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A serious approach to writing the romantic comedy screenplay

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FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove

Story Analyst/author Billy Mernit chatted with writers and signed copies of his book, “Writing The Romantic Comedy,”  last month in Brea.


Actor Hugh Grant has had some of his best film success with romantic comedies so he knows a thing or two about the genre. Back in 2003, Grant explained the problem with most romcom scripts in a BBC interview: “The reason I turn down 99% of a hundred, I mean a thousand, scripts is because romantic comedies are often very romantic but seldom very funny. The writing isn’t up to scratch and the lines aren’t funny.”

Story Analyst/author Billy Mernit mentioned the same problems during his talk to the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America on December 13, 2008. Nevertheless, Mernit focused on what writers can do to give their rom-coms a better chance of receiving a recommend instead of a pass from script readers such as himself.

Mernit tossed out a number of script fixes and suggestions including: making sure your screenplay is about something, write the chemistry between the couple on the page, show why “they belong together,” put a new spin or different execution on the rom-com formula, and kick up the humor wherever possible. During his presentation, Mernit came across as witty and funny without trying too hard, which is sort of like what a good romantic comedy should do.

Mernit has an extensive writing background, which he admitted to the group includes a stint, years ago, as an author of romance novels under a couple of pseudonyms. Besides his screenplay textbook, “Writing the Romantic Comedy,” Mernit has a literary fiction book out called, “Imagine Me and You: A Novel.”


 Mernit works as a story analyst/script consultant at Universal Studios. Also, he teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

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