How I Create Stories

The Last Christmas:

The Last Christmas was written differently to all my other books because, for the first time, I was working with someone else. Roland and I have been collaborating on this story for more than two years.

  • First we decided what kind of a Christmas story it was going to be, and who the main characters and the villain were.
  • Then we wrote an outline, and Roland and I debated every aspect of the story, over and over, for the best part of a year, before I wrote a word of the story. In that year we did 17 drafts of the outline, just getting the story and the characters as good as we possibly could.
  • Then I wrote the first draft, then Roland and I went through it ruthlessly, tearing the story apart and trying to make it better in every way. Then I did another draft and we did it all again – 19 drafts in all.

How I Begin a Story:

Sometimes I start with a character, sometimes with a situation, and sometimes with an idea or a What if? For The Last Christmas:

  • What if the ice at the North Pole, where Santa’s village and workshop is, was melting?
    • What would happen to Santa Claus, the elves and the reindeer?
    • And what would happen to Christmas?
    • Will there ever be another Christmas?

One we had a great What if? question, we asked ourselves more questions, such as:

  • Whose story is it?
  • It’s not Santa’s story. It has to be about someone young and adventurous.

We like stories about underdogs, so we decided to tell the story from the viewpoint of the littlest reindeer, Vixen. She desperately wants to lead the reindeer but is afraid she’ll never get the chance because the herd is always led by a big strong male.

  • What’s Vixen’s story goal?
  • Becoming leader isn’t a strong enough goal, so I made Vixen’s goal the strongest of all – saving Christmas.
  • Who is trying to stop Vixen?
  • A strong, brave heroine like Vixen needs to have an even stronger enemy. So we made Vixen’s enemy to be Kroolio Snear, an evil billionaire toymaker who is trying to steal Christmas so he can sell kids more of his nasty robot war toys.
  • But Snear wants more – he once found a broken wand and is trying to steal Santa’s magic so he can repair it, so he will have power over everyone in the world …

    These ideas gave us the bones of the story. Then we worked out the other characters, such as:

  • The other reindeer, especially Dasher, Vixen’s best friend, who’s supposed to be the next leader of the reindeer. But in his heart Dasher wants to be able to do the magic that is forbidden to male reindeer.
  • Also Santa Claus and his wife Matilda, of course.
  • And Santa’s elves who make the toys. They are led by the once-great elf-lord, Telver. He’s afraid what will happen to them if they have to leave the North Pole, because the elves have a terrible enemy, the beautiful elf queen, Grimula.

After that we planned the story in detail, chapter by chapter, as I said at the beginning.

Easy Reading, Hard Writing:

Then I rewrote it, over and over and over again. This is the hardest part – working on a book until you’re literally sick of the sight of it, trying to make it the best story you can possibly do.

Below is a sample of an edited page from an early draft (Draft 6) of this story.


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