I have been pondering this question this week. what makes a romance a romantic comedy?
If you go to a bricks and mortar bookstore or onto Amazon there are thousands upon thousands of romance novels and a great many of these fall into the contemporary romance category.
Within that category some are romantic comedies but certainly not all. So what are the hallmarks? I was thinking about this in relation to movies. There are far, far fewer (I would argue) movies that are straight romances most have a somewhat whimsical element to them.
In fact I was struggling to think of too many contemporary ones. I came up with the Before Sunrise series with Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke but couldn't think of too many other contemporary examples that didn't seem to involve input from one Nicholas Sparks who favours romance through tears over romance through laughter - death, abuse, war, sickness are his paths to true love.
Try and think of movies that are romantic comedies and you don't struggle at all - and we can all name the actresses to look for as well - hello Kate Hudson, hello Meg Ryan (the early years), hello Anne Hathaway (pre- Les Miserables), hey Sandra Bullock (pre Oscar) and how are you Katherine Heigl?
What makes these romantic comedies is the somewhat zany situations the main characters seem to get in and that rather than weep your way through the movie as the protagonists find true love you laugh, or at least chuckle. Often it's not just the situations they find themselves in but the supporting cast of friends, relatives and co-workers that create the humour.
I think that's actually true for real life as well. It's the funny story about your friend's wedding, they day your car broke down on your way to that important meeting, the time your co-worker tripped coming into a meeting and spilled coffee everywhere, the time you rescued a friend from a terrible date or your crazy relative going nuts at a party (I'm loathe to cite a example that might incriminate me) that makes your own life funny. These are the stories you share over a drink, these are you "remember when" stories that you rehash and recall when you're together with friends and family.
I think romantic comedies - whether they're books or movies - are made up of these stories. The ones that make you smile when you remember them, they're the stories you want to revisit as opposed to the ugly break-ups, the broken hearts, the horrible boss who fired you for no good reason, the tragic car accident - those stories are best forgotten.
Romantic comedy takes looks at life through the prism of laughter and there's nothing wrong with that.
My romantic comedy Hearts Afire is currently on sale at Amazon for 99c.