Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fiona Harper on writing: Stop the wedding!

Fiona Harper is talking romance clichés again, and this month it’s the tried and tested ‘stop the wedding’ scene. Do you love ‘em or hate ‘em? And which ones work for you and which ones don’t?

You know the kind of scene I'm talking about: the girl (it’s nearly always the girl – why is that?) is about to marry the wrong guy, and the hero arrives at the church, breathless, to declare that he loves her before it’s too late and tells her to ditch the dork at the altar and marry him instead. It’s a romance novel and rom-com classic plot favourite.

I don’t know about you, but I have very mixed feelings about it.

Why? I think it’s to do with the poor schmuck who’s just about to get jilted at the altar. Let’s face it, it’s a horrible thing to happen to a person. How humiliating to be standing there in front of all your friends and family and for the person you love to ditch you so publically and run off with someone else. I can’t help feeling sorry for the one who’s left behind. Most of the time.

I think it depends on a) how much the jilted one deserves to be jilted and b) how it’s done.

If the groom about to be dumped is evil in some way, we’re practically hanging off the edge of our seats willing the hero to get there before “I do” is said. Great movie examples of this would be Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, where the evil Sheriff of Nottingham is trying to marry Maid Marion against her will, or Three Men And A Little Lady, where slimy old Edward has been lying and is secretly planning to send Mary off to boarding school once he’s got the ring on Sylvia’s finger.

But what about when the groom is just an ordinary guy, and the only thing that’s wrong with him is that he’s just not the hero? Again, depends how it’s handled. I can live with Reese Witherspoon leaving Patrick Dempsey at the altar in Sweet Home Alabama, because there are subtle hints throughout the film that he’s marrying her for the wrong reason – to get back at his mother – but I wish it had been even clearer.

But in Made of Honour, where it’s Patrick Dempsey messing up the nuptials, I just can’t help feeling sorry for poor old Colin as he has to watch his bride play tonsil hockey with another man in front of all his friends and relations. It just makes me think the hero and heroine are totally selfish and insensitive, and that’s not what you want to be feeling about them at the high romantic point of the story. But maybe I’m just being picky…? But, personally, I think Hugh Grant deserved that punch in Three Weddings and a Funeral.

So, over to you… What do you think? Wedding objection scenes – love ‘em or hate ‘em? And which ones do you love and which ones do you hate? 

I’ll leave you with my favourite: the Renault Clio ad with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, the excellent finale to seven year’s worth of TV adverts with the most minimalist scripts ever. I just love the way Nicole shouts “Bob!”.

Fiona's latest book, The Guy To Be Seen With, is part of Harlequin's brand new line, KISS, and is out now.

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  1. I really, really hated Three Weddings and a Funeral for precisely that scene :)

  2. Brilliant post as always Fiona! The wedding objections scene has been so done to death it's hard to see how it could be revitalised.... But I did like what they did on this year's Comic Relief with Simon Cowell (surely the most odious man on TV) and his wedding moment. Course the biggest joke of all for me was - why on earth would anyone WANT to marry HIM!