Today I'd like you to give a warm welcome to my guest, Alison May. She is the author of Choc Lit novel 'Sweet Nothing' and her second novel, 'Midsummer Dreams', is out in June. Alison is not only a rom-com author but a creative writing teacher and I decided she would be the ideal person to put this question to - what makes the perfect rom-com?
Ah the rom-com. It’s a classic form in movies, books and television but what is it, and what elements make up a good one? Today I’m going to don my white coat of academic endeavour, head down to the great laboratory of writerly whatnots and do some analysis.
The first element of a good rom-com is, of course, the rom, traditionally short, in this context, for romance, not roman. Although a roman-com would be awesome. It would probably involve people called Romanus going around the house.
Anyway, romance, in my terribly humble opinion, is always born out of the characters doing the romancing. A hero doesn’t just need to be dishy and available – although both of those help – he needs to be the right hero for this one specific heroine. The pair either have to fill a gap in the other’s character or challenge some flaw in the other. So for a heroine like Cora, in Cora’s Christmas Kiss, who is obsessed with status, and achievement, her perfect hero could either be someone who helps her gain a sense of achievement or it could be someone who encourages her to relax and maybe be a wee bit less goal-oriented from time to time.
Good romance also needs obstacles. At least it does in MadeUpStoryWorld. In real-life, meeting a nice guy or girl, asking them out, going out, having a nice time and getting together is utterly lovely, but, as anyone who’s ever been bored to death listening to a friend recount the details of their perfect date will know, it’s also really dull. Again the obstacles in a really good romance should be linked to the characters. If you have a confident and normally outspoken heroine you can’t give her an obstacle that could easily be resolved if she just mentioned it to somebody. Well you can, but you risk your poor reader throwing your book across the room in disgust. And just imagine that when they throw the book they strain their shoulder, forcing them to take time off work, and because this key staff member is off work their company loses out on a big contract, forcing them to make first your disgruntled reader, and then the entire workforce, redundant. It could happen. Poorly thought out plot points have consequences, you know. You have been warned.
Time now for the second element of the great rom-com formula: the com. Comedy is a tricky beast – utterly subjective, and liable to become entirely unfunny when subjected to close inspection. I’m a naturally analytical writer. I tend to break stories and characters down and think a lot about the building blocks of a novel, but with comedy that approach fails me. The one and only piece of advice I can offer is this: if it makes you laugh then the chances are that somewhere out there will be a reader who feels the same. The second one and only piece of advice is this: when writing a novel you will have to read your own words lots of times – certainly three or four, possibly closer to ten or fifteen – by the end of that process nothing you’ve written will be funny. It will all be stale, unimaginative and hateful. At that point you just have to remember that it was funny originally. If it made you laugh when you wrote it, then keep the faith. The words haven’t changed; you’re just reading them with a worn down, worn out, unamusable outlook. Writing a novel can do that to you unfortunately.
So there you go. Here endeth the lesson in the twin disciplines of the rom and the com. Have good characters who fit together; present them with obstacles that are specific to them, and remember to keep the faith in the funny stuff.
And now you have no excuse not to sit down and write the perfect rom-com! Thank you for joining us today, Alison and the best of luck with your new novel when it comes out next month.
Alison May was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish once. That ended badly.
Alison has studied History and Creative Writing, and has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and a freelance trainer, before settling on 'making up stories' as an entirely acceptable grown-up career plan.
Alison is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012. She writes contemporary romantic comedies, published by Choc Lit. Her first full-length novel, Sweet Nothing, is available as for kindle now and to pre-order in paperback, and her second, Midsummer Dreams is out in June. Alison has also written two Christmas Kiss novellas, both available as ebooks now.
You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk or by following her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay
About Sweet Nothing
Would you risk everything for love?
Independent, straight-talking Trix Allen wouldn’t. She’s been in love once before and ended up with nothing. Now safely single, Trix is as far away from the saccharine-sweet world of hearts and flowers as it’s possible to be.
Ben Messina is the man who broke Trix’s heart. Now he’s successful the only thing rational Ben and free-spirited Trix see eye-to-eye on is the fact that falling in love isn’t part of the plan. But when Ben’s brother sets out to win the heart of Trix’s best friend, romance is very much in the air. Will Trix gamble everything on love and risk ending up with zero once again?
Sweet Nothing is available for kindle and you can pre-order it in paperback here