So, you’ve written a Romantic Comedy? The story’s rocking, all the act breaks are in place, the characters leap off the page… Everything looks great as far as the overall story goes. But what about the finer details?
Once you’ve mastered the core story, plot and characters it’s not time to put those finishing touches to the script that will make it stand out above the rest and really let the reader know you really know what you’re doing.
One of these such moments is, what I call anyway, the ubiquitous Lightbulb Moment.
Without this key scene, your Romantic Comedy will feel like there’s something missing. In fact, it’s present in various guises in practically any RomCom you care to think of. So, where does this little nugget of a scene actually occur and what does it do?
Okay, we’re at the start of Act Three…
Your character has just been dumped, probably literally, at the end of Act Two. All seems lost and they’re at a worst position now than when the movie began. The the Lightbulb moment scene arrives.
This is the scene in which your protagonist realizes the folly of their ways. All of a sudden everything becomes clear. A lightbulb, if you will, goes off over their head and they no longer wonder about what they have to do, they know what they have to do. And they have to do it immediately!
This can happen through a conversation with a best friend, or a complete stranger, through seeing something that reminds them of their loved one, or however you choose. The important thing is that they’re jolted out of their slumber and finally onto the right path.
Indeed, this “seeing the light” moment very often follows the protagonist making the wrong decision — a false choice in which they almost choose their old way of life yet again over the new.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
In Annie Hall, Alvy is on a date with a new girl trying to re-enact the fun he had with Annie cooking lobsters (false choice) When she fails to see the humor in it or his jokes, a lightbulb goes off in his head which says “I really made a mistake letting Annie go,” and in the next scene he’s on a plane to LA to try and win her back.
In 27 Dresses, Jane kisses her boss, George, (false choice) who she’s always thought she was in love with, but a lightbulb goes off when she feels nothing and realizes she wants to be with Kevin. She leaves straight away for Kevin’s workplace.
In Along Came Polly, Ruben contemplates getting back with Lisa who cheated on him on their honeymoon (false choice) but has a lightbulb moment when he overhears his dad telling his friend, Sandy, to get on with his life, and leaves right away for Polly’s place.
This revelation means they’re set on an irreversible course for the showdown at the end of the screenplay with their loved one. Act Three is well and truly underway and they’re off to stop that special person leaving their life forever.
Does your screenplay have a Lightbulb Moment scene? No? Well, get one in there to make sure your script is punching its RomCom weight!