Elements of Romantic Comedy: Worthy Opponent

Okay, so the Worthy Adversary is the baddie: the villain, the antagonist, the opposition. (Find out more about villains here.)

The Worthy Opponent, on the other hand, is the sparring partner, otherwise known as the charming romantic foil. That’s right, the love interest. This person should be more than your lead’s equal, having intelligence and humor and heart. Such a refreshing change from the others your lead has met.

Photo: (Creative Commons Flickr)
Swordsmanship skills are a definite plus for a Worthy Opponent! Photo: (Creative Commons Flickr)

This pair generates sparkling banter, and it’s your job as writer to keep it coming. Banter is why readers devour romantic comedy. At its best, it’s a delight. At it’s worst, it’s, well… never mind. To pull off playful teasing effectively, you need to be at the top of your writing game.

Because conversational sparring is the heart and soul of romantic comedy. It embodies everything you’ve ever heard about “show-don’t-tell” in writing. The style might be light and carefree, but the storytelling craftsmanship is precise and demanding. No shirking!

Photo: Walt Stoneburner (Creative Commons Flickr)
A mysterious rook move? Not on your life. Bring it!  Photo: Walt Stoneburner (Creative Commons Flickr)

Finding a brief example–without spoilers–is a challenge. Here’s an exchange from Chapter 14 of Darcy By Any Other Name. Darcy-as-Collins, as a clergyman, has been summoned to Netherfield to attend to “Mr Darcy.” It’s snowing heavily, and Darcy encounters opposition from a most unexpected source.

Elizabeth Bennet stepped forward, and Darcy felt a flush rise to his cheeks. What was she doing in the kitchen? And how much had she heard?

Her arguments, like Hill’s, held weight, and he listened while she said her piece. But while it was one thing to be scolded by a worried housekeeper, it was quite another to be ordered about by a pert young woman.

Darcy drew himself to his full height and faced Elizabeth. He saw her chin come up, a martial light sparkled in her eyes.

“As I have explained to Mrs. Hill,” he said crisply, “which no doubt you overheard, it is imperative that I reach Netherfield. My position as Lady Catherine’s rector demands it.”

“It most certainly does not,” she countered. “The risk is far too great. You are a fool to consider such a thing.”

The word fool rankled and Darcy felt his lip curl. “I appreciate your heartfelt concern.”

“Concern has nothing to do with it,” she flashed. “You are the hope of the family.”

Her sarcasm hit a nerve. Collins be damned! He was no weakling!

He put on his hat, took up his satchel, and faced Fleming. “We’d best be going before conditions deteriorate. Good-bye, Mrs. Hill, Miss Elizabeth.”

“But Mr. Collins,” protested Elizabeth. “This is madness.”

Again he met her gaze. “I prefer to think of it,” he said, “as a calculated risk. I should be back in time for supper.” He tipped the brim of Collins’ parson’s hat, pulled open the door, and went out into a world of white.

For tomorrow, X is for eXcellence. Because you’ve got to give it your best shot.

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Laura Hile (1)

Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016

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