An ongoing series about how to write romantic comedy.
I’m not talking about a swaggering Dudley Do-Right. Your fictional hero should be a regular guy, with the usual male foibles and irritations. But at some point he’s got to show that he’s not a jerk. He must be gallant. He must treat his woman right.
Nobody wants to ride off into the sunset with a selfish pig. Sadly, some of your readers might be married to one. They’re looking to your book for escape. You must deliver!
A woman wants a man who will provide for her, cherish her, and solve more problems than he creates. Is he clever and insightful? Does he have a caring heart? Is he strong and, if need be, willing to fight? The guy doesn’t have to be a Hercules, but he must be able to keep the wolves at bay. Otherwise, your heroine will be putting in extra shifts at the shoe factory to pay the electric bill. That’s nobody’s idea of a happy ending. We want that guy kicked to the curb.
But enormous wealth won’t cut it. He needs brains. Any fool can lose a fortune, it happens all the time. What your hero needs is tenacity and smarts, the ability to adapt and make his way in uncertain circumstances. His willingness to take risks adds excitement.
And then there’s those effortless manners. Women want a man they aren’t ashamed to be seen with. So he’s a construction worker or mechanic or bushwhacker—does he clean up well? Does he know how to behave in a variety of social situations—a restaurant, a concert hall, a carnival, a bowling alley? Can he make conversation easily? Ha, does he listen to what she says?
Last but not least, does he know how to dance? Yes, dance. As in knowing the steps and knowing how to lead. Gracefully. Because on the dance floor every woman wants to feel like a princess. After all, this is fantasy.
And now for today’s excerpt. Does McGillvary deliver most of the qualities I’ve mentioned? I think so…well, except for dancing. (He does dance, but not in this scene!) Elizabeth is in an awkward spot, and he’s on the quarterdeck to guide her course.
“A fire.” McGillvary spoke directly into Elizabeth’s ear. “You’re in luck, my dear.”
Elizabeth compressed her lips. Only he would see a fire as lucky!
“It’s perfect. A fire gives us room to manoeuvre. Better take off your gloves. You wouldn’t be wearing them around the house.”
She started to object but thought better of it. The wet gloves were difficult to remove. He helped her. “Give them to me,” he said. “And your fan and your reticule. And your wrap.”
“I left it in the coach,” she said in a small voice.
McGillvary held up a silencing hand and studied the group by the door. “If we play our cards right, they won’t know you were gone.”
“But my ball dress?” she whispered back, indicating her sodden gown.
He smiled. “It doesn’t look like one now, does it?” He lowered his voice even more. “Now listen. You were in your bedchamber. You smelt smoke and heard cries of ‘Fire!'”
“How do I know someone cried ‘Fire!’?”
“Someone always does, even on a fighting ship. You ran from your bedchamber and out into the rain.”
“Thinking of no one’s safety but my own. Lovely.”
“That’s right,” he whispered. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” He paused to listen. “Now comes the hard part,” he said into her ear. “We wait for the perfect moment. When it comes, you must join the conversation. Make them think you’ve been here all along.”
Tomorrow, the woes of Romcom Housework.
Thanks for reading!