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Things I have learned from Lifetime Movies 03/15/2010

Posted by allisole in Writing.

I love Lifetime movies.  Maybe I should be more embarrassed about this, but I just can’t help myself.  My favorites are the over the top ones, full of drama and over-acting.  There are message movies, where the messages are as subtle as anvils.  (Example: No One Would Tell, with DJ from Full House being abused and eventually murdered by the kid from Wonder Years.  I kid you not.  IT’S AWESOME).  There are secret life movies, where the wife/husband/whoever finds out that a someone they love has another family or faked their death ten years ago.  And there are the crazy people movies, where someone insane is doing things to bring down a family member/coworker/neighbor/whoever and no one knows.  Seriously, what’s not to love?

Now to justify this very guilty pleasure of mine, I’ve decided to write a list of things I’ve learned from these movies, in terms of what NOT to do when writing a story.

1) Don’t assume your audience is stupid.

You can be subtle.  If you have a message, or a theme, you want your audience to take away from your work, you don’t have to spell it out.  As much as I love No One Would Tell, even the title tells you the message: HELP YOUR FRIENDS IF SOMEONE IS BEATING THEM.  I mean, the unsubtly of it cracks me the hell up and is one of the reasons I love it so much.  Unless you want me to laugh at you too, don’t treat me like I’m an idiot.  This also goes for foreshadowing as well as messages.  No neon signs, please.  I’m slow, but not that slow.

2) Pacing is important.

For a lot of these movies, the first hour and forty-five minutes is all about so-and-so doing secretly bad things.  And then there are a crazy fifteen minutes where everything is revealed, someone is almost stabbed, and then the police come and it’s all over.  Build up is good, but the bigger the build up, the better the payoff should be.  It’s always disappointing when all this awesome build up leads to a rushed finale with more questions than answers.  Endings stay with people, it’s the last part of the story they take with them.  You don’t want to leave an audience with an unsatisfied taste in their mouth.

3) Don’t end a story where it should start.

A story shouldn’t be mostly back story.  If you’re showing the before and after of a life, you need the before, but it shouldn’t be most of your story.  In fact, it should be the smallest part.  That’s the boring part.  If all the excitement happens at the end, start the story there.  Then you can show the aftermath of what happens, which is way more interesting than seeing the perfect life that is about to be ruined.  If there is a twist at the end, don’t leave it there.  I want to know what happens AFTER I get to the twist.

4) Bad guys are better with motives beyond: ‘I’m just crazy/evil.’

Bad guys that are just evil/crazy are BORING.  Give them some humanity, make them real.  That’s scarier too.  Nobody is really pure evil.  They say Hitler liked dogs and didn’t eat meat.

I’m sure there are more things we can learn from Lifetime movies, but these are just a few I can think of off the top of my head.  Now go see if you can watch No One Would Tell.  You know you want to.



1. A Person You Know - 03/15/2010

Oh dude. You started a blog! Cool.

allisole - 03/16/2010

Um, yeah, and it’s so much harder than I thought it would be!

2. moonblade2005 - 03/15/2010

I’m glad that I’m not the only one that likes Lifetime movies.

3. allisole - 03/16/2010

Me too!

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