We watched two of the infamous Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies. Despite their corniness, they managed to hold our attention. I can’t claim to have read too many romance novels, but from attending a few writing meetings and listening to some romance writers, they are very focused on their market and are worth your attention.
On the good side, the characters were attractive, the scenery was magnificent, and the “Christmas Spirit” came through, and they both had that universal characteristic of a romance, a happy ending.
On the bad side, they were corny, and very predictable. Both had the same basic structure despite a few differences. 1) Girl was having a difficult time finding romance. 2) A chance meeting with an ideal possible mate occurred. (Strangely, in both of the movies we watched, the meeting took place in an airport.) 3) Girl does not realize the mate is ideal and initially rejects the ideal male. 4) A “Christmas Miracle” occurs in which girl and ideal mate are reunited and are moving toward a happy ever after. These steps occur at almost the same time in each movie. I timed the “Christmas Miracle” to about 20 minutes remaining in a 2 hour movie including commercial breaks. A writing template incorporating a three-act structure was evident in each. In addition, I noticed no religious symbols of any sort, and the relationships were as chaste as a freshly fallen snow.
Are these examples of bad writing? Absolutely not. Both of these screenplays were produced and appeared on television to fairly large audiences. They provided an emotional experience to the audience as well as a lot of entertainment. The content would offend no one. They sold. I would be foolish to criticize them. I submit they are excellent examples of the three-act structure. They have a clear beginning, a clear middle, and a clear ending. They show the advantages of writing to a time-tested template. They won’t win any literature prizes, but they were commercial successes.
I recommend that any aspiring writer take a look at a few of these Hallmark Christmas movies. It would be difficult to find clearer, examples of the three-act structure. Unfortunately, this blog entry will probably be published shortly after Christmas, so the Hallmark Christmas movies will go into hiding until next year. My guess is that the Hallmark movies shown throughout the rest of the year will probably have the same exact structure. The Hallmark folks know their audience quite well.