Writing Challenge: Culture Clash

by Evan Yeong

Those of you who tuned in two days ago know that five Harlequin Historical authors took time off from promoting and writing their impending Sons of Sigurd miniseries and shared a little bit about what draws them to the Viking genre. There was a broad range of different reasons, from the era being a fantastic parallel to our own to the fact that this was a time of great technological leaps and bounds. 

What I want to focus on, however, is what Michelle Willingham had to say about the contrast between a “raw, masculine alpha male” and the heroine who’s more than a match for him. A hallmark of Viking romances is having one of these seasoned, seafaring warriors paired with someone who is their opposite, often a lady or member of nobility. 

The very best of these go beyond the surface-level differences and delve into what makes the hero and heroine’s respective cultures distinct. Maybe he is shocked by how women are considered in Saxon or Irish society, or she elaborates on how a leader is traditionally placed in a position of power. There’s so much more to these books than a burly raider hefting an axe opposite a maiden in fancy dress.

For this week’s writing challenge I’m asking you to write another Historical scene (with the same upper limit of the early 1900s as last time). Taking a page from the Viking genre, in 400 words or less you need to write a romantic scene where the two leads are from vastly different cultures.

It should go without saying that Vikings are off the table. As an additional stipulation, no royalty or nobility. That means I don’t want to see any duchesses, khans, queens, Caesars, sultanas, pharaohs, or any kind of lord or lady. Yes, culture clash can and often does include a wide gap in social and economic class, but in this case that’s not an available option.

I encourage writers to think beyond the concept of race for this prompt! In our modern age most would consider someone from Denmark to be the same ethnicity as a person from the United Kingdom, so skin colour isn’t the sole deciding factor.

Submissions are due on 11:59 PM EST on February 23rd, Sunday. Just like with the last challenge, all eligible submissions will be receive feedback from a Harlequin editor!

Finally, if you’re looking for inspiration, Andree Cusson wrote a submission for the last Writing Challenge that presented a novel take on a couple from two vastly different worlds.

UPDATE: Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to one of the 24 eligible submissions we received over the past weekend! The rest of the editors and I will be hard at work reading them and giving feedback, and you should receive yours no later than this Wednesday (February 26th).

Having skimmed through them let me just say how excited I am to once again dive into your work, especially at how you’ve each approached this particular prompt!