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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Bourbon

Unwrapping the Magic of Christmas Romance ~ Writing Tips for Writing A Perfect Holiday Romance

'Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to embrace the holiday spirit than by writing a heartwarming Christmas romance? But....it's JULY, Stephanie, it's 90 degrees outside.



True, it's hot, it's really hot in the northern hemisphere, so unless you are Down Under, it's hard to think about Christmas, BUT a lot of holiday movies are filmed in the summer, and most of them are sold in the warmer months, so crank up the air and start writing.


If you have ever wanted to write your own yuletide romance, now is the time. These movies are selling right now, and if you love them as I do, you are dying to get pen to paper- hands click clicking on the keyboard.


I'm here to deck your storytelling halls with tips and tricks to create the perfect Christmas romance or at least to do a great job and sell that story.


*** Note that I can not promise that you will sell from anything said here, but that is the goal


Things that you need in your story.


The Spirit of Christmas


A successful Christmas romance isn't just about romance; it's about the enchantment and joy of the holiday season. You want to transport those reading your script and eventually watching it on television to a snow-covered wonderland. This means EVERY SCENE in a TV holiday romance must have one thing in it. Do you know what I'm about to say?


YUP-CHRISTMAS


It must be there in some way in every scene. That's a must.

TV holiday romances are not just set at Christmas. If you take Christmas away, you can't tell the story, or it becomes something different altogether.


Here is an example of a "holiday movie" that people argue about every year: DIE HARD.

Now, I LOVE, love, love me some DIE HARD, but it is NOT a Christmas movie. It just isn't. You could set it at the 4th of July. It could be a retirement party. Maybe they closed a huge deal, but it doesn't have to be set at Christmas. It also came out in the summer, July 15th to be exact, not Christmas.


The setting worked brilliantly, but it's not a Christmas movie. Yippeekiyay! Sorry, John, you aren't in a Christmas movie.


On the other hand, ELF is a Christmas movie. It's literally a story about a Christmas Elf. Could Buddy have gone to New York in the summer? Of course, but this one is about a Christmas Elf who is looking for family and ultimately helps the city of New York reconnect with loved ones and find the Christmas spirit.




TV holiday movies should do the same.








Romance


A captivating love story is at the heart of every great TV Christmas movie. Develop endearing and relatable characters whose chemistry sizzles like chestnuts roasting on an open fire. From quirky meet-cutes to heartfelt confessions under the mistletoe, make sure that your holiday romance is filled with romance. It's a must, and as of 2024, the production companies who distribute these films are looking for MORE ROMANCE. I know this because I have talked to executives at these places, and that's what they want.


TV Christmas movies are NOT romantic comedies. They aren't. No matter how often people say they are, they aren't. See my blog about this HERE.


A strong television holiday romance is 90% romance and 10% comedy. Holiday romances are a subgenre of ROMANCE, whereas Rom-Coms are a subgenre of COMEDY, so the structure is very different. I have heard this many times from the producers who make these movies. ROMANCE IS ALWAYS FIRST.


Balancing Tropes and Originality


While holiday romances often have familiar tropes like the magic of the first snowfall or the transformative power of love, don't be afraid to add your unique twist to the story. Subvert expectations, introduce fresh plot elements, or create unconventional characters to keep your narrative engaging and unpredictable, yet they also must follow the formula-which is ever-changing.


Yeah, I know it's maddening, but it's not. Learn the nine-story act structure and what they want in all of those acts.


You can find this information in many places, but I recommend Story Summit's Holiday Extravaganza, which they hold every year in late fall, or Joany Kane's Christmas in July workshop run on Zoom through Story Summit.


Kate Wharton and Heather Hughes also have a great book on writing Cozy Christmas movies. You can grab your copy here. I also have inside information that they are working on a companion workbook to go with it. (I was part of the beta with two other holiday writers for that one last year).


Are you ready?? Christmas films are big right now. There is a bit of a lag because of the strikes in Hollywood in 2023, but it's picking back up, so if you love these films, now is a great time to pen your own.


I will add this: please do not write them because you want a way in. You really need to love them because otherwise, you will be putting out crap, you won't sell it for much, you'll be unhappy and it will spiral. That's just my advice.


So, get out your laptop, pour a hot cocoa, and create your holiday romance.


May your writing journey be merry and bright, filled with love, laughter, and the promise of happily ever afters under the mistletoe!


XO Steph

Find me on social @stephobourbon




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