What I Learned From Hallmark Movies, Part 2

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by Suzanne D. Williams

I addressed this issue before, but have a different twist on it this time. Maybe it’s my need to make people smile kicking in. In any case, in Part One, I gave a number of standards that make these movies work:

“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.”

All still true. Yet, taking a seat from a different perspective, I see several other useful writing tips:

You can name any small town by choosing a tree species and adding -vale or –ville. Cedarvale, Willowvale, Pineville. You get the idea. And small towns have one bright, sunny main street, a lovely pond or lake somewhere with a dock, and a succession of sub-characters who know the main couple is in love way before they do.

An inn/farm/family restaurant is the ideal place to work. Suzy is going home to help her dad or mom who has decided to retire or has developed a sudden minor health problem. They will have a week where they are stubborn and immobile and push their child to work for them and thus find themselves. Suzy is suddenly an expert pie baker, producing award-winning crusts.

And speaking of winning …

Winning the contest at the local spring/summer/harvest festival is a great way for characters to fall in love. All characters must be either competitive or gullible and swayed to be competitive. They will beat out any other competition no matter how inept they actually are and thereby realize they like an inordinate about of public attention. In short, there is no such thing as a bookish-introverted main character like me who’d run if they were put in front of a crowd.

Always insert an adorable outgoing son or daughter. One main character must be a single parent with fond memories of their ex or a good relationship with him/her. It is best if the child be the opposite gender. Dad-daughter. Mom-son. The child is also very perceptive, choosing their new parent way before dumb ol’ dad or mom can see how stupid they are.

The boyfriend your female main character will dump should be clueless about how out-of-sync he is. And probably the guy I’ve named Mr. Puffy Cheeks. I like him as the dumb boyfriend. He’s slightly pushy, too career-minded, and has no idea how a woman thinks. On the other hand, blond-cutie-new-boyfriend slash guy-she’s-known-for-years is compassionate, thoughtful, generous, and talented. He’ll bow out of her life before he’ll see her hurt by anything he’s caused.

Which brings me to my final thought.

The new boyfriend struggles at his career. Or has no career at all. I’m not sure what the guy did in the last Hallmark I watched, but frankly, I didn’t care. He fit all the parameters for swoonability – winning smile, old truck, looks good in blue jeans. I do seem to remember he repaired the dishwasher. But don’t all good men do that?

In all seriousness, though these thoughts are meant to amuse, they teach us two things. One, that too much of the same thing can become annoying. Two, that too much of the same thing, the fact I can expect him to act a certain way and her to react accordingly, makes readers feel safe. This is why we watch reruns on TV. We know what to expect and can set our fears aside (and in my case, let my attention wander. I know how it’ll turn out, after all.)

There is something important to be said for that in reader’s minds. But also for being a good enough writer I can put my own spin on familiar tropes and still have readers come away satisfied. I think it takes a dash of both for a book to find success. It’s balancing the same-old-same-old against a creative mind and finding enough magic to bring readers back again and again.

You never know … if you can pull that off, you might just find yourself on Hallmark.

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About The Author:

Suzanne D WilliamsBest-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 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 www.feelgoodromance.com or link with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/suzannedwilliamsauthor or on Twitter at twitter.com/SDWAuthor 

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