A to Z Challenge 2016 · Darcy By Any Other Name · How to write Romantic Comedy

Elements of Romantic Comedy: Amour

For this year’s A to Z, I’m returning to a favorite topic: Elements of Romantic Comedy. When romcom is good, it is very, very good. And when it is bad, it falls flat. So let’s revisit the series introduction and dive in.

Writing romantic comedy is a lot like making Stone Soup.

Remember the story? A traveler, footsore and hungry—he’s your story idea—arrives in a village. The villagers—your creative brain cells—view him with suspicion and refuse to cooperate. They won’t share anything. He knows they have food hidden away, and for a time he’s stumped. And then, being clever, he hits upon the idea of making Stone Soup.

It’s all about that Stone.

That is to say, the Click or the Hook. That catchy, sparkling pivot point around which your story revolves. The thing that gives it life and vitality and zing. Into the pot it goes, while the water boils merrily. Like the villagers, bit by bit your creative mind circles round, developing interest and expectation. Ideas begin to bubble up and are added in. The traveler, whistling innocently, stirs the brew while the villagers bring more and more ideas. At last, voila! A tasty story to enjoy.

Our Blogging Challenge letter for today is A, and I have chosen ‘Amour,’ an old-fashioned word for love. A secret love, usually. One with obstacles to overcome–and that’s the essence of your story.

Photo: Justien Van Zele (Creative Commons Flickr)
It’s more than “lights, camera, action!” Your love story must be believable. Photo: Justien Van Zele (Creative Commons Flickr)

Ah, but the love experienced by your couple must be convincing. There must be resonance between them, a meeting of minds and hearts. This is why we read romantic comedy, to experience the rush and thrill of falling in love all over again.

It’s “show-don’t-tell” writing at it’s tricky best. You’ve got to keep your reader engrossed in the story, turning pages eagerly. Because this is love I’m talking about, not just lust. Fantasy sex will gain an audience, but only for one read. Shared glances? Sparkling banter? These are what I like best, and they’re why I will read the same book again and again. If you’re a writer, go for the reread.

DBAON-thumbnailAs with How to Write Romantic Comedy 1 (2014), I will illustrate using my own work. I do apologize! It’s not that I’m enamored with my own stuff, but I can grant permission. So this year I will be using snippets from Darcy By Any Other Name, a body-swap comic romance featuring Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy and Rev. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. It should be available for purchase mid-April.

In this scene we have Darcy, trapped in Collins’ podgy body, being talked into singing by Elizabeth Bennet. Because he has nothing to lose–Collins has no dignity to lose! Everyone assumes he is stupid! –Darcy agrees.

Darcy continued turning pages. “This one is rather good. I’ve heard it done in school.” He threw her a laughing look. “Quite appropriate under the circumstances, wouldn’t you say?”

Elizabeth looked as if she did not know how to respond. “I-I’ve never learned the accompaniment for any of these,” she confessed.

“Nor have I,” he said. “If you will kindly make room for me to sit—” Darcy broke off speaking. Collins would never fit on the bench beside Elizabeth. He procured a straight-backed chair and brought it close beside her.

“Now then, we’ll both be readers, shall we?” he said. “And see here, the wonder of the Baroque. Your part is basso continuo, that is to say figured bass. Meaning you play only chords, Miss Elizabeth. As soloist I do all the heavy lifting. Most unfortunately.”

He reached across and placed his right hand on the keys. “I’ll just run through my part,” he said, “before I make a fool of myself.”

He worked through the melody line. Yes, it was as he remembered it. “I will probably slide over these sixteenth notes,” he admitted.

She listened with obvious astonishment. “You play the pianoforte, Mr. Collins?”

“Only one note at a time,” he said, twinkling. “Much to the disappointment of my sainted mother. She was most insistent about lessons.”

“But your mother died when you were very young,” she protested, “or so Father was given to understand.”

Darcy refused to be deterred by this slip. “Ah, but one is never too young to begin learning to play,” he quipped. “And how clever of you to guess her last words to me. ‘William,’ she said, ‘you must practice!’”

Elizabeth broke out laughing. “How wretched you are! To jest about your poor mother!”

“Thus I am saved from weeping. Dear Mother. I hated practicing and would much rather ride my pony. Shall we begin?”

“Your pony?” Elizabeth sounded astonished. “But I thought—no, Mr. Collins, you told us that you do not ride.”

“A mere conversational gambit, that. To, er, save myself from embarrassment.”

Elizabeth was openly doubtful. “What embarrassment?”

He spread his hands. “How was I to know that you would not make me mount a raging stallion and go galloping across fields?”

“As if we had such an animal!” she said, laughing. “Even our carriage horses are used on the farm.”

“Ah, but I did not know then what lived in your stables. If you have a pony, Miss Elizabeth, I will gladly ride him. Although,” he paused to pat his abdomen, “it would be rather a kick in the teeth for the pony.”

Elizabeth continued to laugh, and he joined her.

See what I mean? Pull the reader in and make her smile along with Elizabeth. She loathes this man–or does she? And the reader keeps turning those pages…

Tomorrow’s post? B is for Something Bad. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Writing blogs are flagged WR. Books/Reviews are BO.

Laura Hile (1)
Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name. Copyright Laura Hile, 2016

13 thoughts on “Elements of Romantic Comedy: Amour

  1. I always loved Pride and Prejudice, and believed that Elizabeth enjoyed hating and loving Mr. Darcy from the start. Sometimes a woman enjoys that sort of thing, but you definitely pulled me in with these two wonderful literary characters.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The tricky part with borrowing another author’s people (and most especially this pair!) is to keep them strictly in character as originally written. A challenge!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Sweetbearies. Happy A to Z!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Part of the trouble with being Mr. Collins is that Darcy is able to forget his dignity. No one notices Collins, no one cares what he says. He’s supposed to be stupid, so where is the risk? So Darcy has slipped into the habit of slinging out one-liners and snarky observations. In other words, he is being himself. In so many ways, it’s not only a relief, but it’s way too much fun.

    And yes, those unguarded remarks, which are altogether too charming, become a problem.

    Like

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