Gifts are always freighted with emotion. This applies to the giver as well as to the recipient. And emotions are the lifeblood of your stories! So let’s explore the possibilities of gift giving.
Look around and select an item that you were given as a gift, something which you love and treasure. Examine it closely, notice all the details. Now consider how you can give this to your main character. Weave it into the story in whatever way you choose – a gift, a purchase, stolen, borrowed, yearned for. Imbue the description with your own positive feelings. Even if it is only a side note in your story, your emotion will come through to your reader.
And what about the gifts you have not welcomed – that ugly green and purple vase from Grandma; the poodle slippers from your sister-in-law; the glossy vinyl handbag that you would not carry outside the house. Give these gifts too, to your characters. Have characters give each other gifts, and work a double meaning into the gift. Or put a sting in the dialogue.
‘Slippers! Again! Thank you so much, Auntie Fran. Just the right size too. I’ll put these aside for now, I’ve still got the lovely pair you gave me last year.’
The reader immediately knows Auntie Fran may be a bit batty, and the recipient is not fond enough of her to accept the slippers with grace. Try to secrete extra information into dialogue like this, rather than stating it.
What gift would you love to receive right now? Can you give that yearning, that wistful wishing to a character? Show the reader how it feels by describing the physical sensation of wanting.
Charlie tried to look at anything except Joe’s shiny new cricket bat. He just knew that if he looked at it, he would cry. And only
babies cried. But it was sounfair! Joe didn’t even like cricket; he would probably use the bat to smash cane toads.
‘You okay, Charlie?’
‘I’m fine, Dad. Reckon I’ll go and feed the chooks.’
He knew they were staring as he closed the back door. He never did chores without being nagged, it was a point of honour. But he could
not bear to watch Joe open any more birthday presents. It was just not fair.
Showing certainly takes more words than simply saying Charlie felt so jealous of Joe’s new cricket bat, he had to leave the room. But which version conveys Charlie’s feelings better? Which version would you rather read?
For the ultimate gift story, read ‘The Gift of the Magi’ by O.Henry. It is dated now, but worth reading for the surprising twist ending.
Gifts and emotion go together, in life and in fiction. Use the trick of gift-giving to show emotion, to pull your reader into the story, and to enrich and deepen your characters.