This week I'm talking about characters in comedy, and romantic comedies. What I am seeing in a lot of work that is coming in is the stereotypes of the snarky leading lady-who honestly, no one, not even our leading man, would like because she's too awful, and the womanizer leading man-who again, why would anyone give him a chance? And then the other characters are throwaways.
Please don't do this with your secondary characters, they can be just as important if not more important than your leads!!
LET'S TALK FIRST ABOUT COMEDY FIRST
The TV show FRIENDS, which came out in 1994 was originally called, Monica & Friends, meaning Monica was the leading lady soon it really became all about Ross and Rachel but in the beginning, it was Monica's story.
When the show opens we see Monica and her friends handing out in a coffee shop, establishing who they all are and soon a bride-to-be walks in crying (inciting incident)-Rachel. We see through her actions and dialogue that she is a spoiled rich girl from Long Island who went to high school with Monica. Monica's world changes when Rachel moves in with her--(new world). The show was Monica's story and soon became an equal ensemble cast due to the strong character types.
Another great comedy is MODERN FAMILY. You could say it's about Claire's family? Or Jay's? Probably Jay's since he is the patriarch of the family, but all the archetypes are there and it works.
Novels are different-or are they?
Take CRAZY RICH ASIANS-
The story opens with Rachel and Nick at their favorite coffee shop and he is asking her to go to meet his family where a wedding is to take place. Little does she know who she is with.
Then we go to meet Eleanore -the mom
the story also has, the best friend, (for both of them), the side-kick, and a very strong B story running throughout. Some would argue that this isn't a romantic comedy because her and Nick are together at the beginning. I still think it is because their story is at the forefront of her story, but you could argue that it's not as her main problem isn't getting the guy.
LET'S LOOK AT HALLMARK HOLIDAY FILMS
Romantic comedy? NO--just ROMANCE but they also have a lot of the same characters.
Ex-or soon to be ex
In Hallmark's Christmas movie LET IT SNOW you have a main character/leading lady, a love interest, friends, and parents, and a boss (bad guy-who isn't so bad, it's Hallmark after all and he's also her father-of course in comedy we keep them all connected). This is a simple plot where the main character hates snow and is trying to impress her father (issues with feeling accepted) so she tries to get a village's snow valley lodge shut down but she meets her love interest and realizes that she has had it wrong all along. It's simple but works.
You don't need to have ALL of them but you should have a good combo-the archetypes are who the characters are, and you can have them in any role in your story.
1. Lovable Loser
2. Logical Smart One
5. The Dumb One
6. In Their Own Universe
8. Materialistic One
I'll use FRIENDS (available on HBO Max for streaming and also runs on cable every day)
1. Lovable Loser (Pheobe)
2. Logical Smart One (Ross)
3. Neurotic (Monica)
5. The Dumb One (Joey)
6. In Their Own Universe (Chandler)
8. Materialistic One (Rachel)
You could argue that some of them cross over.
Okay, I'll do LEGALLY BLONDE even though it's not technically a romantic comedy-they aren't all in there.
1. Lovable Loser (Serena & Margarette)
2. Logical Smart One (Elle)
4. Bitch/Bastard (Vivian)
6. In Their Own Universe (Paulette)
7. Womanizer/Manizer (Prof. Callahan)
Now look at it in terms of WHO must be in a (romantic comedy)-they can be any of the archetypes from above but these people need to be in your story.
Leading Lady -Elle
Love interest- Emmett
Ex-lover/boyfriend/soon to be ex-Warner
Villain/bitch-Vivian (all the smart students) and Prof Callahan
But technically Legally Blonde, while it nails story structure, is not a romantic comedy-why? Romance isn't the main story. It's a back story. I still use it as an example of story structure because it nails it.
HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN TEN DAYS is a true romantic comedy.
To be a true romantic-comedy, you have to have a storyline where both comedy and romance are the main plotlines.
Set up. Andie must find and get a guy to break up with her in 10 days for an article so she can prove to her boss that she can write and get to write what she wants.
Benjamin must find a woman and get her to fall in love with him in 10 days to win an account and get a promotion.
They meet, and of course, they fall in love throughout the story of making each other miserable.
Best friends-they both have them
There is no antagonist in the true sense-no crazy ex or anything, but the villain for each of them is themselves.
It follows story structure perfectly.
Intro to each character with their wants, needs, and desires laid out.
inciting incident-they both must find someone to date
Meet cute--they meet
They move into the new world where they are dating by the quarter mark
They both have mirror moments halfway through
Turning points--deciding to keep going, falling in love
Crisis-at the ball
All is lost-they both lose as they lost each other
Climax & resolve--they both make decisions and at the end, he has a big declaration of love and they get together.
For NOVELS-The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella is classified as chick-lit but it is a romantic comedy.
Let's check it out.
Plot-an overworked executive gets mistaken for a housekeeper in a house in the country after running away from her job.
It has a leading lady who meets the man she falls in love with as soon as her new world starts. There are many reasons why she can't be with him, but in the end, it works.
Some other romantic comedy novels in 2021 are:
The Garden of Forgotten Wishes Trisha Ashley
The Switch Beth O’Leary
One Winter’s Night Kiley Dunbar
The truth is that many films and books get misclassified. Either there is comedy or there is romance and they are labeled romantic comedy but you need two things to be a TRUE romantic comedy.
It's hard to write comedy but you can do it.
READ a lot if you are writing novels.
WATCH a lot and READ SCRIPTS if you are writing for the screen
In Steve Kaplan's book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy he goes over the archetypes in COMMEDIA basically how it all started-which is great and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for all writers regardless of whether you are writing comedy or not.
Back to the beginning of this blog-using stereotypes-if you do, make sure that you do it in a unique way. Why would you want your leading lady to be snarky and bitchy? What is the point? Now, let's look at a true ROMANTIC COMEDY
In THE PROPOSAL Margaret is bitchy but not snarky-and we find out why she is like that when she opens up to Andrew-there is always a reason for that behavior, or there needs to be. It's a true romantic comedy as well as you have a romantic storyline and comedy in the throughlines of the plot.
Another great one is
THE SECRET DREAMWORLD OF A SHOPAHOLIC by Sophie Kinsella
You have a leading lady Rebecca Bloomwood who has a problem-she shops too much. She meets Luke Brandon early on in the story and while they are total opposites, they fall in love. Because this is a series, she doesn't grow as much as a character but it's really well done.
In the movie version, CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC
Luke is also there but is a backstory to her shopping addiction so in my personal opinion, it's a comedy but not as much a romantic comedy.
Let's look at one more comedy for stereotypes that work.
In THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA -Andrea is the leading lady and is sweet, innocent, and a little naive (at least in the film version, in the book she is a little more jaded-or becomes jaded quickly) and Emily is the bitchy one.
Also, in my opinion, the Devil Wears Prada isn't a romantic comedy for the same reason that Legally Blonde isn't. The love story isn't the main story but it's a great study in comedy and characters.
Make sure if you go there, you have a reason and you must make them likable in some way, or readers or viewers won't care.
Remember that everything comes back to CHARACTER.
Whether you are writing comedy, romance, or romantic comedy--character, character, character.
I hope this was helpful!!
Happy writing! XO Stephanie