by Harlequin Heartwarming Editor Adrienne Macintosh
It’s the start of a new season here in Toronto. The leaves have already started to turn color and drop to the ground. My neighbors have put out their pumpkins and scarecrows and skeletons. And I’ve taken the fall jackets out of storage (aka the back of the closet 😉).
I’ve always looked forward to the different traditions in each of the seasons. And this is one of the things I love about working on Harlequin Heartwarming books. Supporting the sweet romance of the hero and heroine is a community full of their own unique traditions. And, at 70,000 words, the stories are long enough that the author can really flesh out these situations.
I often encourage authors to include community traditions in their stories. Things like fall or harvest festivals, Christmas activities, New Year’s celebrations, Valentine’s dances, spring flings, Fourth of July/Canada Day, as well as celebrations unique to the town or the characters’ families.
I suggest this not just because I enjoy a good festival—though I do 😉! These events can be helpful to the author in a lot of ways, including:
Providing a selling hook: Readers often search for stories set in particular seasons, and including keywords such as Christmas, Valentine’s, etc., in your manuscript can help the reader find your book.
Providing structure to the story, giving you a tangible anchor for the plot: This can be particularly helpful in a longer story where you might get lost in the middle, or in stories that take place over a long period of time.
Raising the stakes: Traditions have weight, and you can use this to really turn the gears for your poor characters!
Providing an introduction to secondary characters: Nothing gives a beloved secondary character a place to shine like a festival or family dinner!
Showcasing a setting or story theme: A rodeo, for example, can help you explore Western traditions or themes unique to cowboys.
They’re fun! The essence of Harlequin Heartwarming is right in its name—the stories make readers feel like they’re being wrapped in a warm, cozy blanket. And a familiar event like a Christmas fair can help maintain that feeling even while the characters struggle on their path to a happy ending.
An event may not appropriate for every story, and that’s okay too. But if you’re considering writing a Heartwarming romance and you’ve run into a writing wall, try thinking about the community around your characters and what traditions are unique to them.
Happy writing! I’m going to go drink my PSL 😊…