Pacing Romance



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  • Pacing Romance

    How do you determine how fast a romantic relationship proceeds within your scripts?

    My protagonist is trying to achieve a goal. His relationship with the girl is a subplot that helps move the story forward. I've been going back and forth on where to put their developing relationship within the main story.

    Any opinions appreciated.

  • #2
    Opinion #1
    Romantic relationships tend to be the Main plot with everything else just a way to move the romance forward. Star Wars can even be used as an example.

    Opinion #2
    Typically in romance stories the movie is over when the boy gets the girl (or vice versa).

    Opinion #3
    Move the romance fast enough (pursuit - dating - marriage? - children?) so that each new event (development) in the romance serves as an opposition in the main goal.


    • #3
      The main thing you want to do is keep your story interesting. Keep in mind what your readers will be thinking and feeling as they go along in the story. Sprinkle in romance beats where they are needed, like grated parmesan on spaghetti, to keep things moving and changing tastily -- but also logically related to the events of the story and the protagonist's frame of mind. Here's one way to proceed:

      First make a list of all the things that are going to happen in the romance. Then you can figure where they fit into the main story. Some of them will have to happen at certain times because of something that's happening in the main story. He gets a new job, and that's where he meets the girl. So you know where you have to put the "cute meet" beat.

      You also might want to put the lowest point in the relationship right around the lowest point in the main story, which should be the end of act II. At that point, you want your main character to be really miserable, and you want the audience to really be worried about him and how he'll ever be able to achieve his goal.

      You know you want their reconcilliation to be near the end.

      So you put your key romance beats in the spots they need to be,
      and then find logical places in the story to put the other romance beats in between, making sure you have just enough romance to get you through the story.


      • #4
        speed of romance

        Well, let's take a look at life. Some people fall for each other slowly and not particularly passionately. Some couples first see each other across a crowded room and.. WHAM! Some people get married without really being in love and learn to love each other over time.

        If I told a story in which the couple find instant attraction and become inseparable, many would not consider that realistic. On the other hand, that's exactly what happened to me and my wife.

        A "real" romance can come in many varieties.

        I read somewhere the most popular love songs are based upon trying at love and failing because that is what most people have experienced and can understand.

        Songs and stories about deep and abiding love between two people do not resonate with many people because most have not lived it and do not believe the outcome is possible.


        • #5
          Re: speed of romance

          Opinion #1
          Romantic relationships tend to be the Main plot with everything else just a way to move the romance forward. Star Wars can even be used as an example.
          I disagree. The romance in Star Wars was most definately a subplot. An internal goal for Lea and Solo. Similarly, Luke had an internal goal of coming to grips with his family history and letting himself go and use the force...yada yada. The external goal in the originally trilogy was to defeat the Empire.

          Also, take films like JERRY MCGUIRE or WORKING GIRL. Both are considered to be Romcoms, but the main plot in each story revolves around the lead character's career goal. The Romance is subplot. Something the characters find while striving for their external goal.

          Similarly, in ROMANCING THE STONE, the external goal is to get the stone so Jane Wilder can save her sister. The romance is her internal goal, and something she finds while fighting for her external goal.

          CE has great advice on this particular issue, so hopefully he will chime in and offer his thoughts.


          • #6
            Re: speed of romance

            I disagree. The romance in Star Wars was most definitely a subplot. An internal goal for Lea and Solo.
            I heard about "internal conflict" and "internal opposition", but what is an internal "goal"?

            I was hesitant to respond because of the danger of derailing this thread. But on some higher level I'm not really.

            In Star Wars I was actually referring to the romance between Luke and Lea (it doesn't matter how it all finally works out).

            I read a synopsis of SW many years ago from the point-of-view that Luke's "desire" for Lea was the motivation - his primary objective - that drove almost everything he did.

            I can't remember where I saw the synopsis or who wrote it. Maybe somebody can remember seeing it (the author used additional "non-romcoms" to make his point).

            The romance in a story needs as much of the screenwriter's attention as the "main plot". If the romance is not handled in a believable manner it can derail the entire story. Romance (love, the need to be loved, the need to be needed) is not a subplot - it's a co-plot.


            • #7
              Re: speed of romance

              In a way it does stray from the original question, but what I was referring to was not regarding the attention to the romance. It's just that there is very good advice out there suggesting that we should not make romance our main focus when writing a script. Stories like WHEN HARRY MET SALLY or ROMEO AND JULIET are just wicked hard to pull off. Not that I would ever derail another writer from taking on such a challenge, it's just that I think it wise to avoid heaping difficulty upon one's self when it comes to creating a marketable story.

              Personally, and I'm no expert, but I believe the author of this thread is definately on track. Weaving a romantic subplot into a defined external goal is nothing to be ashamed of. That in itself makes it so much easier to find the pacing. If the story focuses on the romance, as in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, the romance will dominate the pacing.

              A story like JERRY MCGUIRE is great because the romance ties itself into the external goal. Jerry's external goal is to prove that individual relationships with clients will breed success. Yet, Jerry himself has an internal obstacle facing him in that goal since he can't commit himself to being intimate with anyone. When he's forced into a situation where he has one client who he has no choice but to become close to, he has the breakthrough that lead to "You complete me".

              To solve the pacing question, I think the best answer is to somehow tie the romance into the external goal ala Jerry McGuire. If you do that, then the pacing will tie into the story and take care of itself.


              • #8
                I like to have that scene where the audience knows they are gonna kiss... then something happens and they don't kiss. That way, when they finally *do* kiss, the audience *wants* them to kiss (instead of thinking they are kissing too soon). Same thing with activities between the sheets, if those happen in your script.

                - Bill


                • #9

                  like so many questions this one doesn't have a pat answer. if there was one it would be known by every writer, hack or otherwise. you might as well ask 'how do you write good stuff'?

                  the answer to your question is: you determine how fast to pace a romantic relationship by knowing, sensing, or otherwise determining how fast to pace a romantic relationship

                  ps - give it a couple years, then see where you're at


                  • #10

                    I kinda of figured that. That's why I was looking for opinions. The responses were great and much appreciated, including yours.

                    If I could give a group hug, I would. Really.


                    • #11
                      Star Wars & Jerry Springer

                      You may want to see STAR WARS again - the love story is between Luke & the Princess. They get the kiss and all of the romantic lead up to the kiss.

                      Later (in a sequel) they discovered they were brother & sister, and the romance moved over to Han.

                      - Bill

                      PS: Just read Two Brad's post where he points this out.


                      • #12
                        Re: Star Wars & Jerry Springer


                        I won't argue that there is romance between Luke and Leia in the first film. There was. But to say that romance dominated the first film is a bit far fetched to me.

                        The overall goal in that film, and the subsequent sequels, was to defeat the Empire. And let us not forget that the original 3 STAR WARS films were initially created in Lucas's mind as 3 act story. STAR WARS was just the first act.

                        My whole point is that the love story that ensues in STAR WARS is subplot. The story is about revolution.


                        • #13
                          subplot romance

                          you want a nuts-n-bolts approach to how I would do it?

                          Since the romance is the sub-plot, that means it'll dominate the second act-50 minutes out of 90 or so. that means I'd put in 5 romantic moments every ten minutes culminating with the female lead being taken away just before or right after they confess their love for each other.

                          How she's taken away depends entirely on your overall plot device. Who or what is the protagonist stuggeling against, it should be one of the things that spurs the protag into acting that ushers us into the third act and the resolution of all the story threads.

                          Someone will, no doubt, post soon that you don't have to have a romantic beat every ten pages. but if you watch an action movie, or a drama or a comedy, that has a romantic subplot, I'll put money it works out that way.