Purposeful Romantic Cinema
~ By Sally J. Walker
Pairing up is a recognized life experience of the human species. Awareness of the need surfaces in puberty. Some people sublimate it for a variety of reasons. Others embrace it and evolve a determination to find that special Someone to share life experiences. Sometimes those determined folk succeed. Other times they are frustrated. And sometimes people simply stumble upon the person meant to travel with them for the rest of their lifetime.
Attitudes toward the “Pairing Process” are as unique as each human for a variety of reasons. Those of us who write romance observe and incorporate those attitudes into the pairing stories we weave. Our objective is to depict the journey of discovery that others will enjoy reading and watching.
Frequently romance writers deal with cynics and people discomfited by the principles of romantic relationships. We are not deterred. We know what a thrill it is to have life’s obstacles overcome in order to end up in the arms of the beloved. That makes us perpetual optimists. In a world full of negatives and disturbing threats, romantic storytellers provide the Hope of happiness through pairing.
Novels are a 1:1 experience. The cinematic world is a relative group orgy. A huge group of artists MAKE the film then many people gather before their TV sets or settle in a public theater to experience the story.
Creating the characters and events that will absorb the awareness of the audience demands a specialized form of storytelling, from script formatting to manipulation of time and place to stimulating the imaginations of all those other cinematic artists who contribute their expertise to the creation of the film. The reality of writing a romantic film is that the writer fades into background. We are not important beyond the blue print we created. All those other collaborators take over the storytelling. Ultimately, they too are not meant to be obvious. Even the actors become the characters in a well-done film. That happens for one purpose: to enthrall the audience.
The genre of “Romantic Comedies” is not intended to create perpetual laughs. It is about the “feel good” quality of the story. There certainly may be drama or tragedy, however, ultimately the problems will be resolved, the obstacles overcome and the
pairing will take place.
For some people—mostly males—this concept is too sugar-coated and the ending predictable. If they had their choice, they would go to an Action-Adventure film. They share this film to please the romantic-minded people in their lives. A writer’s challenge is to absorb that cynic’s imagination, to surprise him into discovering he can “care.”
The Romantic film-goer doesn’t sit in the theater expecting a depiction of the worse life experiences in the characters’ lives. They KNOW the couple will end up together. They want the story to depict HOW that happens. The ending is not rocket science complicated . . . but the story’s events need to be in order to enthrall the audience, both genre enthusiasts and reluctant cynics.
ROMANCE SCREENWRITER’S CHALLENGE
Screenwriting is a specialized discipline that requires knowledge of what the film industry needs, just as romance writing is a specialized craft. One cannot create a screenplay without studying the craft, just as one cannot depict a fictionalized romance without knowledge of reader/audience expectations.
A romantic story is more than Beginning-Middle-Ending structure. It is a complex depiction of dreams and needs, character angst and joys. Most importantly it is about awareness of the desire to pair with another human being, the need to survive WITH another human being whatever life circumstance is thrown at them.
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Sally Walker’s published credits include literary, romance and western novels, a nonfiction essay collection, several creative writing textbooks, stage plays, poetry, and many magazine articles on the craft of writing, including staff contributions to two international film magazines for 10 years. With 32 screenplays written, several under negotiation at various studios and her novel-to-screenplay adaptation on her plate, Sally has an entertainment attorney representing her in Hollywood. In addition to long time active memberships in such national writing organizations as RWA, WWA and SCBWI, she was president of a state-wide writers organization 2007-2011. She keeps to a strenuous writing schedule and still has time to work as Editorial Director for The Fiction Works, supervising acquisitions and sub-contracted editors, as well as Script Supervisor for material sent to TFW’s affiliated Misty Mountain Productions. Sally has taught writing seminars, both on-site and on-line, for over 30 years and is the facilitator for the weekly meetings of the Nebraska Writers Workshop in Ralston, NE. For more information on her works and classes go to her website at http://www.sallyjwalker.com