5 Things I Learned about Telling a Story from T.V. Novellas

I know you’ve all heard of them, even if you haven’t actually WATCHED one. The only reason I have watched any is because my husband loves them. I cannot tell you how odd it is for my auto-mechanic man to be fascinated with sappy, melodramatic novellas.

Anyway, the Latino versions of soap operas have a lot in common with their English-language cousins. One big difference is that most T.V. novellas end after a certain period of time. They don’t run for season after season, just a finite number of episodes. So, it’s like watching a really long novel play out, rather than a never-ending book series *cough, V.C. Andrews, cough*

Anyway, since my hubby watches them, sometimes I get netted into the story – against my will, mind you – and I’ve picked up certain things about how to tell a story from them. Admittedly most of what I’ve learned is what NOT to do. But hey, useful is useful. Here we go!


1. Don’t make your characters inexplicably pathetic. We just finished one that featured not one, not two, not three, but FOUR incredibly pathetic characters who are all in love with someone who doesn’t love them in return. All four of these wimps get trampled on, dumped, rejected, used, and basically shit upon in a number of ways – despite the fact that they are incredibly good-looking and, usually, grossly wealthy. YET… yet, they remain steadfast in their devotion to horrible, blind, or outright stupid people. I’m all for loyalty, but casting your loyalty upon the shoulders of a loser makes you a loser too. Don’t make your characters losers. Even if they are villains, make them bad-ass villains. Or at least give us a quantifiable REASON for their pathetic behavior. Something we can understand.


2. Love triangles seriously need to go the way of the dodo, at least for a while. I think movies and books have glutted us on love triangles. And I say this, knowing I have created a love triangle of sorts in my own book In the Blood. I beg for leniency in this case, though, since the third (unwanted) person in the triangle is a villain and ends up doing terrible, terrible, terrible things. So there is no struggle for the middle person. She hates him start to finish. You might disagree with me on that point. But it’s my blog, so there.


3. Humanize your villain. T.V. novellas are rife with awful people. And you never really get WHY they are so awful. Sometimes you do understand, and hate them anyway. But most of the time you’re just given a one-dimensional villain who wreaks all sorts of havoc and heartbreak for no reason. I know some people will say, “But that’s real life too. You usually DON’T know a person’s story to explain why they are acting so hateful.” This is true, but, since they are real, flesh-and-blood people, I believe it is implied they have story. I guess in T.V. novellas, villains just “want to watch the world burn.”


4. Weeping should be used sparingly. For the love of all that is holy, do NOT have any one character weep more than twice a book or season. T.V. novella characters seem to all have sprinklers affixed to their faces – even the men. They are always weeping, crying out to God or the saints, having dreary soliloquies, or otherwise being maudlin drags. It’s especially annoying when it’s a little girl because the voice is so high and squeaky and just gets worse when she cries.


5. Every action/ word your character(s) takes/says should make sense/be justified. Honestly, if half the main characters in novellas I have seen lately were real people they would either be in mental institutions or prison. They are so outlandishly erratic in their behavior. You’ve got one guy stealing his lover’s baby, another talking smack to everyone who crosses her path, someone else grabbing his kids’ nanny and kissing her every episode after impregnating his coworker, people slapping each other left and right, sexual assault, elaborate set-ups to either cover up a crime or get someone into the sack. It’s madness! And yes, I understand these shows are SUPPOSED to be crazy and full of melodrama. I just don’t understand why people like it.

Anyway, that is my take on the modern T.V. novella. I won’t ever change my man’s mind about watching them but I suppose I will have to write it off as an object lesson. Check them out on hulu.com. There are tons on there. Happy watching, and crying,a and weeping, and plotting, and seducing 🙂

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