A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing romantic comedy. I’ve learned a few tips by trial and error—okay, mostly error, but let’s not go there. Considering there were some do’s and don’ts never occurred to me when I started out. However, learn, I did. To guide you along in the process, I’m sharing the top 5 tips that helped me.
1. Strike a BALANCE.
Full-out laughter from page 1 to the end does not sit well. Like all other genres, there are ebbs and flows to every story. Forcing the reader to jump from one belly laugh to the next, over and over again, can be exhausting—for both the reader and the writer. (Who wants to be a wrung-out wet noddle by the end of a story?!) Believe me, balance matters here.
2. DON’T be a comedian.
Performing comedy is an art. So is writing comedy. Never the twain shall meet in writing romantic comedy books. Timing and delivery are key to both; however, being on stage is entirely different. One-liners delivered in rapid succession aren’t funny in print. (Kids’ joke books—yes. Romantic comedy—no. Tried it. Fell flat.) Short, funny snippets don’t have a place in a book. It’s jarring and disconnects the reader from the story. Leave stand-up for the stage.
3. THINK funny.
Prat falls, slapstick, and physical comedy get old fast in books, so use these sparingly. That said, a clumsy character does work, but, again, don’t overdo it here. Therefore, at least one of your characters’ internal thoughts MUST be humorous and/or snarky. It gives the reader insight—and connects them to inner thoughts—into how the character perceives the world, themselves, and the people around them. Also, witty banter between the hero and heroine is a MUST at times. Let’s see the give-and-take of their relationship with a light touch; a heavy dose of the swipes against each other with no substance or relevance to the story leaves a very dissatisfied reader. Too much equals burnout and disinterest in the romance, which is a surefire way to get a reader to give up on your book. A big NO-NO!
4. Characters are KEY.
If you know me at all, you know I have this love for unforgettable characters. When I finish a book, I want the characters to linger in my mind long after I turn that last page. To me, heart and humor go hand in hand when I write. For my romantic comedies, laughter takes a front seat and heart follows. With the other genres I write, heart is first and humor rides along.
In romantic comedies, one or both main characters MUST be funny, think funny, or have funny quirks. Make them believable, flawed, and relatable to your readers. Also, secondary characters can be—and often are—funnier and quirkier than the hero and heroine because there are no rules or boundaries for them, which makes for zany, loveable sidekicks. A side note here: be careful when writing your secondary characters—and giving them a goofy name— in case you decide to continue a series and make one of them a main character in another book. (Been there. Done that. Twice!) Remember: Funny is good. Stupid is not.
5. Story structure ALWAYS matters.
Some writers might think they can skip story structure (character and relationship arcs, goals, motivation, conflict, and so on) when writing a romantic comedy. Au contraire, my lovelies! Build your frame, set-up, acts, plot points, etc. to make a strong, solid foundation for your romantic comedy. In my opinion, skip this vital piece to the puzzle and your rom-com is dead in the water.
There you have it. These 5 tips to writing a romantic comedy may not seem monumental or new. However, every once in a while, we have to be reminded they matter to the overall tone and feel of a warm, fuzzy, funny love story.
Recommended viewing and reading:
Writing Romantic Comedies and Love Stories video by Michael Hauge
Writing The Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit
Until next time, here’s to love, laughter, and happily ever after…