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3 Things the Hallmark Movie Channel Got Wrong About Ghostwriting

3 Things the Hallmark Movie Channel Got Wrong About Ghostwriting

How ghostwriters are portrayed in movies can be misleading. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Hallmark holiday movies are sappy and formulaic, and we love them anyway. On Sunday, November 10, 2019 Hallmark premiered a new addition to the Hallmark Christmas movie line-up, titled “The Mistletoe Secret.” (If you don’t want any spoilers, you may want to stop reading right now.)

In this story, the protagonist, Aria, runs a diner in Midway, Utah, which has been struggling because tourists increasingly decide to spend time at the bigger ski resorts nearby. A hunk who quietly comes to town is Alex, long-time ghostwriter for Sterling Masters, the star of a TV travel show, “Masters of Travel.”

Chaos ensues when Sterling decides to experience first-hand all the charm that Midway has to offer.

It’s a fun movie and Hallmark fans will certainly enjoy it.

However, the movie’s producers seem to have a number of misconceptions about ghostwriters and ghostwriting that I feel compelled to point out and correct.

1. Ghostwriters don’t usually write whatever they want, without client input. A true professional ghostwriter relies on input and direction from their client when creating content in the client’s voice. They don’t go off on their own and craft material without the client’s involvement or approval, as Alex does in the movie.

For example, the fact that Sterling has no knowledge of what Alex wrote in an article about Midway he published under Sterling’s byline would be practically unheard of in real life, since a ghostwriter delivers a draft to the client and then the client, in this case Sterling, would choose what to do with it.

In most cases, the client indicates what they want the ghostwriter to write, or the client and ghostwriter brainstorm together what content would be most appropriate for the client to publish.

There are very few opportunities for a ghostwriter to go rogue and just start publishing pieces in their client’s name online without someone first approving it. That’s just not how the client-ghostwriter relationship works.

2. If there’s a confidentiality agreement, the ghostwriter can’t reveal their role – ever. When Alex arrives, he doesn’t tell anyone his role in “Masters of Travel” because he is prohibited from doing so. He’d be sued, as is mentioned early on. So he keeps quiet. However, when Sterling shows up unannounced, their professional relationship becomes harder to keep under wraps.

Alex makes up several stories to explain why he’s in Midway, what he’s writing, and how he knows Sterling (initially claiming he doesn’t), going to great lengths to hide his ghostwriter role. And that’s how it should be.

At the end, when he tells Aria that he should have told her up front that he was Sterling’s ghostwriter is where Hallmark gets it wrong.

Until and unless his client notifies him in writing that he is permitted to tell anyone his role, Alex can’t. Ever. Sure, Sterling may decide he doesn’t mind if others realize he has a ghostwriter, but the truth is that Alex needs that in writing. What if Sterling’s TV producers tell him Alex needs to stay behind the scenes? They could be the ones to sue Alex, even if Sterling thinks it’s no big deal.

3. Ghostwriters spend most of their days working on client assignments, not going on sleigh rides. Looking at how Alex spends his time, you would think that ghostwriting is 99 percent inspiration and 1 percent writing. And that’s where Hallmark gets it wrong.

Few professional ghostwriters that I know have time to sit all day drinking hot cocoa or eating pie or going on sleigh rides. I have to believe that even travel writers, who go on-site to check out a destination, spend time experiencing the area and then go back to their hotel rooms to create an article or craft a chapter of a travel guide.

Sure, ghostwriters take breaks, but during the work week, many of my colleagues are seated at their desks, or in front of their laptops at a table somewhere, writing.

And then in the evening, they are more likely to take a break, grab a hot beverage, and sit in a comfy chair to enjoy a Hallmark holiday classic.


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