Bang2writers often ask me which genre is the “hardest” (fnar) and I have to say that the different genres have their own, very specific challenges.
That said, in my experience there *is* ONE genre that consistently turns up as the worst in the spec pile, plus it can have even the most hardcore of professional scribes sobbing into their screenwriting software. And it’s probably NOT the one you think, either. That’s right — it’s the Romantic Comedy!! Here’s how …
1) No Romance
WTF? I know right — yet it’s true, there’s a helluva lot of Rom-Coms in the spec pile that have NO ROMANCE in them. Yet the whole point of a Rom Com is “boy meets girl” or a variation on this! MORE: How to Write A Romantic Comedy
2) No Comedy
Again, what the hell, scribes! Love stories are great, but if there’s no actual Com?? Then it’s just a Rom. Jeez Louise! MORE: Welcome To Rom Com Hell
3) Endless quips & witticisms
We all have our favourite lines from Rom Coms – some of them great, some of them terrible, some of them in-between. And yes, dialogue IS especially important when it comes to being funny. But NEWSFLASH: strings of funny lines, quips and witticisms do NOT stand in for character and story in your spec screenplay. Sorry! (Not sorry). MORE: 5 Important Elements Of Writing A Romantic Comedy
4) Cardboard Cut Out Characters
Perhaps because Rom Coms are “boy meets girl” (or a variation of this), then character role functions are more obvious, ie. “The Best Friend/Mentor”. If I read just ONE MORE “wise gay guy”, I’m gonna SCREAM. Similarly, if you write an evil love rival who tortures puppies or hits homeless people? I’m gonna gut you like a fish. Don’t say you’ve haven’t been warned, biatches. MORE: 6 Stock Characters That Need Retiring By Writers NOW
5) Cheesy cliché scenarios
When it comes to Rom Com, there are certain things audiences EXPECT of the genre and one of them is a “last minute realisation” and/or “trying to get the other one back”. This is what your audience WANTS and not giving it to them is a MISTAKE. So in produced Rom Coms there have been lots of last minute dashes to airports, train stations, churches and whatever elses BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. However you do it is fine – as long as it’s not copying countless others that have gone before. Take that scenario and TWIST IT. MORE: All About Audience: Who Is Your Script FOR?
6) Outdated or generalised gender roles
There are two Rom Com characters I read, over and over and OVER again:
i) Vain or bitchy woman has to realise there’s more to life than how she looks and/or work (sometimes both)
ii) Dozy bloke who lives like an overgrown student has to grow up
Look, there’s nothing inherently *wrong* with either role function here, but DO know this: they feel rather stale, because they are EVERYWHERE. What’s more they are usually heteronormative – women are “this way”, men are “that way” and by the way everyone is in a STRAIGHT, monogamous relationship. Le yawn!
Human beings prize novelty. Give us a NEW look at a *type* of character and suddenly you’re in with MUCH more of a chance of standing out in that gigantic pile! MORE: The 1 Gender Swap That Could Make ALL THE DIFFERENCE In Your Story
7) Cynicism or Preachiness
Real life relationships are hard work, plus we often see highly romanticised (ahem) versions of them on screen. This has lead to a number of Rom Coms recently that have tried to paint them more realistically, such as in CRAZY, STUPID LOVE or FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS. We’ve even seen the rise of what some call the “Anti Rom Com” such as 500 DAYS OF SUMMER.
However, cynicism and preachiness simply don’t work as standard in the Romantic Comedy. We don’t want to be educated, especially by bitter scribes who hate their ex spouses. If the latter is you, write a devastating drama instead please like BLUE VALENTINE! MORE: A Case Study On Drama Screenplays And Loglines
This is the thing. Rom Coms might be “boy meets girl” (or whatever), but that should INEVITABLE, not predictable!
There are all sorts of devices at your disposal to ensure you can keep your story fresh, not least of all structure. Rom Com structure (usually) goes **something** like this:
i) Act One – Boy Meets Girl (or a variation of this)
ii) Act Two, part 1 – they get together and it goes well
iii) Midpoint – SOMETHING THREATENS THEIR HAPPINESS
IV) Act Two, part 2 – everything is blown apart *for some reason*
v) Act Three – they find their way back to each other. YAY!
Now obviously that’s the simple version … But you have to remember that structure is NOT a formula, it’s a framework!!
Build and subvert whatever you like, maybe via concept, characters, re-structuring, and/or by using reversals? BUT KNOW THIS: no writing by numbers. This is genre. You still have to deliver what we EXPECT, but in a SURPRISING way. And YES, it is possible. Others have done it. So how are YOU going to do it?? MORE: Top 6 Reversals In Movies
Also in this series:
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