Houston writer Katherine Center explains what makes a good romantic comedy – Houston Public Media

Houston writer Katherine Center explains what makes a good romantic comedy – Houston Public Media

Houston writer Katherine Center explains what makes a good romantic comedy – Houston Public Media

Houston writer Katherine Center’s latest novel is called “The Rom-Commers.”

Houston writer Katherine Center knows a lot about the romantic comedy genre. She has built a career around this, having written numerous novels in the genre, including some bestsellers and a couple of novels that have been made into films, such as Happiness for beginners and The lost husband.

His latest novel delves into the world he knows best: it’s a romantic comedy about… people who write a romantic comedy.

The Rom-Commers tells the story of Emma, ​​an aspiring writer, who tries to help Charlie, an accomplished screenwriter of everything. but romantic comedies, fixes the poor attempt he made at crafting a romantic comedy script.

In an interview with Houston Affairs Producer Michael Hagerty, Center, tells you more about the story, what makes a romantic comedy work, how the genre has changed over the years, and how he tries to push it forward in his books.

Katherine Center in the Houston Matters studio

Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media

Writer Katherine Center poses in the Houston Matters studio with her latest novel, “The Rom-Commers.”

Center says what draws her to focusing on stories in this genre is simple.

“They rely on a very specific type of anticipation,” Center said. “…that’s what keeps us all turning the pages.”

But while there is anticipation in most stories, many of them are based on more negative anticipation.

“More like a sense of dread,” he said. “You’re piecing together the clues the writer has left for you and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, that guy’s going to go to jail.’ Good? Or ‘Ugh, they’re going to arrest that kid.’”

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Romantic comedies, however, focus on what Center calls “positively compensated anticipation.”

“Romantic comedies don’t give you things to fear in the same way,” he said. “They give you things to look forward to.”

And part of that is the guaranteed happy ending. That is a promise of the genre. But that happy ending exists for a very specific reason.

Vicky Wight and Katherine Center
Houstonian Vicky Wight (left) shown in 2020 with best-selling Houston author Katherine Center. Wight directed the film adaptations of Center’s novels. The lost husband and Happiness for beginners.

“And it’s to allow the writer to create a very particular kind of emotional happiness that can only be obtained by having something important to look forward to,” he said.

In the case of a romantic comedy, what you have to expect is, of course, that two people get together. The question is not if, but how.

“So in a romantic comedy the question is never, ‘Will they or won’t they?’ Because they will. They definitely will. They absolutely will,” Center said.

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He adds that there is another word to describe that anticipation: hope. And, with all the stress of our modern lives and the turmoil of the world, sometimes you need to feel happiness, something Center believes the romantic comedy genre, whether in the form of a book, movie or television show, can offer better. than almost anything.

“You get this kind of extended dance remixed version of experiencing hope in real time, hoping for something good, and I love that,” he said.

Of course, there still needs to be some conflict to drive the story forward.

“You can’t just have happy people walking around eating ice cream in a story,” he said. “There needs to be struggles.”

But put a lot of thought into carefully balancing the proportion of that conflict with the amount of positive anticipation.

Luke Grimes and Ellie Kemper in the Netflix movie Happiness for Dummies

Barbara Nitke/NETFLIX

Luke Grimes and Ellie Kemper in the 2023 Netflix film “Happiness for Beginners,” based on the novel of the same name by Katherine Center.

For example, his novel Happiness for beginners, which was recently made into a movie on Netflix, was about a woman on a long walk. An initial online review by a reader complained that there was too much kissing and not enough walking. Center still thinks about that to this day, taking care to balance the various elements of her stories.

“I want there to be conflict, but I don’t want conflict to be the main emotional experience of the story,” he said. “I want the conflict to be there to drive the good things, intensify them and make the fun more fun.”

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Although Center has a lot of experience with the genre, in The Rom-Commers, one of the main characters is an accomplished screenwriter who is not. Charlie has written almost every other type of movie, but he hasn’t done a good job of scripting a romantic comedy. That’s where Emma comes in. Her dreams of writing were derailed by a family tragedy, but she has the opportunity to work with Charlie to try to fix her script.

Cue some conflict and some of that anticipation positively offset.