Good Book: Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit

I have every intention of setting up a bibliography page on this blog eventually, a page that will have books and blogs and DVDs that are good secondary sources on romantic comedy. (We’re still in the “let’s put on a show in the barn” stage of this blog, so there’ll be a lot of changes as we adapt.) But there were two sources I already knew would be on there, two good places to learn about writing romantic comedy and the genre in general, and I’m going to start now with the first one.

That’s Billy Mernit’s book, Writing the Romantic Comedy. I am a very tough sell on writing books, most of which I find recycle the same info or insist that their methods are crucial (“You must interview your characters”), so when I saw a book that promised to help you write romcom, I was skeptical. I love the genre, but it’s a bitch to write. So I sat down with the book and a Diet Coke, prepared to be annoyed. Reader, it’s a really good book. Mernit takes the genre seriously, he takes writing seriously, and he’s a terrific teacher. The book has five stars at Amazon, and when you consider how many bitchy writers there are out there (that would be me), he’s clearly made a lot of difficult people happy. I recommend his book without reservation.

And then there’s his blog, Living the Romantic Comedy (the link is also in the blogroll to the right) which is a terrific resource. Check out “Romantic Comedy or What” for another take on the kinds of arguments we had back on Argh trying to determine what the hell a romcom is.

And he’s a great source in another way: He’s here, commenting as Mernitman, which is kind of like having Northrup Frye drop by for your drama class. I did a fan squee in private e-mail but I’ll do one here, too. His book is really good, his blog is really thought-provoking, and he’s right here where we can argue with him about a genre he knows probably better than any of us. Or at least he’s here until he runs away screaming. Play nice, people. He knows things we need to know.

16 responses to “Good Book: Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit”

  1. Holy Cannoli! Is this like going to a women’s studies conference and finding Shirley Chisholm at your table? And I have an Amazon Gift Card burning a hole in my pocket!!

  2. Jenny, for some reason I’m having trouble navigating the blog. It’s fine if I’m reading the latest posting and comments, but when I try to look up older stuff, I’m having trouble.

    Last week I knew I wouldn’t be home for the watch-along, but tonight I will be, so I was trying to figure out where to find the information that would tell me when to get my movie ready, what time you were starting (I knew that the time had changed, but I couldn’t remember if it used to be 7 pm my time and now it would be 7 your time (which would be 6 my time) or if it had *changed* to 7 my time. At any rate, it would be helpful to have a permanent link to the post that lays out how to do the watch along and how to follow the Twitter dealy, etc. Maybe it’s already there and I’m just too dense to figure it out. Either way, HELP!

  3. I’ll put up a page, Rox. It’s 7PM ET so our time, not yours. Sorry it’s so early, but Lucy passes out if it’s much later.

    Stephanie, farce isn’t always crude but it can be. A Fish Called Wanda is farce, Airplane! is farce, What’s Up, Doc is farce. It’s more about funny, fast-paced improbable situation and dialogue. I love some farce, not others. Something About Mary left me cold. Airplane! is one of my favorite movies.

  4. Well, 6pm is not too early for me, because I have no social life. I will throw food at the family a little earlier than usual and then run downstairs to watch the movie on the big screen TV. (Easier to watch the tweets when I’m not also watching the movie on my laptop!)

  5. You know, the girls might even like it. I know, teenagers, but still, it’s funny! And it’s about love!

  6. N has finally come around to some black and white movies (she just took a two-week Hitchcock film class at school for their May program and seemed to enjoy it), but neither girl cares about romantic comedies. Unthinkable, I know.

    If this is how they rebel, though, I’m on board with it.

  7. @ Jenny You said:

    What’s Up, Doc is farce. It’s more about funny, fast-paced improbable situation and dialogue. I love some farce, not others. Something About Mary left me cold. Airplane! is one of my favorite movies.

    Director/Writer Peter Bogdanovitch on his commentary for Bringing up Baby he wanted to create a movie like BUB, and came up with What’s Up Doc. (My first attempt at blockquotes, so hope this works . . .

  8. I watched a bit of the commentary for BUB last night after I watched the movie. It’s worth listening to, because Bogdanovich loves this movie and had talked to Howard Hawkes about the making of it. Hawkes explained the mistakes he made and why he never made those mistakes again (the one I remember in particular is that *everyone* in the movie was crazy, even the gardener and the police constable, but he should have made at least one of them “normal”)

  9. I learned a lot listening to the Bogdanovich commentary. He spoke of the significance of closeups in that era – they were used for sparingly and for effect – fostering empathy and insight to the characters. He also spoke of economy of characters, as I believe Jenny has in the past. He spoke of movie-specific things like angles of shots and their purpose, unbroken shots following actions, what is real (Kate with Leopard), what may not be (Cary’s legs with leopard – another actor; vicious leopard by stone wall as projection). As both a director and a writer he had a lot to say.

  10. Regarding the relationship of “Doc” to “Baby,” there’s a story Bogdanovich tells – I don’t know if he repeats it in the commentary, and it may be a gilded lily (both Bogdanovich and Hawks have been fond of um, apocryphal tales) – that Hawks called Bogdanovich after the premiere of “What’s Up, Doc?” and said: “Peter – you left out the leopard.”

  11. Yes,, Bogdanovich mentions that Hawks said he left out the leopard – AND that he left out the DINOSAUR!