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Often, I find it hard to truly like romantic leads because they're written so "perfect" (with maybe one fatal flaw...but I mean, how many people have JUST ONE FLAW?)...but when you pile on the embarrassment, and if those characters have true reactions to that embarrassment, I immediately want to like them, because I too, know what it's like to feel utterly vulnerable and lame.


It's interesting to note that they are BOTH reluctant.

Their A stories are career driven; their B story is their budding love, yes?

If it's fairly normal for a nonrom-com to have a love story as the B story, how often do rom-coms have the love story as the B story as well?

E.C. Henry

Making your characters hurt has a benefit that you didn't touch on, Billy; EMPATHY! Not only does watching someone experience pain and humilation give a disconnected 3rd party laughs at someone else's expence (comedic distance) it makes you pull for them on certain, human level. If pain is on one side of the teeter tooter, healing is on the other side.

Even comdic stories need some sort of conflict. "Meet the Parents" feeds off the Robert De Niro vs. Ben Stiller conflict. Conflict breeds comedy...

Anyway, great thougtht provoking post. Thanks for posting it.

- E.C. Henry from his bed room.


J: That lovely couple, Utterly Vulnerable and Lame...

S M: You could look at it reversed, since really, our emotional investment in PROPOSAL is about "will these two people fall in love and become a couple?"

EC: Empathy is always at the wheel. I was riding shotgun with the top down and the radio on and was like, digging on the scenery, dude.


How do you accomplish this organically, though? The suffering looked so organic in Meet the Parents, but just downright silly in Leap Year.

Judith Duncan

Hey Billy,

This is a simple but I think really encompassing idea about rom/coms. It's actually given me another layer to think about in regards to an idea that is just at the note stage at the moment.
Thankyou :)

Rob in L.A.

I just saw the trailer for the documentary “Love Etc.” It’s a look at some real-life romances and the joys/problems that accompany them. A movie like this just might provide some information and inspiration to any rom-com writer. I have no vested interest in the documentary. It just looks like something that the readers of this blog might want to check out.


Eric: Aye, there's the rub. It would take at least a series of posts, or some seminars or a course of mine at the Writers' Program to really do justice to your excellent question, since it has to do with characterization work, and comedy skill sets, et al, so for now I'll just start with... truth, i.e. write true, honestly, fully-dimensional humans and put them in believable situations (as opposed to say, the bogus contrivances of LEAP), and the organic will follow.

Judith: Thank you Ms. Duncan, we aim to edify.

Rob: As always, your finger's on the pulse - I'm curious to see this doc and plan to, when it's here.

Rachel Hauck

Great truism, Billy! I love the proposal and teach symbolism to writers from it. GREAT imagery in this movie as well as comedy.



Rachel: Agreed. I'm particularly fond of Bullock's big "...and that's why I am the way I am" speech in the bedroom, as a great example of how such moments (of blatant back story exposition and character empathy-earning) can actually be made to work.

Miss Mabel

Romance novelists Lucy and Jenny at Popcorn Dialogues have some very strong opinions about appropriate "humiliations" of your protagonists and I'm inclined to agree. Definitely appropriate in this scene and Bringing Up Baby. And I even thought the diarrhea scene in Bridesmaids drove the plot forward, and note that our protagonist did NOT vomit or crap herself.

But the diarrhea scene in Two Weeks Notice, on the other hand, was so awful I reblock it from my memory so I can enjoy the movie. Our heroine is already human and flawed in that movie--it just seemed like a gross out scene stuck in to perk up the bored boyfriends in the audience. Lucy and Jenny's analysis of that film hit on exactly the things I love about that movie, and the specific things that detract from it. I highly recommend.


Welcome Miss Mabel: Weird but true, I have the same repugnance toward TWO WEEKS, which I forever associate with precisely that horrific scene: gratuitous, mean-spirited and wrong-minded. Meanwhile, I'm a big Popcorn Dialogues fan, so I'll look up the post you mention, thanks.

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