Romance and Comedy—Finding Balance
Though many of my other works fold some humor into dramatic or erotic story lines, All the Good Men is my first romantic comedy novel. I learned so much by taking on this surprisingly difficult genre. While dramatic scenes require well-thought out emotions and reactions, comedy requires the element of surprise, often a bit of hyperbole, and most importantly—timing. Mix in the challenge of blending the humor with romance and even the most skilled of writers can struggle with the combination. But I found a few rules hold true when it comes to the tricky genre of romantic comedy.
Firstly, the comedic situation should develop organically from the characters and plot. In All the Good Men the heroine, Dahlia Foster, is on the verge of forty and suddenly thrust back into the dating game after five years off the market. This element of the plot gave me plenty of opportunities to weave in humorous situations. Also, her elderly father begins his own autumn romance at the same time Dahlia is struggling with her love life. Contrasting his successes—and spectacular failures—with Dahlia’s experiences also gave me lots to work with.
Also in this novel, I found myself walking a fine line between zany comedy and out-and-out ridiculousness. To make the more outrageous scenes work, I had to have a couple characters with big personalities. The male lead, Jackson—a firefighter from Boston—and Dahlia’s father could both shoulder some pretty zany hijinks due to the power of their charisma. For example, during one of Jackson’s dates with Dahlia, he has a severe food allergy reaction. Now usually, I don’t mess with the sex appeal of a hero just to sneak in a laugh, but Jackson’s raw masculinity and sensuality easily survives the snafu so I threw caution to the wind and went with the idea.
Which brings me to my final rule of writing a successful romantic comedy—the humorous parts should further the romance, not hinder it. The comedy also has to be inserted at the right time. If the timing is off the scene will fall flat. So when is the right time for a little comic-relief? That comes purely by instinct. Looking again at the scene where Jackson goes into anaphylactic shock, I felt the interaction between the hero and heroine during the emergency and afterward served to strengthen their budding relationship. And this bonding came at a critical time, a point in the manuscript when Dahlia was on the brink of forgoing an chance to be truly happy with the man of her dreams.
Actors often say that portraying comedy is more difficult than drama, I would say the same is true when it comes to writing, but I think the result was well worth the struggle. My greatest wish is that All the Good Men brings a little levity and allows readers to lose themselves in the book at a time when we all could use a good laugh and a sexy hero.
Cindy, thank you for visiting with us today!
Dahlia is sure the hackneyed platitude is true: After a certain age, all the good men are married or gay. She feels her thirty-eight years put her well past that ‘certain age.’ Her best friend and her sisters dare her to put her fate where her mouth is. The terms of the challenge? During the month of October, she has to end her five-year-long man fast and go on dates with men of their choosing. Oh, and she also has to go out with anyone else who asks.
As the date disasters pile up, the vindication almost makes the torturous evenings bearable for Dahlia. But a handsome new neighbor, Jackson Carmichael, moves in, changing the rules of the game. Retired after twenty-six years as a pro firefighter in Boston, he volunteers with the local fire department, coaches a youth hockey team, and appears for all the world to be the perfect man. He just might throw a wrench into Dahlia’s plan to die lonely and single…that is if she doesn’t scare him away first.
Skipper’s, McGrady’s, the Dew Drop Inn. Dahlia didn’t find her father at any of his regular hangouts. As a last ditch effort, she drove home, hoping to find him there. No such luck.
She called Beck. “Hi, it’s Dahlia. I haven’t found him, but if for some reason he turns up at the VFW, please give me a call.”
“Will do, ma’am. Again, I can’t tell you how sorry I am he got away from me.”
“No, no. It’s not your fault. I felt like I should’ve stayed home with him, but with all the orders at work—” The doorbell interrupted her thoughts. “Beck, there’s someone here. I’ll call you back.”
As she clamped the cell phone shut its hinge snarled in a lock of hair. Dahli tugged at the accursed thing as she trotted to the front door. When she opened it, Dahlia abandoned her efforts to disentangle the phone. There stood her father, soaking wet, draped against the shoulder of a man she’d never seen before.
“Hi.” The stranger flashed an apologetic smile. “Does he belong to you? I feel like I’ve seen him pruning the hedges out front.”
She squeezed her eyes shut. Perhaps if she blocked out the image of her piss-drunk father long enough, he might disappear. Opening one eye she found she’d had no such luck.
“Yes, I’m so sorry. Where did he wind up, Mr…?”
“Carmichael. Jackson Carmichael. I found him floating in my koi pond.”
“Oh, good Lord. I’m really sorry. We’ll pay for any damages.” Dahlia reached for her dad, but Jackson scooped up the old man using a fireman’s carry.
“Not to worry. I’m just glad I found him when I did. Is it okay to set him on the couch?”
“Please. I’ll get some towels.” She hurried from the room if only to hide her flaming embarrassment. Upon return, she made a vain attempt to blot up the water that pooled around the passed out lump she usually called Dad.
“Thank you, Mr. Carmichael. I can’t apologize enough. Daddy’s a bit of a handful.”
“No apology necessary, but may I…?” He reached out a hand.
“Of course.” Dahli thrust a dry towel at him.
“No, no. I meant—” Jackson made a gentle twist and tug that freed the forgotten cell phone from her hair. “There you go.”
“Christ almighty. Lovely first impression I’ve made,” she said and shoved the phone in her pocket.
“Nah, no biggie.” He stripped off his shirt and dried himself. “I meant to come by to introduce myself a couple days ago, but I’ve been swamped trying to get settled.”
Though a half naked man in her living room—and a rather physically fit one at that—was a rare occurrence, Dahlia did her best to avert her eyes. “I’m sure Daddy and I have made you want to run for the hills.”
“Not at all, Ms…?”
“Foster, but please, anyone who finds my father in his fishpond can call me Dahli.”
“A pleasure,” he said and handed her the towel. “Thanks.”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“I’d love something, but I have to get back. Rain check?”
“Sure. Come by anytime.” But I won’t hold my breath…not that I blame you, she added silently. Dahli walked him to the front door, thanking him again. After closing the door behind Mr. Carmichael, she plodded into the living room to check on her father.
“Daddy,” she said to deaf ears and sank into the loveseat. “What am I going to do with you?”
Prior to becoming a writer of romantic and erotic fiction, Cindy was a ‘jacks’ of all trades. Besides obtaining a BFA in sculpture, interning as a pastry-chef, and learning the art of furniture restoration, she worked for ten years in the corporate arena, but now happily spends her days as a full time author. Her first published work–”The Point of Distraction Series”–was inspired by a collection of short stories she wrote to entertain her best friend. Since then she’s explored her inner bad girl and penchant for love stories by producing books full of humor and packed with real emotion. When not chained to her laptop, she enjoys belly dancing, international cooking, and making jewelry. She and her family call the Washington, DC area home.
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