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Writing the Romantic Comedy Paperback – July 31, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

According to Billy Mernit, all the Hollywood studios--and most major actors--"are actively seeking romantic comedies." But the same studios and actors reject hundreds of romantic comedies a month. Mernit should know. As a story analyst who has read nearly 4,000 screenplays in the last 10 years, Mernit has seen the good, yes, but also too much of the bad and the ugly. With Writing the Romantic Comedy, Mernit presents his UCLA Extension rom-com writing workshop in book form. Believe it or not, it's not enough to have Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks play the leads. You actually have to create characters for them--characters that an audience will believe "absolutely must end up together." Mernit manages to lay down ground rules without seeming rigid: "he can't be in it only for the sex"; "she can't be in it only for the money"; "at least one scene or sequence [should be] laugh-out-loud funny." Mernit offers five ways to bring your characters to life and seven basic romantic comedy "beats." He has chapters on chemistry, humor, dialogue, and sex ("in romantic comedy, there's nothing sexier than sublimated sex"), and he draws generously upon the surprisingly small canon of great romantic comedies to demonstrate his points. Finally, given that the conflicts in romantic comedies are internal, you needn't look far for inspiration when you feel stuck. "Think of one of the most painful, humiliating, embarrassing things that ever happened to you with someone of the opposite sex," he says, and go from there. --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Writing the Romantic Comedy is so much fun to read it could pop a champagne cork." -- -- Alexa Junge, writer/producer of Friends --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060935030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060935030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

BILLY MERNIT wrote his first book at age five (a 33-page illustrated fable entitled "The Wee Little Cat," available in one extremely limited edition).

In his late teens he began his writing career as a composer-lyricist whose songs were recorded by Carly Simon and Judy Collins, among others. During his many years in the entertainment industry, he's written for television (NBC's legendary "Santa Barbara") and worked as both screenwriter and script consultant.

Known as 'the guru of rom-com' for his best-selling screenwriting textbook, "Writing the Romantic Comedy" (Harper/Collins) and his popular blog Living the Romantic Comedy, Billy teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and is a frequent guest speaker at writing conferences around the country.

"Imagine Me and You: A Novel" (Random House/ Shaye Areheart Books) is his first published work of literary/mainstream fiction.

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Paul Lind on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've been looking for a book like this for a long time. Most of the screenwriting books out there just cover the usual nuts and bolts of screenwriting and cite the same movies as examples (i.e. Citizen Kane, The Verdict). I found this book very useful because it was specific for the Romantic comedy genre. The author obviously studied the genre exensively as hundreds of romantic comedies old and new are cited. The book has a very good chapter on the basic structure road map of romantic comedy--but leaves enough flexibility and points out exceptions to the Sleepless in Seattle where the couple doesn't technically meet until the very last scene (but the screenwriter got around the rule well). I also liked the way the book lays this out to you in Layman's terms, not like the Robert McKee book where you end up more confused by the end than when you started. The book also offers some good chapters on Theme, imagery,dialogue, character chemistry, story credibility and "being funny" and offers specific case analyses at the end of the chapter to highlight what the author's talking about. The book also goes into the history of romantic comedy, the future, and a list of sub genres and sub categories--but what really made it worth my money was the chapters on theme and structure and the case studies. Now, if only there were more books out there on all the other genres...
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert Payne on November 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. Watching stories about cuddly, charismatic couples falling in love can turn this hard-bitten cynic into a mushy puddle of Jell-O in no time. They're this writer's Achilles' heel. You could show me the worst romantic comedy ever made, and I'd still probably find something good to say about it. So, I was delighted to come across Billy Mernit's "Writing the Romantic Comedy."

Although I've done some screenwriting in my time, my head isn't exactly bursting with ideas for romantic comedies. But since I'm an admirer of the genre, Mernit's book felt like a guided tour through a favorite building when you don't have any plans to construct a building of your own.

Hollywood producers notoriously hate to read, so if you're a Hollywood writer, you need to pick up a few tricks to make reading as easy for them (or their surrogates) as possible. As a writer for the entertainment industry, Mernit has obviously picked up a few tricks of his own, making his book a brisk and enjoyable read. The historical overview is appreciated almost as much as Mernit's disassemblies of some of the rom-com's stand-outs to show how the genre ticks.

Although the book is sprinkled with a few factual errors (for example, on page 177, he refers to author Milan Kundera as "Polish" instead of Czech), these aren't enough to upset the taco stand. Mernit's explanations of the genre's components are straightforward, artful, but clearly presented. And his dubbing of the Mr. Wrong character (a convention in many rom-coms) as the "Bellamy," after actor Ralph Bellamy who specialized in such roles, had me laughing out loud.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Carol A. Strickland on June 19, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fabulous book not only on writing romantic comedy movies but on writing, period. In particular, a romance writer of any medium would find this invaluable.
Mr. Mernit examines the basic components of story and character, but also provides fascinating insight to such subjects as theme. End-chapter exercises are unusually helpful and enlightening.
Critiques of a few movies show just how they accomplished what they did. (The examination of "Tootsie" is amazing!) I appreciated the breakdown of how romantic comedy in the movies has evolved through the years and am now collecting many of the titles listed in the book that I've never seen. (The recent AFI list on romantic movies is also a good source for more study.)
This book is on my shelf now right next to Syd Fields and Debra Dixon. I will certainly be referring to it again and again in the years that come.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeff on August 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was a very pleasant surprise.
First, it's really the only current book of its type to focus on the romantic comedy genre.
Second, it doesn't neglect screenwriting in general, yet at the same time does not overdue the details of general screenwriting, which can be had in other books.
Third, he's a good writer and knows how to keep the material moving.
Fourth, mixed in with everything else are excellent in-depth analyses of top romantic comedies. I found his analysis of Tootsie especially good. It prompted me to take out the movie and see it again but with new eyes.
Fifth, there's really a lot more in this book than I can write about in this small space, but I particularly gained from his chapters entitled "The Art of Funny" and "Being Sexy."
My one complaint is that I was not too sold on his seven part structure which all romantic comedies can be broken down into supposedly. Perhaps he's correct, but formulaic approaches just irk me. Maybe one day I'll feel differently.
Overall, though, this is an excellent book, delivering what it promises, and worthwhile to have around for rereadings in part or whole.
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