Today is the day two featuring Elizabeth Aston and her Mountjoy series. Elizabeth was kind enough to write a guest post with her thoughts on writing they types of books she does. It is also the last day we’ll be offering a terrific Book Giveaway! All you have to do is comment! Keep reading for details.
Romantic Comedy is easy to recognize, hard to define. First stop: Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, which gives a neat summary: “a general term for comedies that deal mainly with the follies and misunderstandings of young lovers, in a light-hearted and happily concluded manner which usually avoids serious satire”.
And that wonderfully describes Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (my favourite Shakespearean comedy), which did indeed set the scene for romantic comedies ever since.
So what are the essential ingredients of a romantic comedy? Naturally, like all writers, I like to stretch the boundaries. Not all my characters are young lovers. One is a wife who married the wrong man, another a wife in her forties who thought she’d married the right man, but now is not so sure. Yet another is a young wife who dotes on her husband, but is convinced he lusts after a previous amour. Then I have a single mum, bringing up her delightful but difficult daughter, struggling with a need to bring order into her life, until she meets her fate in the shape of a man specializing in Chaos.
I go in for some gentle satire, if not of a serious kind, because satire is fun, and an essential part of good comedy. Remember, I’m an English writer, and we from that foggy island have a strong tradition of satire. Anyone who thinks Jane Austen wrote sweet romances is in for a shock when they actually sit down and read her novels. Mrs Norris? Mrs Elton? The Rev. Collins? Ouch! There’s an author who wielded an unerringly sharp quill pen. And who wrote six of the best romantic comedies ever.
So what’s the skeleton of a romantic comedy?
First off, zingy characters. Main characters have to be fun, and smart. Men and women give as good as they get, and they need a sense of humour, a witty tongue and a lively sense of the ridiculous. At least, they do in my books. And this goes for the minor characters, too, not just the protagonists. A strong romantic comedy these days needs a really good supporting cast, no room for weedy types or hangers on.
It’s this sense of fun and zest in the way a man and a woman can get together, despite the obstacles, despite their resistance, despite the way fate seems deliberately to trip them up, that makes for a sparkling and scintillating read. Whenever it looks like a character is having an easy ride, I have to think, whoops, no, let’s see what happens if…
You also need a sense of danger. However much the reader thinks it’s going to turn out all right, you can’t let it just happen. Your heroine has to be a nano-second away from making a disastrous decision or mistake. Your hero has to put his foot in it.
And, above and beyond all this, you, as a writer, have to make it matter. The reader has to care whether the heroine can break free of her bonds, whether she can stand up to an errant husband, whether she can accept that this man is her fate – and vice versa. Good RomCom is never about Me, Me, Me and shopping and pink shoes. Good RomCom is about why relationships matter, and why some work and some don’t.
Of course, it all ends happily ever after. That’s what comedy means. We, reader and author, want a satisfying conclusion to a wild ride: a full close after all kinds of variations, a sigh of contentment as hero and heroine do end up in each other’s arms – not for a night, but, we hope, for a lifetime.
And now, for our great book giveaway!
- Book Review: The World, The Flesh and The Bishop by Elizabeth Aston (famelessramblings.wordpress.com)