Over a year ago I was asked to be the lead author in a Christmas anthology scheduled for 2019. Since this compilation was going to have broad exposure, I wanted to ensure my story was as good as it could be. I really angsted over it. I’d written quite a few Christmas novellas, and several had won awards. I wanted this one to be better than any I’d done before.
But I was fresh out of ideas for warm, heart-melting Christmas stories. So I thought I’d start watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel for inspiration. Right here I must give thanks to my patient husband for allowing this. You see, like most men, he doesn’t really enjoy this style of chick flick, but he indulged me all in the name of research. Oh, there was a lot of eye rolling and yawning on his part, but his complaints were of the mild variety.
With few exceptions, I found that these movies fit a pattern. They are set in small, rural towns. And these towns all had a commonality in that everyone in these towns is so welcoming and loving. And racial diversity is always depicted in these settings, too.
In most cases, the hero or heroine is an outsider who ends up spending Christmas in this town—an occurrence that comes about not from a conscious decision but from an unforeseen development. Instead of feeling like an outsider, though, the newcomer is showered with good, ol’ down-home hospitality from these warm townspeople (and especially the person who becomes the love interest).
There is usually a small subplot that may explain why the hero or heroine has come to the town, and oftentimes this has some connection to the town’s Christmas festival. A lot of the time there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and this always involves a countdown!
The best of these shows will have a genuine conflict; the worst have none at all. Few of the stories are memorable. The one that was the most memorable was one in which the heroine, a single mother, had a lot of challenges which touched the viewers’ emotions. In addition to connecting with the hero, she connected with a grandmotherly woman who helped her. While the romantic escalation was expected, there was a bonus surprise that had to do with a backstory involving the grandmotherly character and provided an immensely satisfying ending.
As to the romance in these tales, there’s always a scene where they’re discovering a bond between them and move toward each other for an embrace or kiss, but this is always interrupted! That’s because the hero and heroine can’t kiss until the final scene. In each show, the last shot is reserved for that longed-for embrace and a nice long smooch where the cameras do a long fade away to let us know our hero and heroine have at last found their happily ever after.
It was worth it to watch all these shows for that one kernel which provided a small spark to get the creative juices flowing to my brain. The end result was my story titled One Room at the Inn in our Winter Wishes anthology. It's now my favorite of the nine Christmas novellas I've written. The collection landed in a respectable position on the USA Today bestseller list, garnered good reviews, and was selected by one blog as the best Christmas book of 2019!
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