Writing a Rom-Com

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Do you reach for rom-coms to give yourself a relaxing, enjoyable escape from your day? Do you love to laugh and fall in love? I’m also a big fan of rom-coms, but as easy breezy as they are to consume, there’s more under the surface when it comes to writing them. Here’s how to get started.

Start with a Great Premise

A successful romantic comedy must start with a premise that’s both romantic and funny. Nailing down the idea of the story is definitely step one. Consider these outlines. Do you recognize your favorite rom-com?

Two lonely hearts met through the internet by writing each other alluring and wonderful emails…only to find out later they are business competitors.

A risk-adverse romance novelist is forced to team up with a bold and dangerous man when her sister goes missing in South America.

A thirteen-year-old girl wishes she was grown up, but when it comes true, she finds her childhood best friend has developed into a hunky heartthrob. They might be perfect for each other…in another time.

Do you recognize these favorites? Obviously the first one is Sleepless in Seattle, the next is Romancing the Stone, and the final one is Thirteen Going on Thirty. What do all of these have in common? The answer: lots of space for romance and humor. How will these opposites ever make it work?

Now apply these examples to your own premise. Does the concept lend itself to a novel-full of romantic will-they-or-won’t-theys plus humor?

Creating the Right Premise

This is the hard part, right? What will you write about? One piece of advice is to ask “what if” questions. What if a corporate big wig fell for the independent book seller whose shop he was trying to take over? What if a writer had to face her biggest fears in order to live the life she imagines on the page? What if a freaky Friday-like event happened, and someone had the opportunity to see into the future before it occurred? Use your imagination! How can you make your premise inherently humorous with potential for romantic conflict?

Intriguing Characters

Fascinating characters are always part of the equation, but nailing the ones in a romance are key. Readers want to know how the story will turn out, but the stakes are not that high in a rom-com—by the nature of the genre. Maybe the heroine won’t find love right now, but she’s probably not going to die. That very fact means that your characters have to be so likeable, enjoyable, funny, or interesting that they carry the reader to page three hundred. That’s not an easy feat! Therefore, spend time thinking about them. Why are these people actually perfect for each other…even if they themselves don’t know it yet? What is missing in their hearts that the other can plug? And what can you do, as their creator, to make this journey as interesting as possible?

Don’t Forget Conflict

As I said, the stakes in rom-com aren’t life-or-death high. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean these characters needs and wants aren’t also important. We do things all the time in our daily life that aren’t life-or-death, but these things do matter…a lot. During the highs and lows of new love, it feels like nothing matters more. In my humble opinion, who a person falls for and ultimately marries is one of the most consequential choices one can make. So, yeah, the stakes are pretty high. That said, you’ll need conflict to keep the story going. Nobody is reading about two perfectly well-adjusted individuals smoothly dating on a glide path toward marriage. Make them work for it! How can you make that happen? By creating a premise with inherent conflict, of course.

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About Author

Mary is a young adult writer and archaeologist. By day she teaches at a local college, and by night she writes about the adventures of adolescence.

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