Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writing Tips - The Appeal of Romantic Comedy

Some of the traits that draw me toward someone are their laugh, their smile, and their sense of humor. For me, that's the appeal of romantic comedy – watching a couple confront their conflicts equipped with a light-hearted disposition.  So, what are some of the themes that make a romantic comedy work?


Fish Out of Water
This is where you take the hero/heroine out of their element and put them in a completely different situation. For example, bring in a "big city" TV reporter to run a small town TV station, or a "big city" cop to be the small town police chief. They're both out of their element. The big city reporter could be attracted to the local fire chief who is a local boy. Or the new police chief from the big city might find himself attracted to the quirky girl next door who teaches at the local school and makes homemade soap on the side.

TIP: What amps up the comedy? Have your characters overreact to the situations they find themselves in.

Nothing brings out a laugh like a little well- meaning deception. Our hero/heroine is pretending to be something they're not – lying about their job, their feelings or their intentions because they think they might not be good enough for the other person.

Examples: Tess in Working Girl or Fiona in Shrek or Michael in Tootsie.

TIP: Deception helps builds conflict – interior as well as external and conflict is what the characters need to change and grow. Example: Sandra Bullock's character in "While You Were Sleeping."

Think Cinderella with a chuckle. The handsome prince or billionaire sweeps our heroine off her feet only our heroine might be a call girl (think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman) or a chauffeur's daughter (think Julia Ormond in Sabrina) or Princess Fiona in Shrek.

What makes a romantic comedy resonate?

Ultimately, there's something that terrifies the hero/heroine emotionally. It could be commitment, security, image, or not being good enough, attractive enough, or competent enough. That's inner conflict, and most readers can sympathize with all those elements. The other half of the romance helps them face that fear and overcome it with a little comedy – the tool that infuses their inner strength and courage.

Question:  What's Your all-time favorite romantic comedy?
When Harry met Sally
Pretty Woman
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Working Girl
Other – (say what it is)

I'd love to hear your thoughts about writing romantic comedy.


  1. I love romantic comedies!! "While You Were Sleeping" is my all-time favorite. I also own all of those movies you listed, as well as "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," "Notting Hill," "Two Weeks Notice," and I could go on and on I suppose.

    I don't write the genre, though. I do like to add humor to my paranormal romances, but I'm not sure I could do flat-out comedy. There's this fine line between funny and silly and is easily crossed.

  2. I liked "You Have Mail." I'm not sure if Mama Mia or "A Good Year" can be classfied as romantic comedy, but they are two of my favorites.

  3. For romantic comedies, I don't think you can do better than the old Doris Day-Rock Hudson films from way back when. Pillow Talk is hilarious. It's as much fun to watch now as ever.

  4. I love romantic comedies. There is something about the humor that makes me happy! My favorite romantic comedy, if you can call it that, is Valley Girl. Yep, I'm an 80's girl and this one really is a Romeo and Juliet story. :)

  5. My all time favorite comedy is Something's Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. They were both amazing. Most of my novels are romantic comedies, especially the latest one, Mother's Day Babies, with two scenes that will make you laugh out loud.

  6. Great post. I love your movie examples, but my fav is Romancing the Stone. Classic romantic comedy.

  7. Great post! You made some excellent points. For anyone who writes comedy, they should drink this blog in.

    By the way Big Fat Greek Wedding will always be my favorite. To me it is the perfect romantic movie!

  8. My favorites would be: While You Were Sleeping; Fools Rush In; You've Got Mail; Sabrina; and Roman Holiday; Return To Me; The American President; 10 Things I Hate About You; Singin' In The Rain; and Definitely, Maybe.

    A couple of those tend more toward the comedy than the romance, but I'm counting them anyway.

    Looking at my list, I think I need to watch more classics.

  9. I'm not old enough to remember Clark Gable, but since I found him on Turner Classics a few years ago, I try to catch all his movies. Most of which are romantic comedies. My favorite (and it's a must-see) is "It Happened One Night" (Clark Gable and Colleen Corbett, 1934) I laughed all the way through.

    Also, Cary Grant can tickle my funny bone. "Bringing Up Baby," That was released in the 30s also.

    I agree with Christina. The Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies are hilarious. And don't forget the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis shenanigans.

    I love to put comedy in my writing, also. Clumsy scenes, wisecracks that have wittier retort, etc.

    Thank you for posting this, Steph. I like to laugh. "Laughter does good like a medicine." I believe it. That's found somewhere in Proverbs.