You’re sure that you’ve met your perfect match. You rhapsodize for hours about everything that made you fall head over heels, but at the end your friend just shrugs and says, “Are you kidding me?”
of course, is that your hormonal response is distorting your reality, and your
cool-eyed friends are evaluating the shelf-life of this new relationship
dispassionately, asking: Do these two have enough in common? Will they treat each other well? Most importantly: Do they need each
In a “first
person” novel, you can try to capture the subjective experience of falling in
love, but screenwriters have a much harder job. Movies are always in the “third person”, which means that
the camera eye never gets to fully identify with one of the lovers, so it must
take the perspective of that dubious friend.
(You can try
to cheat, like West Side Story did,
by using subjective camera effects to capture Tony’s besotted vision of Maria,
but even back then viewers just rolled their eyes. The camera eye is not the hero’s eye, and we will always see
more than he sees.)
So this is
one case where you don’t want to
write what you know—don’t trust your own distorted memories of love and/or
heartbreak, and instead think back to the relationships of your friends. Which relationships did you root for,
which ones infuriated you? Which
ones endangered your friends and which ones saved them? Most importantly, how did you know that
they were right for each other, maybe even before they did?
first draft is one huge love story or the romance is a minor element, you may
be shocked to discover, once you’ve gotten some notes, that nobody sees what
you see in the love interest.
that so many love stories fail, and so many lame love interests drag movies
down, is that the filmmakers have failed to add “I understand you” scenes. As I described here, the entire
massive seven-book, eight-movie “Harry Potter” juggernaut seriously falters
because nowhere in all those mounds of franchise did Rowling or any of the
screenwriters put in any “I understand you” scenes between Harry and
Ginny. She’s just “the
is your chance to add that element of understanding, but it’s tricky. Given that your hero starts off with afalse goal and a false statement of philosophy, it’s tempting to make the love
interest the character who’s lecturing your hero from the beginning to adopt
the right goal and philosophy, but
then you risk drifting into another
category of alienating character: Just as you don’t want a hero who just says no, likewise you don’t want a stick-in-the-mud love interest, such as the kind
you find in Old School, and many
other manchild comedies. (These
love interests also violate the rule that “People Only Want What They Want”. At the end of the day,
nobody really wants to save you except you, and maybe your close family)
understand you” moments don’t have anything to do with wanting to change the
other person and everything to do with accepting: We don’t root for the Beauty and the Beast to get together
until the beast gives Belle his library.
you can establish that they understand each other before they even meet. Ironically, we know the heroes in Friends with Benefits will bond because we see that they have a shared dislike of relationships. And what could be more romantic than
the song that drifts from Maurice Chavalier in the city to Jeanette MacDonald
in the country in Love Me Tonight?
Just as when
you have to occasionally check with your buddies to make sure you’re not
blinded by love, only once you’ve gotten notes on your screenplay will you know
how well your romance is playing.
Don’t be surprised if you have to give it a firmer foundation.