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How to Write a Romantic Comedy Novel, Part 2

Updated: Jun 28

First Published in Writing on Gabriela Pereira's

OCT 13, 2020 by Tammy Lough

In How to Write a Romantic Comedy Novel, Part 1, I spoke of the highly recommended, must have at your fingertips tools to gather prior to writing a romantic comedy. Among those tools, a styptic pencil rated at the top of the list. Why? The secret is out. Each word is bled, drop by precious drop, onto the paper. 

Chris Westbury, a psychologist at the University of Alberta, analyzed a whopping 45,000 words to determine the funniest words in the English language. Hang on to your bloomers a sec, I have to share this. According to Westbury, the four funniest all-time words are: “giggle,” “wriggly,” “squiffy,” and “boobs.” He must have interviewed 5th grade boys to determine that “boobs” belonged on the list. (And what is “squiffy?” Am I the only one who doesn’t know?)

Anyway…let’s talk about the more nitty-gritty categories and rules of writing a romantic comedy.

Five Humor Inducing Categories:

1. Sex.

When romantic comedy lead characters talk about sex, many readers get an anticipatory giggle, which makes the scene funnier. This is true even when the humor is mild.

2. Insults.

Goofy insults like “Arrogant Badonk-a Nugget” give a for-sure giggle or three. Way too corny not to bring at least a smile.

3. Swear Words.

Nothing harsh if you write sweet romantic comedy, but jackass might get a tee-hee from even the sternest of the stern. Swear words in an inspirational romantic comedy? Not if you want your book published.

4. Party Words.

A word like “shindig” causes us to think of music, dancing, and perhaps a swig (or six) of cinnamon-apple moonshine.

5. Animals.

How about a Great Dane named Tiny, a fish called Sushi, or a cat who answers to Yeti?

Four Rules of Writing Romantic Comedy:

1. The “K” Rule

Words with a hard “K” sound draw a reader’s attention and make them take notice. Like a billboard, they shout, “Look at me. I’m FUNNY!” Examples include: Buccaneer, Canoodle, Cantankerous, Caterwaul, Cattywampus, Doohickey, Gunky, Kahuna, Kerplunk, Lackadaisical, Persnickety, Scuttlebutt, Snarky, Sprocket, Squeegee, Wonky, etc.

2. The Rule of Three, AKA The Triple.

The rule of three is HUGE in the writing world. The number three is the smallest number to create a pattern, it is pleasing to our minds, and it adds emphasis. This rule works wonders when creating a romantic comedy or any romantic sub-genre. How about the following for romantic suspense?

“I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead.” ~Laura Kitelinger.

Or a Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com):

He: Honey, I never would have missed our date if I hadn’t been drinking. My three stages of drunk are: I’m happy, I’m buzzed, and I’m sitting in a shrub eating a ham.

Her: How often do you get to stage three?

He: Let me put it this way. Before I leave the house, I pocket a slice of Swiss.

3.  The Comparison Line (or Joke) for Romantic Comedy.

We can think of a comparison as a metaphor. A figure of speech comparing one thing to another can add rib-tickling humor. Example: “Bigamy is having one husband too many, monogamy is the same.”

4. The Cliché Twist.

Start with a cliché (a known catchphrase, title, lyric, piece of literature) and change the ending, or change the entire familiar phrase to one with a new ending for a funny twist.

Example: “Honey, our taxi arrives in 20 minutes, you better get your ducks in a row or we’ll miss the flight.”

Change it up: “Honey, our taxi arrives in 20 minutes, you better get your bunnies in a basket or we’ll miss the flight.” (How much more romantic/cute/sweet is that?)

Don’t Stifle Creativity, but Don’t Overdo:

1. Be Strategic About Humor Placement.

Use sparingly and selectively. Make sure the humor fits its placement and scatter the funnys so they do not seem forced. No willy-dilly joke placed every “X” sentence. Create a joke and tuck it into your work in progress (WIP) only because it has true meaning in that space. If it doesn’t meet this stipulation, wad it into a ball and take a free-throw at the waste can.

2. Give Your Reader a Heads-Up.

Let your reader know you are in on the joke, especially if it deals with your own illness or situation, and you want them to laugh along with you. Give them permission through your words. It is okay to go for broke and split a gut.

3. Shut-off Sarcasm.

Tone of voice is hard to get across in print. Sarcasm is best left on the cutting room floor as it can come off hurtful, judgmental, and bullish.

One last note on writing a romantic comedy novel. There is an old saying: “If you can get them to open their mouths to laugh, you can get them to open their hearts to learn.”

[BTW, squiffy means slightly drunk. (Betcha the guy with the swiss cheese in his pocket knew what it meant.)]

Writer's Write!!!

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