Christmas movies

What Hallmark Christmas Movies Taught Me about Creating Characters

 December 12, 2018

As part of NaNoWriMo this year, I spent five days writing at a friend’s house in Pentwater, Michigan. I find the change of space and place essential to clear my head and help me focus. After this time I can usually continue what I started with a renewed energy when I return home. While there I indulged myself in watching Hallmark Christmas Movies on the Hallmark Channel (a channel I don’t have at home). It helped me get in the mood for the Christmas scenes in my novel.

Hallmark Christmas Movies

I like watching Hallmark Christmas Movies. Yes, they are cheesy and predictable, but they are also mindless feel-good stories that include Christmas music, decorations and beautiful Christmas scenery. What’s not to like?

What’s even more, the male characters always say and do the right thing. They are caring and open to extravagant romantic gestures. Winter sleigh rides or horse-drawn buggy rides down snow-covered streets, homes filled with Christmas decorations. They go even go Christmas shopping, if only for a tree, and shower thoughtful gifts sure to melt any gal’s heart, and of course, a ring. What woman could resist that?

Yes, there is conflict and miscommunication that leaves you wondering how this coupled will ever make it or there wouldn’t be a story. But you know they will end up together by the end of the movie, Christmas will win out over commercialism and Scrooge will be converted by Christmas magic. The only question is how this will happen.

Watching Them with my Husband

When on local stations during the holidays, sometimes my husband will watch them with me. His preference is for fist fights, especially if they include karate. If I had to guess his favorite movie, it would be “Blood Sport,” a Jean-Claude Van Damme classic involving a fight scene that goes on, and on, and on. If I had to pick a favorite movie, it would be “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the classic Christmas movie. I can tolerate fight scenes if there is a decent plot and interesting characters but find them boring if they go on too long. Hence, we often have difficulty agreeing on what to watch.

As we sit in our respective spots on the couch and watch Hallmark Christmas Movies, now and then I hear my husband groan, especially at some of the dialogue. It occurred to me that the male characters were written to please the female viewers and didn’t necessarily have much in common with real life men. We want men that will go shopping with us, who are in touch with their feeling and willing to talk about them, or as Mike Baxter/Tim Allen would say on “Last Man Standing,” (another TV show I watch while at Pentwater on CMT) we want men who are women.

Now I know this is stereotyping. There are men who will talk about feelings and know how to say the right thing at the right time, it just seems to me those men are in the minority.

How this Helped Me with Male Characters

I thought about this while working on my latest novel. It occurred to me that if I weren’t careful, my male characters could easily turn into Hallmark Christmas Movie men. They say what I want them to say, not what most men would say.

So I’ve been watching for this as I write. I struggle with writing male characters. I find writing female characters so much easier. After all, I am one. I want male characters that are strong and believable, not women dressed in men’s clothing. Hallmark Christmas Movies show me how not to do this!

What about you? How do the movies and TV shows you watch help you with your writing?

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