Writing Lessons from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Okay, I know I am late to the party, but I am a little obsessed with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend right now. Maybe a little more than obsessed. I am sure my best friend is sick of getting texts from me about how much I love a certain scene or idea in the show, and I am positive my dog is tired of my husband and I dancing around singing “Settle for Me.”

I thought it was a good idea to put my obsession to good use and figure out what about the writing of the show has me hooked. I have compiled a list of reasons why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is more addictive than crispy M&Ms or Beyonce music videos. 

1. Your Protagonist Doesn’t Have to be Likable…She Just Has to Be Relatable

Rebecca is not a nice person (despite her protestations otherwise). She is actually irritating as all get out. She moves across the country to follow her ex, even though he has a girlfriend. I am pretty sure that she violated some major Girl Code with that one. Yet I kept watching the show (even though I will admit that I did initially turn it off halfway through the first episode the first time I watched it). Why? She was interesting. I think she is interesting, because she is a character people can relate to. Everyone has a dark, selfish side. Characters we can relate to in some way (even horrible ways) are the ones that keep our attention.

I think there is enormous pressure in entertainment (books, movies, TV, etc.) for protagonists, especially women, to be sunshine and rainbows. Forget that. As long as she is interesting, people will keep watching.

Lesson for you: Instead of asking yourself if your character is likable, ask if she is relatable. I think that is what makes a character interesting.

2. Mix Genres

Why do I love the show so much? She has two songs per episode. Not just two songs, but songs simultaneously parodying a style of music and making of fun of something that happens in life. To return to “Settle for Me,” she is making fun of the concept of people settling for the wrong person AND Cole Porter music. 

Not only are the songs fun and hilarious, but they make the show really fresh. It is unexpected. I do not know of another show that uses parody songs woven into it to reflect the mind of the protagonist (if you know of another one, let me know, because I would LOVE to watch it). 

Lesson for you: Use a different genre in your writing. For example, write a blog in the form of a poem. If you are writing a novel, include a chapter that is in the style of a play. Mix it up. It will not only delight your readers, but it will stretch your writing abilities. 

3. Humor Comes from Honesty

Why is the show as funny as it is? It is an incredibly honest show. The show is not afraid to poke fun at jealousy, self-sabotaging, and the dreaded “nice guy syndrome.” I am laughing so hard at the jokes because there is a seed of truth to them.

Lesson for you: If you want to add humor to your writing, take some time to think about things that are true in your life. Keep a notebook with you, and every time something in your world strikes you as absurd, write it down.  Look over your notebook and find ways to incorporate those ideas into your writing. 

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Opinions

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend definitely has opinions on things. Very strong ones. The show is incredibly feminist, and it lampoons things like calling women crazy or feminine beauty standards. Part of the reason why I love the show is that I find myself nodding in agreement and saying, “Yes! Finally someone said it!”

Lesson for you: Take a stand on something. Don’t be afraid to let the world know your (very strong) opinions. It will make people sit up and listen. Nobody gets excited about wishy-washy writing. 

Do you like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? Let me know in the comments, so we can geek out about it together! 

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