Archive for Writing romantic comedies

Chasing trends is a waste of time because by the time a trend is apparent it’s already too late–usually it takes a year or more to go from a green light to a released film. However, these genres are always in demand if the scripts are well-written.

COMEDY – especially comedy with a physical element, because these travel well. These days good foreign sales are essential.

ROMANTIC COMEDY – This is the most popular sub-genre. It’s one of the hardest to write because usually the story depends on keeping the potential lovers apart and these days there are fewer things that do that. Previously factors that served this function included miscommunication because they didn’t have cell phones and the internet and travel was slower; social attitudes against couples of different ages, or different races, or different religions, or different social classes; and more differences between the genders (women not allowed in certain occupations, for instance).

The elimination of such factors is good news for society, bad news for romantic comedies. You’ll have to work harder to come up with a plausible angle but if you manage it your script will have a good chance of selling. Movies that have done it include “When Harry Met Sally,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and “Shakespeare in Love.”

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER – This kind of character-based story needs to be clever and suspenseful, ideally with a twist in the story as well. Examples include “Fatal Attraction,” “The Game,” “Fight Club.”

If you don’t like these genres, don’t try writing them just because they are always popular. Odds are your script won’t be that good if you’re not passionate about the genre. However, if you have several ideas you like equally well and one of them fits one of these genres, I’d suggest going with that one.

(Want friendly guidance on creating characters, coming up with dynamic plots, and selecting settings that support your story? Get my book, “Your Writing Coach,” published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)

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In the previous two posts I’ve shared two of Robert Ringer’s three rules of writing and added my comments on how they apply to screenwriting. Here is the third:

Don’t try to be all things to all people. Go after a specific market, and don’t make apologies to those who aren’t part of that market.

Ringer points out that it’s natural to want to be loved and therefore to try to appeal to everyone and offend no one. Unfortunately that results in bland writing that may not appeal to anyone. If you’re writing an indie film, a strong viewpoint may be exactly the element that gets it noticed.

If you have a strong viewpoint about anything you will annoy or anger some people. That may prevent you from writing a screenplay that has a strong angle on a controversial topic, or it may incline you to try to give the opposing view equal time. That’s fine for a documentary that’s trying to show all sides of an issue, but it doesn’t make for strong drama.

Will taking a strong stand offend some people? Sure.

I wrote on my other writing blog ( not too long ago about how shocked I was at the vehement reaction from one reader to what I thought was a neutral statement. Obviously it pushed some buttons for her, and maybe she felt better after venting her anger. Her statements were mild compared to a lot of what I’ve read in the comments sections of other blogs. But maybe the old saying is true: If you’re not offending anybody, you’re not saying anything.

This is a good thing to keep in mind if you find yourself worrying, as you write, about how readers or reviewers or members of your family will react when they read it. You have to put that out of your mind and keep writing.

I have some experience with this. Not too long ago I finished writing a novel I call Vegas Bible Porn. It’s a comedy and its based, very loosely, on my time in Hollywood. It’s about a producer who tries to cash in on two money-making genres of film, soft porn and Bible pictures, by combining them.

The novel is not pornographic and it doesn’t make fun of the Bible; it’s just descriptive of what this producer is trying to do—the Vegas comes in because that’s where he raises the money to make his film. However, so far the title has scared off publishers.

Even so, I want to hang in there with it because I think it will attract people who have an irreverent attitude, and they’re the ones who will enjoy it.

Is it a risky strategy? Probably. But, as Ringer says, when you have a strong concept you will (eventually) attract an enthusiastic, loyal group of customers–or a producer with some guts and the desire to make a movie that has an impact.

(You can sign up for Robert Ringer’s e-letter, A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World, at If you would like some support in writing what only you can write, join my online Writing Breakthrough Strategy program. It starts in mid-January but now is the time to join and get some great Early Bird bonuses. Find out more at )

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Writer-director Will Gluck told how he developed the script for “Friends With Benefits.”

We signed up Justin [Timberlake] knowing that we were going to go to Mila [Kunis] instantly. We did it very quickly, and then we all got together and had a long dinner together. And then we just started. I told them we’ll take the structure that we have now, I’ll re-write 20 pages, and you can come to my office, we’ll read it out loud, we’ll change things. And then we’ll do 20 more pages. Then Woody [Harrelson] came on board and I wrote that character. When I finished, Justin and Mila’s voices were enmeshed in the script, so it was very much them two together.

This isn’t how things usually are done in Hollywood, of course, but Gluck seems to have more of the temperament of an indie filmmaker. This kind of collaboration can yield huge benefits and make everybody feel they have a major stake in the film. It’s a great strategy if you can find actors comfortable working that way; it’s also a good way to develop a script in general–hearing the words, getting feedback, exploring new options.

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