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Saturday, January 28, 2012

What's So Funny About That?

Do you have to be a funny person to write Romantic Comedies? Not really. But you do need to be able to see the funny side of romance. When I'm writing romantic comedy, I look for laughs in four places: physical humor, funny situations, funny characters, witty dialogue. Not everything needs to be laugh-out-loud funny. If you can get people to smile or giggle while they are reading, you've done your job.


Physical Humor
: Think of this as the salt of the romantic comedy soup. Physical humor will add flavor but too much will spoil the soup. Go lightly on physical humor. In the movie, Pretty Woman, there is a scene where Julie Roberts is trying to eat escargot. The slippery little snail goes flying through the air. What I like about this scene is how her date, Richard Gere, reacts to her mistake. Physical humor just for a laugh should be avoided unless you are writing a scene for the Three Stooges. Make sure your scene will reveal something about your characters. In my new novel, Stealing Hearts, the male protagonist trips over a pile of laundry, hits his head and is knocked out cold while trying to steal back a locket. The point of the scene is to show my heroine that this particular burglar isn't a professional. He's very human and as scared as she is.

Funny Situations: A great way to create humor is to put ordinary people into ridiculous situations and have them try to act normal. In the movie, When Harry Met Sally, Sally makes a point about women faking orgasms while in a restaurant. The funniest moment is when the woman next to her says, "I'll have what she's having." It all seems so normal.

Funny Characters: Sometimes I'll have a character who is just plain quirky. Not the main character but someone who provides a bit of comic relief. You never know what they are going to do or say, and it keeps the main characters on their toes. In my novel, Getting Back to Delaney, I have three such characters...the three nosey grandmothers living next door to Delaney. Their antics are not without purpose, though. No matter how ridiculous they seem, their intention is to get the two main characters, Tyler and Delaney, together.


Witty Dialogue: A snappy repartee between characters might not get the big laughs of a physical sight gag, a ridiculous situation or a quirky character, but if done correctly, will leave your readers with a smile on their face. Witty dialogue is the most challenging but also the most rewarding form of humor. Walking that tightrope between being insipid or witty takes practice and an ear for reality. Listen to how people talk. Write down humorous exchanges that you hear. Once you have something you like, read it out loud or even read it like a play, with a partner reading the other person's lines. Once you've got the knack for witty repartee you are ready for romantic comedy.


The one thing I found that shouldn't be funny is sex. Keep the romance in the bedroom and the funny everywhere else and you'll have a great romantic comedy.

What scene from a movie or book struck your funny bone just right?

5 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Christie,

What an informative post! I seem to have a breezy, somewhat-comedic voice, so I really appreciate the information on comedy writing!

Interesting that romance readers want their sex scenes to be serious. I wonder why?

Judith Ashley said...

Great question, Christie! The original Pink Panther with Peter Sellers - the scene where he has a vacuum and there is a parrot. Saw the movie several times and after the first view, would start laughing out loud, holding my sides laughing before the scene started. Inspector Clouseau played by Peter Sellers is one of my all time favorite funny characters.

maepen said...

I love to read romantic comedies as well as watching them. My favorite romantic comedy movie is "10 Things I Hate About You."
I love the interaction between the characters.

Paty Jager said...

Great information. I don't know about a movie but the TV show Castle has great dialog between Beckett and Castle. I'm always smiling at the end of a show.

Christie Walker Bos said...

Thanks for all your comments. I was in a plane flying across county the day this posted and couldn't interact. Sorry all. Love, Castle. Reminds me of the TV show, Moonlighting. Great romantic tension combined with witty comments.