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STORY BROADS: How to Write a Romantic Comedy When You Hate Rom-Coms, Part 1

How does a romantic comedy hater prepare to dive into the world of RomComs? Here are the steps screenwriter Despina Karintis devised to get started on her anti-Romantic romantic journey.

Despina Karintis was a closeted cinephile who channeled her obsession and took up the craft of screenwriting. Her adventures across the globe, including sliding down glaciers, skirmishing with sharks, and nearly drowning in a desert tinaja, inspired her scripts in the Action/Thriller and Comedy genres. Despina is Co-Founder of Story Broads and hopes to broaden the horizon of women in film for generations to come. Twitter: @Wonder_Writer

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Hi, my name is Despina and I hate Rom-Coms. It's been approximately one year since my last accidental viewing (Man Up) and I, quite quixotically, decided to study the genre and careen myself, kicking and screaming, down the romantic gauntlet of love and goo courtesy of a self-prescribed viewing of a large list of RomComs I gathered from several polls on social media and Googled lists of faves. Phew! I'm currently in a convulsive heap on the couch as I ready my first one: Love Actually.

"But why, oh why do you hate Romantic Comedies? Have you no heart?"

I do have a heart. But it's little and black and it only beats for cats, CGI dragons, and vintage T-shirts. I tend not to like Rom-Coms because they're too neat and perfect. Even with their characters' flaws and story conflicts I feel like hurling empty wine bottles at the TV as my view on life and love is anything but neat and perfect. Yes, I'm an angry little elf. I'm a physically semi-fit, scaly woman-child relegated to my dad's attic where I scan the 'Missed Connections' posts and respond with "...but I'm married." (Oh, look! My first subverted trope!)

Script EXTRA: Rescuing the Romantic Comedy

Why on earth would I (attempt to) write one?

Because I have one brewing in my head, dammit. And it won't go away. The characters are whining – pining? They're the same, right? – and because I'd like to have a hand in making an anti-Romantic Romantic Comedy that I'd actually cheer for. I'd like to watch one that finally fucking resonates with me. I'd like to see the truly cynical, independent wo/man tamed in a sweaty bed of roses and angst only to succumb to crippling anxiety and doubt and end up alone or in a relationship with a Sims character, online shopping, and battery-operated devices and be totally cool with it. Cats and CGI dragons will fill the rest of the void.

Here's the kicker. I am not adverse to love. Or watching movies about love. Or seeing it in real life. In fact, I've found that some of my favorite films have a central theme of love, they just aren't in the form of Rom-Coms and their journeys are nowhere near as neat and perfect. They're not exactly mushy romance movies either. Two are Sci-Fi, three could be considered Action/Adventure, and one of those is a Disney movie. Figure that quagmire out! (If you know me and can guess at least three of those, you get bonus points and a virtual high five.)

Script EXTRA: The RomCom is NOT Dead (Seriously)

So how am I going to prepare myself to dive into the world of romantic comedy? Here's what I've devised to get started on my anti-Romantic romantic journey:

  1. Write what I know. Start with myself. Or that weird aunt who never married that talks way too long on the phone on holidays about everything I'm doing wrong in life. Or maybe a friend who's tragically hip and tragically unlucky in love.
  2. Get drunk and watch a shit ton of Rom-Coms and write down all the things I hate about them and then subvert. (This should also make for equally hilarious and sad reading the next day)
  3. Read their screenplays. Maybe an actor or a setting didn't resonate, but there was something recognizable in the story. This will also help with beats and structure.
  4. Inner reflection. More booze. Possibly some therapy.
  5. Read 'Missed Connections' on Craigslist or other source and get busy thinking of strange and wonderful ways to make those puppets dance.
  6. Read Shakespeare and/or Russian literature and learn what romantic tragedy is. That shit's depressing as hell (but oh so delicious) and can lend itself to discovering true love's true angst and turmoil, or the absence of love in the first place.
  7. More inner reflection on how life ain't so bad after all. Maybe ease up on the booze a bit. Go outside. Pet a cat.
  8. Two words: Old Hollywood.
  9. Peruse IMDb lists of hot actors and set phasers to daydream.
  10. Really think about what would make me happy to see on the screen instead of just bitching about it. What sort of representation? How would I rewrite my own romantic trials and tribulations?

We'll see how this goes. Hopefully I can stomach the entire list of these bad boys and come up with an actual plan for my own. I might need some eye bleach, Mylanta, and the number to a good sweat lodge afterwards, though.

More articles by Despina Karintis

Get tips on Romantic Comedies in Steve Kaplan's on-demand webinar
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"I'll Have What She's Having": The Art of Romantic Comedy