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Friday, 14 October 2016

Writing & Creating Your Own Rom-Com Movie

You've seen and watched those romantic comedy movies and thought to yourself, 'I can come up with something as good as, or indeed better than that'. Well, with practice, some thought & persistence, you can. Whilst rom-coms these days aren't as in-demand as they were during the 1990s right into the mid-2000s when it pretty much flourished, thanks to the successes of Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts, it still remains as one of the most popular film genres around. Each and every one of these movies, well 99% of them, all roughly follow the same formula: boy meets girl, they break up, then they get back together in the end

I have mentioned this so many times and that I'm not really big on romantic comedies and that most of them are terrible. Only a few of them gain my utmost attention, and these ones try to do things differently by putting a spin on them to make it less conventional and predictable, less vomit-inducing, as well as carve out likeable and appealing protagonist and love interest characters. Characters of whom I want to see them get together in the end. Some examples of my favourite rom-coms include Tootsie, Boomerang and It Could Happen To You. These ones stick out for me more so than the likes of Pretty Woman, When Harry Met Sally and other big hitters, because each of them not only have interesting ways of telling a romantic story, whilst infusing humour, but they do it in a way that is not so obvious, and that I like both the male protagonists and female love interest characters in them.  

There is also this sense of appeal that in creating situations and worlds, that as writers we are the ones in control, that we are the ones who decide the fate of the protagonist and love interest who end up in each others arms. We are in control of our emotional destinies. It allows our ideas and imaginations to be played: it is a form of escapism and to submerge ourselves in feel-good, heartfelt emotions that real life often suppresses. 

The romantic comedy isn't an easy genre to write, however - believe me, I had to search on the internet for a set of conventions, tropes, as well as a structure and without following either of these notes, I would have been lost. Several times I had to chop and change things when writing up my own rom-com script/prose because something wasn't right, but in doing so, it makes me understand the format a lot better. I am no writer or author, but it's often nice every once in a while to dive straight in and to just have a good crack at it. Yet at the same time, one must always and constantly hone, edit it, because there is always room for improvement and new ideas that you have never come across before previously that you are going to add to the story. 

So with that in mind, courtesy of TV Tropes, here is how you can write and create your own romantic comedy movie and along with your ideal or chosen cast of actors and actresses: 

  • Many romantic comedy movies have one or two main equal protagonists, with one slightly more equal than the other
  • The 3- act structure in romantic comedy goes like this: (act 1) boy meets girl/girl meets boy > (act 2) boy loses girl/girl loses boy & are separated (+ reunited, only to separate again) > (act 3) boy & girl/girl & boy reunite in the end. This is something to bear in mind, as well as to use as a template when writing your rom-com
  • You will need two main characters: one who is the protagonist, the other being the love interest. This can either be man (protagonist) & woman (love interest) (examples in Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, Tootsie), woman (protagonist) & man (love interest) (examples in The Proposal, My Best Friend's Wedding and Picture Perfect), or man & man and woman and woman. What are they ages? Where are they from? What do they do for a living as a career or job? What is their current status? You may also want to choose a well-known or your favourite actor and actress to play those roles as well if you like
  • You will need a beta couple, who is the protagonist and love interests best friends, family members/siblings, employees. They act as advisers, offering advice whenever possible to those characters and are the comic relief
  • Romantic comedies involve opposites attract where two people who have little in common come together, irrespective of their differences for love
  • If the characters are friends, enemies, coworkers, or once had a history together in the past, there will be unresolved sexual tension and it's this chemistry that draws the audience in to see whether or not they will get together (or if they are ex-lovers, whether or not they will get back together) in the end
  • Rom-coms are driven by the quest for love, the conflict derives from the obstacles to that quest
  • These types of films are all about emotion, characters have feelings and feel the way that they do, and that both he and she needs strong emotions to come to life onscreen.
  • The hero/protagonist needs to accomplish 2 goals: 1) securing the affections of the love interest and 2) another goal besides trying to win the affections of the love interest - for instance in Tootsie, Michael Dorsey has win the love of Julie, whilst at the same time trying to continue masquerading himself as a female actress on a daytime soap opera. 
  • The two characters will spend a good portion of the movie fighting their obvious attraction to each other, only to realise they are perfect for each other
  • The protagonist (and love interest) should have inner conflict that the story's romantic relationship confronts & ultimately resolves; they clash, argue, bicker with each other at first, and at the end, they fall for each other
  • That inner conflict is often related to self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear of being rejected by the other person, the ability to love whilst the external conflicts arise from work, family, friends or other outside influences or situations that are not related to the person s/he is in love with 
  • At the core of any rom- com is some kind of thematic (theme) idea; why are you writing this particular story about this couple? What question are you asking that your screenplay's story development answers?
  • It needs to be mildly amusing or funny, given the comedy aspect
  • The romantic aspect revolves around the loss or loneliness, and the challenge is for the protagonist to learn how to have a better relationship with himself or herself and to grow as a person, so that in future - or be it towards the end of the movie, s/he is rewarded for the difficult emotional work and journey they have undertaken throughout the story. In other words, s/he is lonely, sad or whatever, and yet wants to be with the other person they are longing to be with and in the end, they end up with that person and embrace one another.  
  • It is common to have a love triangle with the protagonist, love interest and romantic false lead. The romantic false lead is someone the protagonist must compete with to win the affections of the love interest and acts as a plot device by keeping the protagonist and love interest apart, rather than as a character of their own making. As an audience, we are supposed to root for the protagonist to get their girl or guy, as opposed to having the love interest remain with the romantic false lead, who just exists as so-called competition for the protagonist. And yet we do not want them - the love interest and the romantic false lead to stay together forever. We want the love interest to be with the main guy or girl of the movie. 
  • Avoid making the love interest dumping the romantic false lead for the protagonist, just like what happens in Runaway Bride - this will make the love interest come across as selfish and even more unlikable as a character. Which relates to the next point:
  • The love interest and protagonist should come together naturally and not by force; i.e. when s/he realises they are in love with him/her, but they don't do so by dumping the romantic false lead but rather by circumstances leading to their split
  • Add things to or put a spin on your romantic comedy by making it stand out more, as well as for it being more than just boy trying to get the girl. For example in Tootsie, the main character, Michael who dresses up in drag as Dorothy to land a role on a TV show ends up falling for his love interest, Julie, his fellow co-star on set. Try and find some kind of idea and interweave it into the story and the formula. 
  • The love interest should be charismatic, charming, engaging and the protagonist should be the lovable loser the audience can easily identify with and sympathise with through the use of POV (point of view). That, and they each need to be likable 
  • The love interest and protagonist should possess character flaws and issues that affect how they engage with each other and how their relationship develops with each other
  • Climax of the rom-com requires satisfactory recognition of love in the form of a ''race for your love'' scenario where right before the end of the movie, the character chases after the person they love and does something really romantic to win them back before they lose them for good
  • The reconciliation ends with the two characters reunited in a romantic embrace, and in some cases getting married and tying the knot

Things to be wary of:

 - Couples, be it in real life or movies, have different reasons as to why people or they choose to fall in love with the other person

- The protagonist and love interest are emotionally incomplete people who get completed by their mate-to-be (which is each other)

- You need to establish the characters' personalities, what are they like (be it funny, smart, creative, hardworking etc), and why their personalities result in attraction towards each other. The romantic lead is attracted to the love interest for a reason, and that reason is why s/he has feelings towards him/her. Having two characters with compatible (like for like, birds of a feather) or contrasting (opposites attract) personalities help and persuade the audience into believing they have reasons, other than sex, for wanting to kiss and that they are perfect for each other.

- You also need to establish the character's compatible dreams: they don't just love them deeply, they want them to share their life with them and their happiness that goes with it

- If you are going to add a love scene or sex scene, don't make it sound too overly gratuitous or explicit in its description that it puts readers off, such as 'he inserted his penis into her vagina'; like that's a no-no and makes one look ridiculous. 


- You may want to refer to TV Tropes website: they have sections/pages on how to write a rom-com, what to write for a rom-com, how to write a sex scene (that's if you want to add one or a couple of them) and how it ought to develop, as well as further advice on how to make it as best as you can possibly imagine it to be. 

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