This week I’m talking about characters in comedy, specifically romantic comedies. What I am seeing in a lot of work that is coming in is the stereotypes of the snarky leading lady-who honestly, no one, not even our leading man, would like because she’s too awful, and the womanizer leading man-who again, why would anyone give him a chance? And then the other characters are throwaways.
Please don’t do this with your secondary characters, they can be just as important if not more important than your leads!!
The TV show FRIENDS, which came out in 1994 was originally called, Monica & Friends, meaning Monica was the leading lady soon it really became all about Ross and Rachel but in the beginning, it was Monica’s story.
When the show opens we see Monica and her friends handing out in a coffee shop, establishing who they all are and soon a bride-to-be walks in crying (inciting incident)-Rachel. We see through he actions and dialogue that she is a spoiled rich girl from Long Island who went to high school with Monica. Monica’s world changes when Rachel moves in with her–(new world). The show was Monica’s story and soon became an equal ensemble cast due to the strong character types.
Another great comedy is Modern Family. You could say it’s about Claire’s family? Or Jay’s? Probably Jay’s since he is the patriarch of the family, but all the archetypes are there and it works.
Novels are different-or are they?
Take Crazy Rich Asians–
The story opens with Rachel and Nick at their favorite coffee shop and he is asking her to go to meet his family where a wedding is to take place. Little does she know who she is with.
Then we go to meet Eleanore -the mom
the story also has, the best friend, (for both of them), the side-kick, and a very strong B story running throughout.
One more example. In Hallmark’s Christmas movie Let It Snow you have a main character/leading lady, a love interest, friends, and parents, and a boss (bad guy-who isn’t so bad, it’s Hallmark after all and he’s also her father-of course in comedy we keep them all connected). This is a simple plot where the main character hates snow and is trying to impress her father (issues with feeling accepted) so she tries to get a village’s snow valley lodge shut down but she meets her love interest and realizes that she has had it wrong all along. It’s simple but works. I know a few of you are writing light romantic comedies–and they are fine but the ones that work have these characters in there.
You don’t need to have ALL of them but you should have a good combo-the archetypes are who the characters are, and you can have them in any role in your story.
1. Lovable Loser
2. Logical Smart One
5. The Dumb One
6. In Their Own Universe
8. Materialistic One
I’ll use FRIENDS (available on HBO Max for streaming and also runs on cable every day)
1. Lovable Loser (Pheobe)
2. Logical Smart One (Ross)
3. Neurotic (Monica)
5. The Dumb One (Joey)
6. In Their Own Universe (Chandler)
8. Materialistic One (Rachel)
You could argue that some of them cross over.
Okay, I’ll do Legally Blonde to-they aren’t all in there.
1. Lovable Loser (Serena & Margarette)
2. Logical Smart One (Elle)
4. Bitch/Bastard (Vivian)
6. In Their Own Universe (Paulette)
7. Womanizer/Manizer (Prof. Callahan)
Now look at it in terms of WHO must be in a romantic comedy-they can be any of the archetypes from above but these people need to be in your story.
Leading Lady -Elle
Love interest- Emmett
Ex-lover/boyfriend/soon to be ex-Warner
Villain/bitch-Vivian (all the smart students) and Prof Callahan
In Steve Kaplan’s book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy he goes over the archetypes in COMMEDIA basically how it all started-which is great and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book.
Back to the beginning of this newsletter-using stereotypes-if you do, make sure that you do it in a unique way. Why would you want your leading lady to be snarky and bitchy? What is the point?
In The Proposal-Margaret is bitchy but not snarky-and we find out why she is like that when she opens up to Andrew-there is always a reason for that behavior, or there needs to be.
In The Devil Wears Prada-Andrea is the leading lady and is sweet, innocent, and a little naive (at least in the film version, in the book she is a little more jaded-or becomes jaded quickly) and Emily is the bitchy one.
Make sure if you go there, you have a reason and you must make them likable in some way, or readers or viewers won’t care.
I hope this was helpful!!
Happy writing! XO Stephanie