For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
    So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.
    ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Write a Good Romantic Comedy

Welcome to Day Four of Harlequin Love Inspired & Heartsong Presents Authors' Community Picnic!

WhenHarryMetSallyPoster.jpgVoting has been held since Monday on what movie the community will "watch" together tonight. So many good romantic comedies to choose from. But also so many bad romantic comedies to choose from. According to Entertainment Weekly, for every ONE good romantic comedy there are a DOZEN bad ones. For every When Harry Met Sally, we get Fool's Gold or The Ugly Truth.

Why is that?

I'll give you four reasons:
Chemistry / Chicks / Cliches / Confrontation.

"The romantic comedy is like a  soufflĂ©," says Denise Di Novi, producer of Crazy, Stupid, Love. "They can just drop in one second if even one thing is wrong."
Cheese Souffle
Click for Alton Brown's souffle recipe

When two actors are so good together, you just believe the romance is real. Sadly, predicting which actors will have chemistry on screen is about as easy as hitting jackpot on a slot machine. Two equally gorgeous leads isn't enough. Would you have ever guessed Jennifer Lopez would have better chemistry with Ralph Fiennes (Maid in Manhattan) but not with her beau-at-the-time Ben Afflect (Gigli)? So why do we see some of the same actors in the most popular rom-coms?
"There are some actors that have chemistry with anybody," says Denise Di Novi. "[Emma Stone]'s just one of those people. They just vibrate on a different RPM level. She'd have chemistry with a lamppost."

Ahh, the dreaded "chick flick." You know, that movie men will only gladly go see on Valentine's Day.
Few men of the acting profession want to be stigmatized as a Romantic Comedy Guy. Hugh Grant is the quintessential Rom-Com Guy. Not to mention, being the love interest in a Rom-Com means the actor willingly accepts that he is a supporting character to the female lead.

Judd Apatow is one of the few directors/producers who has figured out how to disguise romantic comedies in a manner that will lure men and women to the theater: Knocked Up, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and Bridesmaids. Three different stories that at their core is ... yep, a boy and a girl falling in love.


Cliches. We don't like them in movies anymore than in books. Yet time and time again, Hollywood relies on The Big Misunderstanding for the purpose of a dramatic final act where the boy can chase the girl (often to the airport) so he can explain that it's all been a ... yep, Big Misunderstanding in which the girl forgives so they can have their HEA kiss. Cue music.

So why do romances rely on a Big Misunderstanding to break the leads apart? Because the solution is E.A.S.Y. With romances, we know the ending--Boy wins back Girl and they lived happily ever after. Aren't you tired of stories where one lead pretends to be something s/he is not, doesn't confess to love interest even though s/he has no reason not to, and then finally when all is lost the lead decides to fess up and tell the truth?

Why do some authors and screenwriters continue to rely on contrivances and cliches?


How do you find something authentic? Borrow from your own life.

Coscreenwriter Scott Neustadter said (500) Days of Summer was based on a real relationship. The humiliating and hilarious scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where (screenwriter and protagonist) Jason Segel gets dumped while he's nude came straight from the actor's real life. Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, and Nora Ephron talking to each other about their personal relationships resulted in what we now know as When Harry Met Sally.

Good rom-coms draw us when they grapple with questions relevant to our lives. How does love function in a long-distance relationship? How do you make someone fall in love with you every day? How do I not miss out on love this time? How do I enjoy being in love instead of seeing it as a malady?

Bad rom-coms ... well, they look like Fool's Gold, a romance lacking chemistry and honest emotion while filled with contrivances and cliches.


In the rom-com Friends with Benefits, Mila Kunis's lovelorn character walks with her friend past a poster for The Ugly Truth. She says, "I've got to stop buying into this Hollywood cliche of true love."

The Sick Fantasy is the lie authors and screenwriters perpetuate--No matter what's wrong with your life, the solution is a guy who can kiss your problems away (and who just may be the jerk you hate).
"I think women kind of resent being sold a bill of goods that your life can be perfect, you just need to find your soul mate," says Denise Di Novi, producer of Crazy, Stupid, Love. "A lot of suffering has come from that."
No one remembers anything significant about Rumor Has It because it's the typical uninspiring, generic, cliched romance. But one like Crazy, Stupid, Love makes us laugh and cry and smile because . . .


We remember the romances that teach us something about a subject (love) we all think we're experts on. Why?
  • Everyone has fallen in love.
  • Everyone has had some kind of heartbreak.
  • Everyone remembers what s/he relates to. 
Whether we watch, read, or write romances, they are our stories.

What's your favorite Romantic Comedy?

LIHp January 2014
Each day this week, during the picnic, I will give away one copy of The Heiress's Courtship. Leave a comment and your contact information [yourname(at)addy(dot)com]. Contest runs June 9-15. Drawing held on June 16th and winners will be notified.

To learn more about my books, including my next Heartsong release The Marshal's Pursuit, visit my website:

Join the Harlequin LI/HP Community Picnic!

Janet Tronstad's writing challenge begins (goes all week)

If you've never been in the community before, or it's been a while, here are a few quick tips to get you going. You will not be allowed to post unless you're logged in as a member. Registration is free and easy.  Go to the link below and sign up:

Discussions are open to anyone at any time. Jump in to anything that looks interesting to you. Or, you can visit a couple of recommended discussions:
Writing Inspirational Romance:
Inspirational Romance Readers:


  1. I think this looks like a great book. Tweeting about it now! :D

  2. Oh, favorite romantic comedy is Midnight with Claudette Colbert. Yes, it's very old, but it still sparkles without being vulgar. Great fun!

    Bringing Up Baby (who can resist young Cary Grant?) would be next.

  3. Oh, DeAnna, I remember watching Bringing Up Baby. It's a great rom-com. Why is it we don't think of movies pre-1980s as fitting into the rom-com genre?