How To Go From Platonic to Romantic in Your Screenplay

By April 28, 2015Screenwriting 101

Things change. That’s merely a fact of life. Roles, jobs, relationships, they all undergo some sort of growth, regression, or metamorphosis. A particularly popular relationship that writers love to change and audiences love to see change is the friendship that becomes something more. We’ve seen it in several rom-coms – You’ve Got MailDefinitely, Maybe, and What If – a friendship between two people develop into something seemingly brought together by Cupid and Fate.

Because no two rom-coms are the same, there isn’t a set formula for how to take a pair of inseparable buddies on a journey that shows them how perfect they are for each other. But when writing your friend-to-love bird screenplay, keep these tips in mind.

Establish Their Romantic Incompatibility

First things first, show your audience your two buddy characters and the world and circumstances they live in. One of my all time favorite romantic comedies is Kevin Smith’s 2008 Zack & Miri Make A Porno. In it, the title characters are long-time friends and roommates who come up with a plan to make easy money by starring in an adult film. They’re such good friends, we learn from dialogue between the Zack, Miri, the people they went to high school with, and their friends, that the assumption is that it won’t be weird for them to have sex on camera and continue being only friends.

Zack and Miri actually are good buddies who are 100% comfortable with each other. They discuss their personal sexual interests, bathroom habits, old crushes and a slew of other things it wouldn’t be strange to hear two friends of the same sex talk about. From the jump, we see two buddies who don’t seem interested in the other romantically. When establishing your friends, be sure to solidly paint the picture of their relationship in a way that’s clear and pointed. If they’re just friends, make them appear as such. If they already have some romantic tension, make that evident as well.

Introduce Us To Their Friends

Mutual friends of the pair we’re going to see become a couple can be very helpful supporting characters in a romantic comedy screenplay. The friends are the ones who whisper in the friendly couple’s ear, asking why they’re not together or suggesting that they should be together. In the beginning of Zack and Miri, Zack’s friend and coworker Delaney asks why Zack and Miri aren’t and have never been together, with Zack explaining that they’ve been friends for too long. Later, Delaney helps Zack realize that Zack’s been lying to himself about his feelings for Miri. During the filming of the porn scenes, Zack and Miri’s co-stars tell them how great they look together and how real their acting looks.

The friends in rom-coms are funny sidekicks that nudge reluctant soulmates towards each other. Place well intentioned, or even mischievous, friends in your screenplay. They help make the plot more interesting and can lend indicative nods to where the happy couple of friends will likely end up.

Show Their Feelings Toward Each Other Change

This is where the plot usually thickens. In a very important and clear scene, Zack pulls Miri aside and tells her that he loves her. She pretends to not feel the same way and the strain causes Zack to storm off set and disappear for a few months. But even before that, we see Miri’s surprise and budding affection for Zack as he gets excited about producing the porno. Then they actually have sex and it’s clear by their expressions when they’re alone after their encounter that they’re no longer just friends.

Hve there be a clear shift in how the characters feel about each other and how they behave because of their change. It’s effective to write this in during one of your screenplay’s culminations, with a steady build up. When the audience sees that the two friends who thought they’d never be together are on a path to being together, it grabs hold of the audience, piquing their interest.

Throw Obstacles In Their Way

During the second act, one of Zack and Miri’s co-stars leads Zack to the bedroom after getting the OK from Miri. Both Zack and Miri’s pride and hardheadedness are engaged, and they stand in the way of their own happiness. In your rom-com, throw challenges at the friends who should be more than that. Past lovers, current lovers, long distance, trust issues and antagonists are all viable options. When your pair realizes that they should be together after fighting it for so long, make them work to attain a relationship. You’ll have the audience rooting for them to overcome whatever obstacle stands in their way so that their relationship can be what we all want it to be: changed, for the better.