An ongoing series about how to write romantic comedy.
Say what? These three don’t go together! I’m here to tell you that they do. Or they do for me, anyway.
The foremost job of the fiction writer is to be entertaining. “There is no bad music except the boring kind,” said composer Gioacchinio Rossini. The same applies to stories. Thrill us, amuse us, scare us … do anything but bore us.
Like it or not, who you are creeps into your writing. And since I am a follower of Jesus that, along with my twisted sense of humor, shows up sometimes. But I keep in mind that I am an entertainer first. I don’t presume to preach. I don’t like preachy fiction, so why should anyone else?
From time to time then, my sense of fun and farce combine with my faith. The results can be rather good. Here, I’ll show you. In this excerpt we have Lady Russell, a respectable citizen and churchgoer, seeking to be a supportive friend … with dubious results. Hullin drives her carriage.
Lady Russell peered over Hullin’s shoulder. “What is this place?”
Hullin coughed and said, “It’s a sponging house, milady. But not to worry,” he added quickly. “There’s plenty worse than this.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Few streets over are some real hellholes. Places a man oughtn’t to be after dark. Right proper, this is.”
Lady Russell wouldn’t have described it in those terms, but she swallowed her comment. Again the building came under scrutiny. A sponging house, she knew, was the prelude to debtor’s prison—and bankruptcy. Sir Walter’s future would be littered with writs, law expenses, and ruinous sacrifices. But surely it was all a mistake!
She addressed Hullin. “Is this sponging house a fit place for me to visit? I would like to call upon Sir Walter.”
“He’ll be right pleased to see a friendly face, ma’am, and no mistake. But perhaps you’d best wait a bit? I imagine he’ll be settling in, so to speak.”
“Very well.” Lady Russell closed the window and sat back. Yes,there was much to sort out. The merchants of Bath were fiends! A man of Sir Walter’s standing ought to be treated with dignity and consideration! But now he was cast to the wolves, as it were, over what was obviously a simple misunderstanding. God only knew what she would say to him.
Presently she remembered the Bible. She’d brought it along today because Sir Walter’s thoughts could use a nudge in the proper direction. Now that he was taken by the bailiff, it appeared he needed more than a nudge! Lady Russell spent some time leafing through the pages. The Psalms, she knew, were often used to bring comfort.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
Lady Russell hesitated. Sir Walter Elliot was hardly a righteous man! She flipped several pages back.
He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him;
Let Him deliver him, seeing he delighted in Him.
Well. As much as she valued her old friend, he was hardly one who delighted in the Lord! At last she found something that might do. Sir Walter was not a perfect man, but he was a good man—or so he tried to be.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delighteth in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down,
For the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.
Unfortunately, Lady Russell had reservations about this one as well. Although the text was suitable, the word good was a bit toubling. When referring to Sir Walter Elliot, the most honest use of the word good was in the term good-looking! Lady Russell didn’t think the steps of a good-looking man were necessarily ordered by the Lord. In fact, it was so often just the opposite!
That’s it, end of scene. The story moves along, and yes, she does confront him in the sponging house. More grins for the reader as the pages turn. The ridiculousness of Sir Walter’s self-absorbed nature struts on center stage.
In tomorrow’s post I’ll discuss Gallantry and why your hero needs some.
[excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace: So Lively a Chase by Laura Hile, 2009]