with setting and plot.Rosie Blake, author of How To Stuff Up Christmas
10. You can Never Be TOO Christmassy!
Add all the festive cheer fun and heartwarming cheer you possibly can. there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to this time of year!Emma Jackson, author of A Mistletoe Miracle and One Kiss Before Christmas
Ten Top Tips From Author Isabella May
We asked Isabella May, author of deliciously adorable Christmas rom-com, Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar, to share what it takes to write festive foodie fiction.
Here are her 10 tips on writing an unforgettable Christmas story:
1. More Is More
This is Christmas we are talking about so there’s no such thing as too many decorations appearing in your story.
2. Read And Watch Christmas Books And Movies
Don’t try to emulate what others have done but look at the many festive tropes that are out there and try to bring your own fresh angle.
3. Immerse Yourself In The Tastes And Smells Of Christmas
It may seem a little extravagant but eating that Christmas pud that’s been lying in wait since FOREVER in the kitchen cupboard and/or buying yourself a fragrant pine-scented Yankee candle, will turbo boost your festive thoughts and lead to some great plot ideas.
4. Think Snow Globe Community Spirit!
The most successful Christmas books have all the characters united in festive fizz… eventually. ‘Tis the season of goodwill, after all.
5. It’s Back To The Senses Again
Dust off the Wham/Cliff Richard/Mariah Carey and play all the Yuletide jingles. You’ll cringe at first but honestly, this is another tried and tested way to get in the spirit and up your daily word count.
6. Think Of Christmas Past
No, not in a Scrooge way… but reminiscing on the highlights of your own Christmas holidays from childhood can shape and inspire so many scenes in your book.
7. Fact Check
It’s easy to get carried away with the celebratory side of Christmas when we are knee-deep in a glowy, hygge, and twinkly-light festooned story, so we need to be certain that the Italian festive foodie delights we’ve just added to our MC’s dialogue really are typically served in December (and spelt correctly).
8. Research Your Destination Well
Nobody is saying you can’t set your story in Iceland (complete with those tantalising views of the Northern Lights) but if you haven’t been to the location of your Christmas book’s setting, you’d better do some serious armchair travelling (and talking with locals who are native to the area, if possible) to give your readers the most authentic portrayal of the place.
9. Keep It Light
The best Christmas stories are fluffy, frivolous and entertaining. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, bookworms turn to festive fiction for escapism/to get themselves in the Christmas spirit when their own may be flagging. Always remember, Christmas can be a hard time of year for many people. Avoid sensitive and/or trigger warning subjects. Readers want to be uplifted and entertained. Your goal as a writer is to give them that warm fuzzy feeling from tip to toe; a hot chocolate hug in a book.
10. Once You Start Writing Christmas Books, Know That It’s Almost Impossible To Stop!
Readers have a VORACIOUS appetite for Christmas books and this genre is growing by the season. It’s fine to dabble but your fans will expect an annual festive work of fiction from you (if you first went down with the joy of a Bailey’s on ice), so it’s best to have a word with your inner Grinch before you commit to typing your very first Christmassy word…
Christmas Title Ideas
And finally, no Christmas book is complete without the perfect title. But how do you choose one that demonstrates it’s a Christmas book in your genre, yet isn’t a title that’s been used a million times already?
Here are our top ten title tips!
1. Look At Other Festive Books In Your Genre
Check for consistencies and see how many words they use. Thrillers tend to be 2-5 short words and really self-explanatory (ie The Christmas Killer, Alex Pine), whereas Christmas romance and romcoms can have longer, prettier, and more intricate titles (ie One More Christmas At The Castle, Trisha Ashley).
2. Describe The Story
Unless you are writing literary fiction, it helps to have a title that makes it very clear what the book is about. So if your book is about Christmas on a desert island, then call your book something like ‘A Desert Island Christmas.’
3. Use Lyrics From A Christmas Song Or Hymn
‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a popular book title for romance novels, as is ‘Silent Night’ for thrillers and horror books. So get original and have fun seeing what matches the theme of your book. For instance, you may write a book about two best friends and call it ‘Holly And Ivy’ or a rom-com set in the 50s called ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.’
4. Don’t Be Scared Of Puns
Christmas is the cheesiest time of the year, so don’t hold back from getting corny if need be. You may name your rom-com novel about reindeer farmers in Finland, ‘Looks Like Rain, Dear,’ or your Christmas horror ‘Santa Claws Bites Back’. These are all silly suggestions, I know, but you get the idea. A much classier example is Isabella May’s Christmas novel ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar.’
5. Make It Clear That It’s Part Of A Series
If you’re writing a series of books, your cover designer will no doubt ensure that they all look the same but different – so do make sure the titles match too. Nancy Revell has done that with her Shipyard Girls books (Shipyard Girls Under The Mistletoe, Christmas with The Shipyard Girls and A Christmas Wish For The Shipyard Girls).
6. Use The Word ‘Christmas’ In The Title
This may sound simple, perhaps too simple, but it works. If you’re writing a modern Cinderella retelling, calling it ‘A Cinderella Christmas’ means people who are looking for a Christmas book that’s like Cinderella, and type those words into Google or Amazon, will find your book more easily!
7. Keep It Simple
People looking for a festive read are rarely interested in anything too complicated or highbrow. Depending on the genre, choose a title that reflects the mood of the book – but keep it simple. Instead of calling it ‘The Haunted Mind and Festive Regrets of Peter Cumberbatch’ you could simply call it ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’.
8. Use Words Associated With Christmas
If your book is more literary or a thriller, and you don’t want readers to think they’ll be getting a cutesy festive read, then use words associated with Christmas that are a little more serious: Snow, Winter, Snowflake, Midnight, Night, Cold etc.
9. State Where The Book Takes Place
If you’re writing cosy Christmas romance or women’s fiction, ‘Christmas at (insert location)’ Works really well. It may seem formulaic but there’s a reason why these books sell well. ‘Christmas at…the cosy café…the olde bookshop…Mannering Manor…Penny Lane’ – you get the picture.
10. Have Fun With The Title
Sometimes people don’t even know they want to read a Christmas book until they see the title. So choose something that will make them feel nostalgic, make them smile, or make them yearn for the comfort and excitement of Christmas.
We hope you found our Christmas prompts and ideas article interested. Once you’ve played around with some fun festive ideas, made a note of our top author tips, and seen what kind of titles will get the attention of agents, editors and readers, you should be ready to get started on your Christmas cracker of a novel.
There’s snow time like the (Christmas) present. Get writing and have fun!
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