A Romance Writer’s Guide to Creating Hallmark-Movie Moments in the Friendly City

A warning to guys: Valentine’s Day is Thursday. You’re welcome.

There’s still plenty of time to get that dozen red roses, sparkly jewelry or chocolate. You have literally days to plan for a dinner out or a concert here or there. Or, should you choose to really up your game, there’s also time to binge watch Hallmark Channel romances in search of even better ideas.

Why would a guy do such a thing? A lot of women, by which I mean A LOT, watch these stories. That kind of following suggests that, should you pull off a Hallmark-worthy moment this Feb. 14, your wife or girlfriend may smile for days.

Intrigued? Read on.


Why are Hallmark Channel romances so, well, binge-worthy? It’s all about the quirk.

It’s true. Most of the characters in such romances don’t even know they’re “dating” until the end of the story. They’re simply together for some reason, usually one that has them at odds. So, stereotypical symbols of romance won’t work.

Instead of a dozen roses from a florist, a Hallmark moment is more likely to involve what’s at hand. If the characters are on a bike ride, there might be a single, trailside daisy, for example. Instead of a fancy box of chocolates, there might be a Hershey bar shared on a park bench. Or, one character cooks dinner for the other, simply because they are together and it’s time for a meal.

And, whatever the symbols of affection, they’re somehow shared in a way so quirky it leans toward awkward. The daisy he’s trying to tuck into her hair winds up poking her in the eye. The chocolate is smeared across a cheek all afternoon. The meal has a weird mishap — a ring lost in the stuffing, the entire contents of the spice canister dumped into the soup while a character ponders, “Am I actually falling in love with this person?”

It doesn’t always have to be roses.

How do you mirror that simplicity of sentiment in real Wheeling life? Track down her favorite flowers in her favorite color instead of all red, all roses, all the time. Deliver them yourself.

Was your first date a DiCarlo’s pizza after a football game? Have the same meal for dinner and jot down a few memories from that evening in a card.

Did you meet at a blues concert on the riverfront? Go there together — even if it’s raining, perhaps especially if it’s raining — take a selfie and post it.


If the symbols are quirky, Hallmark conversation is downright dorky. Not in a bad-writing way. In a we-all-know-this-is-what-real-life-is-like kind of way.

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The characters never spout anything remotely romantic, let alone cool. Instead, they say something like: “You look pretty. I mean your clothes look good, not like you at all.”

Or, “Your shoes are so white in the moonlight.”

Or, “You can eat more than any other woman I know.”

Yep. Not going to find any of those lines inside a Valentine’s card. But, in the Hallmark movie, they totally work. Ironically, they work not because they are the stuff of fantasy, but because they feel delightfully real.

Bringing it to real-life Wheeling, lighten up on the “romance.” Text her five reasons that you love her at random times on the big day. (Remember, we’re talking about Valentine’s Day — as in this Thursday. Again, you’re welcome.)

Or, at least say such things. You don’t have to channel Keats, just offer something that you really feel


As Hallmark romance dialogue and symbols of affection mirror real human frailties, so does the setting. Probably not the actual place, which is usually somewhere most people would like to vacation as there is an element of escapism in this kind of fiction. I’m talking about the setting for actual “dates.”

Don’t forget the napkins!

There might be a restaurant scene or two thrown into some stories, but characters are generally just together in a natural way. They’re at home, on a walk, at a workplace, shopping for gargantuan amounts of supplies for a community event, waiting together at urgent care. Nothing is overly planned, if it is even planned an’t fort all.

While this is not an excuse to be cheap or, worse, to do nothing, it’s an idea worth thinking about it. What would make a more lasting impression on your beloved — dinner at a nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day itself or watching the sun slip behind the Ohio River from the top floor of a downtown parking garage on a random Monday evening?

If you attempt the latter, add a Thermos of hot chocolate you happen to have tucked into the backseat to the mix, and you are golden.

Just don’t forget to have plenty of fast food napkins stored in the glove compartment. Hey, it’s a Hallmark movie moment and you’ll be pouring hot liquids in the confines of a vehicle while wearing a coat. You know you’ll need them.

Nora Edinger writes from Wheeling, W.Va., where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household. A long-time journalist, she now writes in a variety of print and e-venues, including her JOY Journal blog at noraedinger.com. Her first work of fiction, a Christian beach read called “Dune Girl,” is available on Amazon Kindle.