Thursday, March 10, 2011
If you think writing a good Romantic Comedy is easy, then I’ll hazard a guess you’ve never written one.
In fact, the Romantic Comedy writer may just have the toughest job of all the screenwriters in Hollywood.
Don’t believe me? Then try this on for size...
You have to convince millions of people to come and sit through two hours of their life watching a movie that they already know the ending to. And what’s worse, is that not only do they already know your ending, but they know your basic plot too. You are practically dead in the water before you even begin!
Rom Coms have a bad rap -- and rightly so. They are derivative in every sense of the word. Boy will Meet Girl. Boy will Lose Girl. And Boy will get girl back. Or any other variation of the same basic plot. You can add twists and turns and interesting reveals and reversals, but in the end, your basic plot is still tried tested and true. Meets girl, loses girl, gets girl back. And in the end, usually, the couple will end up in some sort of joyful reunion, kiss, or wedding. Some romantic comedies think changing the ending will make their romantic comedy stand out. You see, they exclaim, my romantic comedy is different – my couple doesn’t get together at the end! And that script will have an even harder time selling, because nobody wants to see that ending, do they?
People come to see a romantic comedy (and here’s the key so listen up!) DESPITE the fact that they already know what the plot will be. They come DESPITE the fact that they already know what the ending will be. They come BECAUSE they know what your ending will be. They want to watch this couple fall in love and end up together – so to stray from that ending because you think it will give it a fresh twist is shooting yourself in the foot.
And you know what? That’s okay! That’s what we came to see! So PLEASE don’t take that away from us. What we want you to do is keep us so fascinated by your characters, that we forget we know how it will end. That we worry for them. That we will cheer when they finally do get together. You must embrace your genre. Embrace your ending. Give us the best most romantic ending you can think of. Let us see how this man will win back this woman in a gesture that is new and surprising. Let it be so romantic that our heart races. Give us what we want and give it to us in spades. Shower us with romance, give us a fairytale that makes us all wish we lived in a land far, far away, give us a happy ending that makes us forget about our own shitty love lives, our own problems, our own shortcomings. Lift us up and let us get carried away. We want to ride off into the sunset, on that horse, with your characters. Do not let us down. Do not give us a predictable, forced, or unromantic, run of the mill happy ending. We want fireworks!
As for your plot. We all know that our characters will meet, fall in love, and then something will happen to tear them apart and threaten our happy ending. We already know this! Do not spend time trying to reinvent the wheel, or throw in an alien spacecraft, depressing death, or cop chases the bad guy scene. You won’t impress us by going off genre and coming up with something new. You will only let us down even more. We came KNOWING what your plot would be. We are here, despite that fact. We came to see a romantic comedy, because we want to see your leads meet fall in love, break up and then get back together. What we don’t want is boring! What we don’t want is to watch two people we don’t care about doing predictable things that feel forced, aren’t interesting, and aren’t romantic or funny. We want to laugh our heads off. We want to fall in love with your characters. We want to see the sparks, feel the chemistry. We want to leave the theatre saying, yeah, now that was funny! We want to come out thinking, yeah, now that’s love! We want to be engaged and entertained and made to feel like even though we knew the plot and the ending, that it was worth our time and money. We want leave feeling that love really could be that wonderful, funny, heartbreaking, terrifying and yes, something we would give up everything in our lives for. We want it to be hilarious, heartfelt, and so romantic that it makes us all want to quit our day jobs, ride bareback into the sunset for love. We want it to make us believe in happily ever after again. To show us why it still matters. And remind us why we can’t possibly live without it.
Still think writing romantic comedies are easy?
Go ahead then, prove me wrong!