When I began writing romance novels, I had no idea what I was doing, having not spent any time studying the genre. Now, however, with a lot of words spilled from my fingers, I know what I like to write, what type of characters I prefer, and the storylines that are most meaningful to me. That said, every now and then, I learn something from somebody else’s work and it expands my horizons.
This year after watching several Hallmark movies, I began to see a trend in storylines, and it set me to thinking. People poke fun at cheesy romance (myself included), but let’s all look at this with our eyes wide open. These movies are incredibly successful. They have an entire channel all to themselves, after all. Considering that, I have to ask, “What keeps viewers watching?” and “How can I apply it to my craft?”
For this reason, I made a list and discovered a number of factors inherent in almost every one:
A well-defined setting; Two contrasting lifestyles; A big secret that might break the couple apart; A wise sub-character to set them straight; An unusual situation which forces the characters to spend an inordinate amount of time together.
Beneath these are smaller elements, almost consistently portrayed:
The passing of a relative changed one of the characters’ lives; A current relationship has gone stale (the love triangle element); A cute, younger kid has surprisingly witty banter (entertainment element); A focus on family activities.
To this list I’ll add, the slow realization on both sides that the couple cares for each other, the kiss always comes at the very end and here’s the kicker – all of these cause the viewer to overlook the fact the storyline spans only seven days.
That particular fact struck me the hardest because I have books where the couple falls in love in seven days, and I’ve had people call me out on it. So okay, it’s not likely in real life, but I’m not aiming for real life. I’m aiming for Hallmark, and they do it consistently. Really, it’s good writing. The viewer is too caught up in the characters’ lives to notice it hasn’t been very long.
It’s also the result of balance. The viewer knows there’ll be a break-up, knows she’s going to run off crying, telling herself the relationship won’t work. Yet all the smaller elements – the cute kid, the wise sub-character, the loving, family activities – work in their psyche to bring the couple back together for that amazing, totally-expected lip lock, you, the viewer, simply has to see.
Voila, happy ending and an entire channel for housewives everywhere to drive their husbands nuts over.
As a writer, it’s inspiring. I tell myself, “I can do this.” My characters could meet in a hot air balloon then spend days together in the forest being chased by gun runners. Or in a flower shop, only she’s engaged to another man, exhibiting strange behavior. Or, he’s a glassmaker sent to a strange, dark house where things go bump in the night and she knows about his missing father. Anything’s possible! Then, after days together in a high-pressure situation, they realize there are feelings there, and despite the odds, faith in God is enough to keep them together so that at the crest of the story, when they’re miles apart, love conquers all. Insert kiss.
It all boils down to daydreams. Though the movies are repetitious (after all, I just made a list delineating the plotline), they appeal to the girlish fantasies in our head. They keep us believing in good things, in happiness, and joy. For two hours, they take us away from the trouble at work, the tension of the holidays, the things on the news. As a writer, if my books can help readers do that, I’m incredibly successful, no matter how cheesy the method I used to get there.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R693TX8
In association with The Edge Books
The best man she’d ever met, and he believed he was the worst. Barrett and Melanie dead, but the driver that killed them living. A small house holding four lives, yet two in it standing miles apart. One with a gun in his hand, the barrel pointed at his heart.
When Alabama McCall bought a ranch, she had no idea what she was in for. The barn is full of swallows, the bunk house crumbling, a mile of fencing down, and her driveway washed in. What she needs is someone to help her out around the place.
Yet handsome cowboy, Gray Sterret, comes with a load of secrets and the self-destructive idea that he deserves what he gets. For every bad action he’s made, he’ll reap ten in return, and no one can fix him.
Not two little girls struck by sudden tragedy. Not the beautiful woman with the key to his heart.
A raw, faith-searching story of inward struggle by best-selling author, co-creator of THE EDGE, SUZANNE D. WILLIAMS.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Best-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE.
To learn more about what she’s doing and check out her extensive catalog of stories, visit http://suzanne-williams-photography.blogspot.com/ or link with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/suzannedwilliamsauthor.