She must be a high powered career woman
living in a major metropolitan area

She was born in a small town, but she must move to the big city to become some kind of journalist or own a bakery or work vaguely in fashion. Now, she’s a successful career girl striving to be the very best version of some generic profession that doesn’t need too much explanation for a general audience.

She must go home for Christmas
and throw that high powered career in the garbage

Sure, she gets great satisfaction from maintaining her independence, achieving her goals, and surrounding herself with people who challenge and inspire her, but it’s time for her to stop working and start living the Hallmark way. It’s time for her to go home for the holidays.

She has to have a serendipitous encounter
with a generically good-looking young man from her past

Once home, she will greet whichever of her parents is still living. She’s required to tragically miss at least one of them. Then she must bump into some guy she knew in high school. He knew her when was still young and carefree, before she’d had any meaningful life experiences and before her brain was even really finished developing. He knows the real her.

The family farm/business must be failing

Her one remaining parent or guardian must tell her that the family business is on the brink of financial ruin. What will the town do without her family’s farm/restaurant/dentist office? Go to another farm/restaurant/dentist office?! Not possible. She must fix it.

She needs to participate in a local holiday tradition

She must do that thing her town has done every year since its founding. The thing could potentially be a tree lighting ceremony, an ice skating rink for people who knew each other in high school, or a pie-making contest hosted by a charming old man who keeps asking her why she’s not married yet. This is when she sees the generically good-looking young man from her past again. He is probably named Curt and he looks like a potato in a Fair Isle sweater. They’re in love now.

She will ride a horse at least once

She knows how to do this even if she doesn’t. She also inexplicably owns riding pants and appropriate footwear in the correct sizes.

She must avoid all calls from her uptight city friends
and that annoying boss who is still paying her for some reason

She will throw her phone in the river. She can’t love both her job and Christmas.

The oversimplified plan she comes up with
to save the family farm/business must involve Curt

The actual plan is irrelevant — just make sure to build some sexual tension with Curt, her handsome potato man. She can invite him to help with the bake sale that’s going to save the family ranch/car dealership/laser spine surgery clinic and then accidentally touch his hand while reaching for a cookie cutter. Our target 30-to-55-year-old female audience will slide right off their couches.

The plan must fail and she must blame her strapping young potato

She will find some small shred of evidence pointing to Curt, which explains the bake sale’s failure. Then, she must jump to conclusions (i.e. I should never have believed in love!).

Any new plans to save the family business must
involve a call back to the aforementioned local holiday tradition

For example, it turns out the ornaments from the town square tree lighting are made of solid platinum and our protagonist’s great great great great great grandfather made them. She can sell them to save the family whatever. It’s a Christmas miracle!

She must make a public apology to her handsome potato

She must apologize to Curt whose only real crime is being unforgivably boring. She must say the words “Christmas spirit” at least twice and they must kiss even if it’s totally devoid of sexual chemistry.

She is required to wear a full-length gown to the Christmas ball

Her town may only have one stoplight, but it has at least ten formal occasions a year that require a ball gown.

She must find out she’s royalty

Her great great great great grandfather was also a king from a country no one has ever heard of. Wow.

She must abandon the entire successful life she’s built for herself
and make her life about Curt, the family farm/business, and her hometown
like a good God-fearing American woman

Time for her to throw that Master’s degree in the garbage. Curt T. Potatoman is her master now.

Be prepared to repeat again next year

If her story proves to be financially successful, there will be a sequel. It will center entirely around the pressures of planning a royal wedding and a few flimsy references to the first film. Women will hate themselves even more for watching it, and Hallmark will be one step closer to completing its ultimate goal of reminding women everywhere that the patriarchy lives within all of us. Merry Christmas, bitches.