For years, my all-time favorite movie was Sleepless in Seattle. Even when my screenwriting teacher in a professional program gave me the stink-eye, I wouldn’t change my answer. I have watched that movie so many times, I’m surprised the DVD hasn’t worn out. (I’ve owned it so long, I used to have the VHS tape, too!)
Then Richard Curtis wrote some big blockbuster romantic comedies that I love. Love Actually and Notting Hill are my two favorites. Even my husband, John, likes all three of these movies because they are smart and funny and have great lines of dialogue that you can’t help quoting later.
I love these movies so much that I’ll even watch them on Netflix, even though we own all three on DVD. And oh, Netflix, how I love you. Let me count the ways. That’s where I first watched The Decoy Bride with the hilarious Kelly Macdonald and the awesome David Tennant. I’ve watched that movie sooo many times! I bought it on Blu-ray because I wanted to make sure I could watch it in high quality forever. But then I had to buy it on DVD, too, because that’s the only way I could watch it on my computer. I’ve never done that before, buying more than one copy!
And what’s my go-to movie for sick days? The Family Man. Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage are absolutely adorable, and those kids! And the best friends! The movie makes me laugh every single time I watch it.
I love romantic comedies. I love reading them, watching them, writing them, talking about them. Like I said, they’re my medicine for bad days. And lately, I’ve had truckloads of bad days.
Thank God for romantic comedy writers because I found some new medicine two weeks ago. I’d seen on Facebook that my friend Sean Gaffney (same screenwriting program I was in) had written a new movie called In-Lawfully Yours. I guess I’m a bad friend for not paying very good attention because I thought it was coming out in the theater this fall, but it came out on Netflix!
I was scrolling through the New Releases and saw the title and thought, how funny, Sean’s movie has that same title. And hey, the movie poster looks kind of – hey, that is Sean’s movie! LOL! I was having a bad day so I watched it during lunch. It is soooo adorable! The hero and heroine really played off each other so well! And the characters seemed like people I’d probably know, people I’d want to be friends with if they were real, not like pretend movie characters.
I felt so much better after watching it, just like medicine. I wanted to watch it again right away, but I controlled myself. I waited until lunch the following day. Aw, wow, it was just as funny the second time. It had been a stressful week, so I turned it on again at lunch for the third day in a row. Still had me laughing and smiling! If you like rom-com’s, you’ve got to watch this movie!
In addition to feeling better, watching a movie several times helps you consciously and unconsciously work through what you like about it, and why. You start thinking about what you don’t like and why. And if you’re a writer, you start going over your own characters and asking yourself how they can become better after seeing some other amazing fictional characters on screen or in a book.
One thing about the writing in In-Lawfully Yours. If they hadn’t gotten the right actors, it could’ve been a little dopey. That’s the risk with humor – it’s got to be the right kind, in the right amount, for the right audience. Of course, that’s the risk with movies in general. Wrong actor, bad movie. Right group of actors, amazing movie!
So when I watched this movie for the third time in three days, I had to stop thinking about these actors who had such good chemistry, and I had to think about the characters I write who will ever and only play out in people’s heads. And that’s when I remembered…
When I wrote Little Miss Lovesick, the first several drafts were aimed at Silhouette Romance (kind of like Harlequin, if you don’t know) and the humor was mild, the kind of humor they’d already published. But when I took a risk and wrote the kind of humor that had me laughing as I was typing, a whole new level of fun story developed! It was no longer the kind of book Silhouette or Harlequin or several other houses were buying. (That was a problem for me until self-publishing came along.)
But the readers who enjoyed Little Miss Lovesick really loved it! My risk paid off and I found my writer voice. Since then I’ve had to push myself to get to the edge of my comfort zone and see what else I can do. I can’t let fear or complacency take hold because I’ll lose what it turns out my readers want. (Plus, it’ll be way less fun for me!)
What stories do you read or watch over and over again? What are you learning from them? Are you letting those favorites push you to become a better writer? Give it some thought.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go watch In-Lawfully Yours again. Thanks for writing such a fun story, Sean! And thanks, Chelsey Crisp and Joe Williamson, for making me laugh with and fall in love with a new favorite couple! I’m such a happy Kitty! 😀