Monday, December 3, 2012

A Hallmark Formula
I don't know about you, but I'm more of a 'movie' person than a 't.v' person. I love to sit back from the beginning and watch a story develop, climax, and come to a happily-ever-after end.
When my husband bought Direct TV for the first time a few months ago, he asked what top 3 channels I wanted to pick for me.
My answers?
1. BBC
2. History
3. Hallmark

When I watch a Hallmark movie, it's like reading the BEST LoveInspired novels out there. A Happily-Ever-After every time. And right now, with the Christmas season in full swing, it's Hallmark romances around the clock :-)

But what is it that makes Hallmark movies so popular, notable...and if you look at the fact that they have their own station and well over 100 movies...successful?
A good formula.

I know some people might think Hallmarks are sappy, overly emotional, and maybe pretty simplistic.

Sometimes, maybe they are.
But at the heart of Hallmark movies, is the EMOTIONAL drive and connection to the characters - which (as authors) is what we should be striving to create in our novels.

I don't watch Hallmarks to have my heart twisted until tears spring from my eyes, but I watch them for the simple pleasure of smiling at the end - of going on a journey. You know, like the Christmas commercials that are all sentimental, but you love watching them every year any way?

Hallmark movies are in many ways predictable, but that can also be one of the draws for them. We go in to 'feel good'. We're usually rewarded :-)

So let's get to the formula:
Hallmarks (especially the romantic ones) almost always provide 3 things:
1. A happily-ever-after
2. Character growth
3. Emotion

And like every story worth it's tale, hallmark movies provide moving conflict and resolution. The conflict sometimes spans deep issues, and sometimes it's simplistic misunderstandings.

But all of those aspects (except maybe the HEA) are what make a story work.

A solid character arc, conflict that moves the story along, and deepset emotions that help us identify with the characters are the perfect trio to storymaking.

Hallmark movies also follow the 3-act story structure really well  :-)

One of my favorite Hallmarks is The Magic of Ordinary Days. It's a sweet, WWII era novel about a 'fixed' marriage between a pregnant city- preacher's daughter and a tender-hearted farmer. Does it follow a formula?

1. City girl gets off the train and goes directly to marry quiet farmer and then moves out to his farm (which is MILES away from any town). Conflict? You betcha

2. City girl keeps writing the father of the child she's carrying, in the hopes he will come and sweep her off her feet again, while she tries to sort out life on the farm (she can't cook). Longing and emotional connection? While the farmer's tenderness and his desire to show her what love is, begins to widdle away at her doubts, conflict continues.
The back and forth of every story begins...should I keep writing my former lover? Shouldn't I? Should I trust my growing feelings for the farmer? Shouldn't I? Should I run away from this horrible mistake of a marriage? Shouldn't I?

3. The opportunity to leave and return to her former life presents itself. She is also given the opportunity to keep her newfound friend from making the same mistake with a rake as the city-girl had done.

Ending? She realizes how much the farmer really loves her just as they welcome their new baby into the world. :-) She's discovered what true love is and it's changed her into the person she's become.

Beautiful 3 act structure.

I just finished watching a Hallmark Christmas movie called A Princess for Christmas. Is it a little cheesy? Yep, sure is. Is it cute? Yep, sure is.
Does it follow the formula? Definitely.

1. A young woman, Jules, with guardianship of her neice and nephew loses her job. Already strapped for money, an opportunity arrives to spend Christmas with her wealthy brother-in-law's estranged father, the Duke of Castleberry Hall.

2. She is forced to 'walk through this first door' into Castleberry Hall because the grandfather was 'supposedly' ill and the Jules had no money to spend on her neice and nephew for Christmas anyway. The threesome arrive in Castleberry, only to find the grumpy grandfather doesn't want to celebrate Christmas and is even rude to his only surviving son. The son, Ashton, begins to take an interest in Jules and the kids, and the Duke's view of Christmas and life begins to soften. But....conflict comes in the form of Ashton's girlfriend and Jules' own low self-perception. The back and forth of the Act 2 goes into full swing...feelings evolving, doubts rising and falling...

3. Instead of running away from the Christmas Ball and her feelings for Ashton, a Christmas miracle brings her to the ball and into the arms of a waiting 'prince'.

Just curious - what are some of your favorite 'seasonal' Hallmark movies? I've listed a few below, not necessarily my favorites, but a few to get you started :-) What are some of the reasons you like (or dislike) Hallmark movies?

I just finished watching On the Second Day of Christmas (with Mark Ruffalo) and it's CUTE!

The Courageous Heart of Irene Sandler (tough one to watch...whew), A Dog Named Christmas, The most Wonderful Time of the Year, The Note, Holiday Engagement, A Christmas Kiss, The Christmas Card
Pepper D. Basham writes contemporary and historical romances set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. As a pastor's wife, mom of five, and speech-language pathologist, she clings to chocolate for her sweet-tooth, Jazz for her calm, humor for sanity, and Jesus for her...everything. She is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Mary Seymour Agency. You can find out more about Pepper at her website -

Blue Ridge Mountain Romance peppered with grace and humor.


Anonymous said...

I love "The Christmas Heart". And also "Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade" Those are my favorites!

Pepper said...

Oh my, I want to watch The Christmas Heart. I've seen previews and it looks wonderful! "Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade" was such a cute movie too.

Julie Steele said...

I loved Thanksgiving Parade and Magic of Ordinary Days. But I discovered The Christmas Suit about a toy executive who is "blessed" with looking like Santa to everyone else. His heart turns around.

Hero-centric stories seem to be fewer on Hallmark but when they do it right, it is excellent!

Off to find additional airings of The Christmas Heart!

Peace, Julie

Anonymous said...

A Dog Named Christmas was the cutest! We saw it for the first time last year. My little boy loves it!

Jill Weatherholt said...

The Hallmark Channel is at the top of my list, especially this time of year. You're exactly right, it's like reading a Love Inspired Novel! A Bride for Christmas had LI written all over it!

Pepper said...

I'm totally going to have to check out The Christmas Suit. not seen it before.
One of Debbie Macomber's books has been turns into a Hallmark Christmas move this year. Trading Christmas, i think is what it's called. I've only gotten to watch the first part of it, though

Pepper said...

Anonymous, I love having safe movies to watch with my whole family. That's one of the best things about Hallmark too

Pepper said...

A Bride for Christmas looks like it would be cute!
I watched How to Fall In Love last week and it was adorable :-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oh, I love The Magic of Ordinary Days! We just changed our Dish package so I could get the Hallmark Movie Channel and I'm loving it. I also love that I can watch some of the movies with my older daughter. She enjoys those, too!

Sherrinda said...

Alas, I don't have cable! I tried to look up some Hallmark movies on Netflix, but didn't find any. Sigh...some day I will have some fun channels to watch, for sure! :)

Lindsay Harrel said...

No cable here, so I don't really watch Hallmark movies, but I love a good romance like the next girl, even if it's a bit cheesy. ;)

Pepper said...

FYI Sherrinda and Lindsay,
I've watched quite a few of these on Youtube :-)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Pepper!

I love Hallmark movies, too. We only get them occasionally, but I try to watch them whenever I can.

There's always a good moral or lesson and of course the big sigh at the end!


Marilynn Byerly said...

I'm not a major fan of this channel, I prefer SyFy, BBCAmerica, and the Travel Channel, but any Hallmark movie involving golden retrievers or other cute animal is always a treat when I have a little time to watch a movie.

As to male-centric, Kevin Sorbo (HERCULES) has done several really nice Hallmark Christmas movies.

Jenna C. said...

I LOVE Hallmark! And I love both of those movies!! Awesome stuff! There's a movie I saw a few weeks ago called "A Smile As Big As the Moon" based on a true story. It was really touching. It was about this high school coach and special ed teacher who wants to prove that these special ed kids can do things and that you just need to be patient with them. He then enrolls them in space camp where their team work and abilities are tested. I really loved it! :)