A Literary Holiday Party


This past weekend, Nancy and I threw our annual Australian Christmas party.  Every year we invite over a bunch of people (dozens upon dozens — it’s a big party) for an evening of food and wine and laughter.  Christmas is a summer holiday in Australia (where we lived for a year) and so we have a fire in the fireplace and allow the crowd of people in the house to raise the ambient temperature until it’s pretty hot.  Some years (without the heat on) we get the temperature in the house up to about 78 or 80 degrees.  People come dressed in shorts and sun dresses, we eat shrimp and Thai chicken, kiwi (Yeah, I know — that’s from New Zealand; but we went there, too) and Tim Tams and Mint Slices (Australian cookies — sweet biscuits — that are to die for), and we drink a lot of plonk (cheap wine).  Great night.

The best part of the evening for me is watching our friends interact.  We live in a small town, but still some friends we know through Nancy’s work at the university, and other folks we know through our kids and their school, and still others we know through stuff we do in the community.  On this one night, we get to bring together people from different parts of our lives and watch them get to know one another.

This is something I like to do with my writing, too.  When I’m working on a book or series, I’ll often have a couple of plot threads going at once.  At some point, as the story progresses, I’ll begin to weave those threads together by bringing characters from one story line together with characters from another.  Those are some of my favorite scenes to write — I feel that they allow me to put to use all the work I do on character development.  Often I’m taking at least one of the characters in question — maybe all of them — out of  their “comfort zones” and forcing them to cope with new and strange situations.

This is also something I recommend as a writing exercise, particularly if you’re having trouble with a certain character.  Take her out of the fictional context in which she was created — her natural habitat, as it were — and force her to cope with a new social situation.  This may help you develop a clearer voice for her, or it may enable you to learn things about her that you hadn’t known before.

But that’s not the point of this post.  I was thinking this morning how fun it would be to throw a party for the all the characters represented in the books on my shelves.  There are characters from different books, different worlds, different authors, who I’d love to see interact.  Can’t you imagine Will Hawthorne from A.J.’s books Act of Will and Will Power, hitting on Jane Yellowrock, the heroine from Faith’s Skinwalker series?  I can.  She’d toy with him for a while, amused by his clumsily transparent attempts to come off as charming and worldly, and then she’d blow him off and saunter over to McAvery, the roguish pirate from Misty’s Mad Kestrel, who’s sipping single malt in the corner, watching her.

Who else?

I’d love to introduce Paul Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune saga to Ender Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece, Ender’s Game.  Both geniuses, both wunderkinds, both destined to shape the history of their worlds.  They’d have so much to talk about — the burdens heaped upon them at such a tender age, the difficulty of seeing and understanding what others couldn’t possibly grasp.  Fascinating.

Or I could eavesdrop on Gandalf (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) and Ged — Sparrowhawk — from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea cycle, as they discuss the efficacy and limitations of magic.  They would each have an ale in hand, and they would be alternating between laughter and serious debate.  But all the while they would be keeping a wary eye on another conversation taking place in the middle of the room.  Sauron (of Lord of the Rings infamy) and Rakoth Magrim (the big evil in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry) are sitting together, heads close, trying to figure out how two (count ’em!) gods managed to be beaten by loose alliances of men, dwarves, and elves.  It makes no sense — or at least that’s how it seems to them as they polish off yet another bottle of Zinfandel.

Most of the guys at the party will be watching Joanne Baldwin (from Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series), Belinda Primrose (from C.E. Murphy’s Inheritor Cycle) and Door (from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere).  And who can blame them?  I mean these women are gorgeous, brilliant, and powerful, and they’re standing out on the balcony drinking shots of tequila and laughing hysterically as they use magic on the unsuspecting people down on the street.

And then there’s Thomas Covenant (Stephen Donaldson’s anti-hero).  He’s sitting alone.

What about my books, you might ask?  Who would I want to bring together from my various projects?  I would love for Orris, the gruff, abrasive mage from my LonTobyn books to meet Tavis, the spoiled, prickly prince from the Forelands series.  If they didn’t kill each other they might actually become friends.  And I think that Besh, from the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, would get along famously with Ethan Kaille, the hero of my Thieftaker books.

How about you?  Are there characters you’d like to introduce to each other, either from your library or from your own work?

David B. Coe


19 comments to A Literary Holiday Party

  • Great post, David, though I think I’m offended that you assume Will wouldn’t be able to charm Jane Yellowrock. You’re clearly under estimating his charm, worldy savoir faire and willingness to slip something in her drink when she’s not looking. I would LOVE to get Will in a room with Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes, Vetinari and, Will’s Discworld equivalent, Moist Von Lipwig. Hold on to your purses (and your girlfriends)!

  • Dream (from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series) would find many odd and interesting creatures to talk with when he slides into conversation with a group of mice, badgers, and more from Redwall abbey (Brian Jaques Redwall series). I can see him holding any one of them in his hand while offering his unique (forgive me for this word, Faith) *smirk*.

    Great fun to start the week off. Thanks, David.

  • David, it really is a great writing tool. One year I wrote a short story in which all the main characters of the works-in-progress of all my writing group friends showed up at a meeting to complain about what we, the writers, were doing to them. It was great fun for me trying to imitate the different voices of my writing friends, but it also turned out pretty funny. I wholeheartedly recommend this for everyone, not just the newbies but even seasoned folks who need a refresher.

    And just for the record, I think Kestrel and Althea Vestritt (Robin Hobb’s “Liveship Traders” series) would get along well. Although Kes would probably we a little jealous that Althea can have conversations with her ship and Kestrel can’t, but oh well…

  • David, I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Oh. My. Gosh.

    AJ, While Jane has developed an appreciation for charming men, she prefers violent rogues to clever ones. Jane would never leave her food alone near Will. Beast is too selfish, and she recognizes predators of all kinds, even the sneaky ones.

    David, McAvery is exactly the kind of cat she would go for; you are dead on!

    Catie started a short story where Jane Yellowrock and Joanne Walker meet in a third world and take on a BBU that neither had seen or heard of before. Our own version of fan fic, and we have decided to take it on as a project some deadline-free day.

    Stuart, sometimes there is no word better than smirk. But only once!

    So I want to play: Leo Pellissier and Lestat pass on a deserted street and either come to blows or go to a house of ill repute together. Or both.

    Jane Yellowrock and Joanne Walker meet for beer and smothered fries in a New Orleans eatery. Maybe ACMEs.

  • A.J., no offense intended. I think that Will has many redeeming qualities. I can’t think of any offhand, but I think he must. And yeah, anticipating Faith’s comment, I think the Beast factor would have kept Will from getting anywhere with her…. Thanks for the comment.

    Stuart, I haven’t read the Sandman books. I should, since I love Gaiman’s work. Glad you liked the post.

    Misty, yes, taking characters out of context and forcing myself to write them without the benefit of the usual setting and plot really helps me with voice issues. Haven’t read Liveship books, but I think I should. Thanks for playing along!

    Faith, glad you liked it. I JUST finished reading Interview With the Vampire for the first time. Yes, Leo and Lestat would make quite a pair!

  • Sarah

    I’d like to introduce Misty’s Kestrel to Eowyn. If Eowyn didn’t try to kill Kestrel for being a pirate, they might have a great chat about being a fighting woman in a man’s world and about taking care of an older man they love like a father. Maybe introduce Granny Weatherwax and Galadriel, just to see Granny bristle like a cat. Or I’d introduce Mr. Toad from Wind in the Willows to Will Hawthorne and Merry and Pippin. That ought to result in mayham of some sort, or at least massive gluttony suitable to a Christmas party.

  • Thanks for the comment, Sarah. I love the idea of Merry, Pippen, Will, and Mister Toad tying one on together….

  • I love this idea! In terms of my characters, I’d like Quentin to meet Donovan. They’re both very, very different kinds of vampires. I don’t think they’d get along very well, since Donovan is pretty much a monster, though a suave one, and Quentin isn’t particularly suave and isn’t a monster.

    I’d like to get some Shakespeare characters together. For example, how would Hamlet have reacted if he was faced with Viola intead of Ophelia? Or Iago if he had to deal with Lady Macbeth? Who knows what would happen if Iago, Richard III, Claudius, and Aaron all got together… Or what about Hamlet and Prospero? I think that might be depressing. Or the sidekicks. Let’s get all the Antonio’s together. Horatio, Cassio, the friend of Macbeth whose name escapes me, Glouster from Lear, Feste, Puck, they’d probably all have a “oh, you think YOU have a hard time…” convo.

  • Sarah

    This might be the cough syrup talking, but I suddenly want to introduce all Thomas Hardy’s characters to Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. Those two witches would slap most of Hardy’s characters upside the head and then comfort the children, especially the poor kid who hanged himself “because we are too many.” Boy would Granny have words for those parents. Possibly Granny could be put to good use in a few of Faulkner’s books too. Can’t you just see her headology-ing people into being at least slightly less self destructive? Or, speeding up certain people’s rush to ruin so as to get them out of her way. (She’s not a nice person, that woman.)

    How about a barmans’ convention, held at the Prancing Pony? All those ubiquitous barmen/serving wenches/ale drawers could gather and talk about the trials of feeding, housing and occasionally saving the butts of the hordes of adventurers who tramp through their bars on the way to bigger and gorier doings.

  • Yum, TimTams. An Australian friend sent them a number of years ago, along with three bags of Jaffas. Luckily we started getting TimTams up here just a few years later. Alas, no Jaffas yet.

    I think it would be great fun to eavesdrop on a conversation between Jake Stonebender and Gandalf. They’d probably share a pipe out on the balcony, and the mysteries of the universe would be theirs to discuss. Meanwhile, if Mike Callahan was manning the bar, I can only imagine him consoling a depressed Arthur Dent.

  • Emily, thanks. Great idea bringing in the Shakespearean characters. I’m sure A.J. agrees. I would think, though, that getting Hamlet and Macbeth together would be a great big whine fest….

    Sarah, wow. The complete works of Thomas Hardy mixed with witches…. I’ll try a bit of your cough medicine, I think. I would like to spend some time at that bar, though.

    Moira, yes, Tim Tams rule. I’m not a huge Jaffa fan, though my girls are. Mint Slices are my favorites, with Caramel Tim Tams a close second. And thanks for the additions to our party!

  • Hamlet and Edward Cullen…now there’s a whine and cheese party for you!

  • Merry Australian Christmas! I’m gearing up for an Aussie Chrissy, but it’s much easier since I’m actually in Australia. Oddly enough it is becoming quite popular to have Christmas in July here in Australia so we can have a cold winter’s night where we gather in front of a fire and drink mulled wine, eat roast … well everything and in general enjoy fellowship in our woolens.
    This post reminds me of the good old “who would win in a fight between…” threads.
    I’ll throw Garion from David Eddings’ Belgariad in with Eragon from Christopher Paulini and they can talk about the remarkably similar upbringings and adventures. 🙂

  • Unicorn

    I would love Otto Chriek from Terry Pratchett’s The Truth to meet Edward Cullen. Snicker.
    Sarah: I can just see Granny Weatherwax blowing up at Galadriel! And Nanny Ogg bustling amidst the elves of Lothlorien, drinking a bit too much of their wine and performing A Wizard’s Staff Has A Knob On The End, followed by, yes, The Hedgehog Song. Now that would be something. Good grief.

  • Scion, I had heard of the mid-winter Christmas celebrations (for the rest of you, winter in Oz being our summer months). They actually sound like great fun, and it’s always nice to have another excuse for a party. And thanks much for contributing to our literary party.

    Unicorn, those sound like great ideas. Glad you could play along!

  • Razziecat

    Ohh, can I play?? I’ve wanted to get Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora in a room with Lynn Flewelling’s Seregil ever since I read those books! I can just see them planning a little Nightrunning jaunt together…;)

    As for Gandalf, what would he and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden make of each other?

    How about a meeting between Naomi Novik’s Temeraire and Tolkien’s Smaug? That might be, um…interesting o.0

    The thought of Granny Weatherwax and Galadriel makes me giggle. “Now see here, missy, it’s all very well to go all ‘Glinda the Good Witch’ on your average Dark Lord, but when you’ve got cranky gods, crazed unicorns and dark elves…no offense…to deal with, nothing beats a hex upside the head!”

    And I want to meet Nanny Ogg myself! Talk about ‘the life of the party…’

  • Raz, thanks! Those are great ideas. Gandalf and Dresden — very interesting. And a meeting of dragons! Wonderful. But let’s do that one out on the deck, shall we? No sense ruining the furniture….

  • Razziecat

    I forgot to throw C.E. Murphy’s Janx in with the dragons! Absolutely one of my favorite characters ever. But yeah, we’d better put that group outside, they could get a little rambunctious. 🙂