Book Review: Writing & Selling Romantic Comedy Screenplays by Helen Jacey & Craig Batty


Know what a sorocom, gerontocom and oddcom is?

Know how ID, ego, superego, projection, denial, idealisation, displacement, regression, rationalism and intellectualism affect romcoms?

Know how to use aspirations, interventions and lessons to enhance your romcom plots?

No? Then you need this excellent addition to the Creative Essentials screenwriting book family. You can grab yours HERE or HERE.

We give romcoms a hard time, and the writers are aware of this:

Myth – that ‘proper’ romcoms must meet certain expectations such as having polarised characters and classic turning points, like cute meets, lovers seeing the light and finding enduring happiness.

In reality, romcoms can be as diverse as any other genre. Far from just being the usual boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins back girl clichĂ©, “often, amongst comedy and romance, the real story (theme) is about learning to love oneself as a prerequisite to a good relationship”.

The book is broken up into information segments, hot tips (summaries of what you’ve learned in the sections), case studies (showing what you have learned in context) interviews (giving alternative points of views) and guidance in the form of both step-by-step advice (on coming up with an idea and getting it written and promoted) and a wealth of exercises to help revitalise your ideas and the process in which you write your masterpiece.

I loved the exercises, such as coming up with themes words, putting them in separate jars and then picking at random to create screenplay title prompts and ideas, and the rather self-indulgent task of treating yourself to an ideal date or going somewhere just to ‘people watch’.

There are lots of questionnaires to fill out, too, which really help to get you thinking about why you’re writing what you are writing, as well as giving depth and history to your characters.

Another thing I really liked about this book, was the insight into ratings and critic reviews. Romcom can be such a love/hate thing that sometimes the intentions of the writers and film-makers are missed. The authors and contributors of this book help you to see why this is, and how to choose your approach based upon what your goals are.

An interesting point that stood out was how you should “be aware that if you use a screenplay as ’emotional payback’ to make yourself feel better in terms of retaliation then it might not be emotionally well balanced” and how you should write from admiration rather than pale imitation – break down the elements of what you admire about other writers/films and why you admire them, then apply those qualities to your own writing.

Of course, originality is coveted. “Romcoms can age because the range of tones can go in and out of fashion.” The book highlights how it’s good to think about core visions and values to help identify your USP (unique selling point).

Love stories can be increasingly meandering, so [don’t be afraid to] take risks with your structure.

Lastly, there’s a handy section on how to pitch your project – including advice on different document types that may help you plan the script, as well as pitch it.

Overall, I was really impressed with this book and felt I learnt a lot about romcoms in an easy-to-digest way. I even found myself coming up with some ideas, and being inspired to have a go. For someone who hasn’t ever considered romcom as a genre vehicle for their stories before, this was quite the pleasant surprise!

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