3 Writing Lessons from the World’s Saddest Christmas Song
As children, our carols match our limited emotions: Naive hope. Unchecked glee. Free presents.
Then we age, mature, and need new songs to match the bittersweet reality most of us feel all too deeply around the holidays
For every Rudolph, there is a Silver Bells.
For every Frosty, there is a Christmas Shoes.
And for Jingle Bells, there is Shane MacGowan’s Fairytale of New York.
MacGowan died a couple weeks ago. Feels appropriate to honor his writing legacy by pointing out his genius.
If you’re a writer, here are 3 things you can learn from Fairytale.
1. Use Contrast
The opening lines to Fairytale are:
“It was Christmas Eve babe.
Here in the drunk tank.”
When you need a weird circumstance that grabs attention, try putting a happy thing next to a sad thing.
2. Tell a short but haunting story
Fairytale spins a bittersweet story.
3 verses in the song.
3 acts in the tale.
3. Roll Out a Metaphor
Shane’s metaphor lands the climax of this story.
Watch how “dream” becomes a tender treasure. An accusation becomes an embrace.
“You took my dreams from me
When I first met you.”
“I kept em with me babe.
And put them with my own.
Can’t do this on my own.
I’ve built my dreams around you.”
What I’ve noticed in the two years running this publication is this:
Great writing doesn’t just have one or two good elements.
It packs and technique and meaning: Wide as a desert. Deep as an ocean.
Fairytale of New York is no different.
Much love as always <3
-Todd B from Tennessee