Who doesn’t love a good romantic comedy? The magic of the rom-com is that it has a way of transcending many different tastes by providing enough romance to warm the heart and enough comedy to keep less emotionally-driven readers invested. But keeping that balance can be trickier than it seems. And, as a sub-genre to romance, rom-coms have certain rules of form. Fail to follow those rules and you’ll likely find your base of readers disappointed. Here’s what your rom-com should include:
1. Characters Who Obviously “Need” Each Other
Rom-coms are frequently dual point of view stories, giving readers an opportunity to see each protagonists needs/wants/desires. By introducing two characters in this way, readers have the chance to see why the readers are in a place where they are ready for a relationship. Readers also get the chance to see what it is about the other POV character that makes them perfect for each other.
2. A Cute “Meet Cute” is a Romantic Comedy Must
The way the characters meet is referred to as the “meet cute” and in a rom com, you want to make it particularly heavy on the cute. It’s the classic moment of the two characters fighting over a cab, or flirting over coffee only to realize the other character is their new boss. The way your characters meet should be sweet, memorable, and fun. Better still, it should introduce some form of conflict that will come up again in the plot.
3. Lean into Tropes
Tropes in romantic comedy aren’t bad things—they’re actually beloved by many readers. Enemies to Lovers? Forbidden Love? Stuck Together? All of these tropes (and more) have a great way of giving you a blueprint for your plot. Don’t over-complicate the form of the rom-com. This is a lighthearted story, after all. But make sure to deliver on both the romance and the comedy aspects throughout—find lots of ways of adding that comedy.
4. Split Your Characters Up
You know that moment in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson find out at the diamond gala they’ve been lying to each other? Cringe-worthy songs follow. And a break-up.
Don’t shy away from that break-up! Something should tear this love struck couple apart. It’s a classic part of the rom-com plot—the lowest low when the characters just don’t think they’ll make it together after all. But then of course…
5. Give Them a Happily Ever After
Your characters should live happily ever after (or at least happy for now). This is a romance. Your readers have been rooting for these two to get together. Wrap the whole thing up with giving your readers (and characters) what they really want—with a HEA and a quick denouement.
If you’re tempted to leave the characters apart, just remember—readers are looking for satisfying fun. Leave them without that satisfaction, and it might ruin the whole experience for them. And after all—we could all use a bit of hopeful fun and laughter that helps remind us how great love can be.