Formulaic can Rock

I just saw the movie The Proposal and I really loved it. There were a few shocking scenes but otherwise I was laughing throughout the entire movie. And feeling teary during some parts too.

In so many ways, this movie was formulaic. It stuck to the romance formula with some wonderfully spunky dialogue. There were several plot points that I could identify and I could even wedge the characters into their "types".

Yet, I really, really enjoyed the movie.

In a romance, the reader has to wonder how the two main characters will ever overcome their issues and hook up. This movie epitomized tension. I KNEW they would end up together, but the beginning conflicts were so strong I didn't know how.

But I allowed myself to get involved and to enjoy the relationship because I knew that, in keeping with a romance, these two would fall in love and live HEA. :-)

Do you write "formulaic"? Is it a box to you, or a safety net?


Jody Hedlund said…
I love HEA, and I love it even better when the characters have so much to overcome to get together! It makes the end so much sweeter!
Jessica Nelson said…
Yes it does! Even though we already know they'll get together, seeing them conquer stuff makes it better. Like you said.

Okay, why aren't you writing the post where we'll find out if you sold or not? LOL!
Unknown said…
My book is NOT formulaic. It rather breaks the formula....maybe that will be a turn off, but it's my way of leaving the reader wanting more!
Katie Ganshert said…
My romance is formulaic...because I cant' stand reading a romance when the hero and heroine don't get together! I need my HEA.
MeganRebekah said…
I wanted to see The Proposal, but will probably wait until its out on DVD.
I don't think my writing follows any formula, but I could be completely wrong.
Jessie:Please share with us newbies what HEA is. Thanks!

I think I sort of use a formula in my devotional writing: tell a funny or touching story, apply it with a Biblical principal, end with a tie in to the original story.

Who are the actors in "the Proposal?"

Bless you,
Audience of ONE
Kristen Painter said…
I don't think my urban fantasy is super-formulaic, but I do think most genres have a formula and straying too far from it can make editors pause.
Jennifer said…
Using formulas is totally a two-way street. You have to always make sure that you have new, fresh dialogue, characters, and ideas that you can use with the formula.

I like to think that my books don't follow traditional formulas, but I think The Surface of the Deep kind of did. Analyzing it, I think it loosely fits mythic structure. But I'm hoping that I made my characters and situations unique enough.

And I'm glad the movie was good! I've been wanting to see it. :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi MaryBeth,
So yours has a sequel? What genre are you writing? It's probably on your blog. I'll look. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Katie,
Mine too! LOL I completely need my fix.
Jessica Nelson said…
HI Megan,
I'd be curious to know. Does YA have a "code" like romances?
Oh yes, I need my HEA! As for The Proposal, I love it, and was surprised by that shocking scene too! Oh.My.Goodness, how many hours in the gym does it take for Sandra to look like that! Yikes!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Jen,
HEA is Happily Ever After. After a good romance, you want to close the book feeling like the hero and heroine will still be in love when they've been married forty years. :-)
Your formula sounds great! Nice job breaking it down.

The actress was Sandra Bullock and she did an amazing job. I don't know the actor, but he was cute.
Dave King said…
That's a really thought-provoking post, yet it shouldn't be, should it? I should have thought stuff like that for myself. So why didn't I? Thanks for helping me out - but then that's why we blog, isn't it?
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Kristen, that sounds right, about most genres having a formula. Also, I like your insight about editors. Good to know.
Jessica Nelson said…
Well said, Jenna! :-)

I loved the movie!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Sherrinda!
I know, I was in awe. That's one thing I like about her though, that she looks like a healthy woman and not a scarecrow. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Dave,
It sure is. :-) I love reading other people's blogs. I learn so much just from their thoughts and experiences.
Thank you for stopping by!
Cindy R. Wilson said…
I love formulas. I think I prefer to read them than write them, but my stories always have HEA's. I just can stand sad endings.
The first book I wrote, was absolutely a HEA. But as I've fine-tuned my genre to women's fiction, which is more about the MC's personal journey than it is romance, it's less crucial to me. Still, what great points you've given! Such a clear and concise post. You rawk.

And I'm still excited to someday see The Proposal. :D
Jessica Nelson said…
I'm with you. Sad endings are for real life, not pleasure reading. I'm looking forward to reading your book soon! :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Janna,
Thanks for the compliment *blushing* No one ever told me I rawk before! LOL

It's such a cute movie! You'll have to let me know what you think when you see it.
Caryn Caldwell said…
Good to know you liked it so much! My local theater still hasn't carried it, so I'm waiting, waiting. And I agree - there's something comforting about the formula. With movies like that, the fun is in how they get to that ending, not just in the ending itself. And when I'm guaranteed a happily ever after I can sit back and enjoy the trauma without really worrying about it, which I love.
Genny said…
I want to see that movie now; thanks! :)

Have a great day.
Jessica Nelson said…
You said it perfectly! :-)
I hope it comes to your theaters soon.
Jessica Nelson said…
I hope you have a nice day too Genny! It's raining here so hopefully the kiddos stay calm. LOL
anita said…
I'm so psyched to see this movie, even more now!

I've only recently come around to the "formulaic can work for me, too" way of thinking. I understand now that if I want to be a professional writer, I have to meet certain expectations of the readers buying my genre.

It took swallowing some pride and rethinking my plots a bit, but it will be worth it in the long run to have happy readers that will become faithful fans some day. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Great comment Anita! I love how you put it and completely agree. I've heard with the literary genre that there's no set rule, but almost every other genre (I believe) has certain expectations. :-)
Karen Hossink said…
Sometimes it drives me nuts that story lines are so predictable, but on the rare occasion that they are not - I get disappointed because things didn't wrap up the way I expected. I'm impossible, I know!
And now I am thinking I definitely need to go see The Proposal. Chick flick, right? That means I need to find a girl friend, cuz hubby probably won't want to go. *sigh*
Oh, I hate that word. But I suppose I do write that way.

I have to check this movie out now.
Jill Kemerer said…
Romance!! Yes!! Since I target Harlequin category lines, I do write in a box. Each love story is unique and hinges on the old question "how will they ever get together," just like you said.

Now I want to go see that movie!
Oooh, that movie does look cute! It has been so long too since I've seen a good romantic comedy, and they are my favorites!

I think a formula can work, as long as it is given a few fresh twists. For this movie I thought it was interesting that they put the woman in the position of power, and made the guy the lowly assistant.
Hmmm, well, I think I write formuliac, however, it's not traditional because I want to tear the "box" down. So my formula is to write outside of a formula.

Does that make sense?

Terri Tiffany said…
Oh I wanted to see that but can't quite convince the hubby to drag along.
I think we like formula--in a movie and a good book. I hate bad endings and prefer to have that hope at the end:)
Denise said…
Haven't been to a movie in forever and my hubby took me to see this the other weekend. Yup, I knew how it would end but how it would get there was fun to watch! Just checked your blog for the first time today, I think I'll be back again soon! :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Karen,
It's true, I don't always like predictability either. I just like to know things will be okay.
You're funny. :-)
It is a chick flick, but the dialogue (I thought) was pretty funny so your hubby might like it. Beware though, S B shows off quite a bit of skin, though no privates.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Eileen. It does get some negative publicity! But it's necessary for certain types of books, I guess. I'm no pro on formulaic myself, I just know that I probably write that way because it's what I read.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Jill,
Thanks for stopping by. :-) Which lines do you target?
Jessica Nelson said…
I liked that twist too, and it really adds to the funniness! ;-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Larie,
It makes a certain sense, I think. *grin*
So you're a rebel? LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Formula sells, no doubt about it. But sometimes I think the books that break formulas are the ones that really Bestsell.
Good luck with your hubby. :-)
Have you heard how Donna is?
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Denise,
Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment! :-)
This is an interesting way to look at it. I think formulaic can really work in some genres. In others, it's counterproductive. But in a way, I think all stories are formulaic once you strip it all down. It's how we seem to like things, and how stories generally work. Now, how we tell the story is the important thing - just like how the movie was well told. I can't wait to see it!
Angie Ledbetter said…
No formulas for me. Too close to a math equation. :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Lady Glam,
I'd agree. Certain genres do need the formula. Romance, esp. :-) I hope you enjoy the movie.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Angie!

Never thought of it like that before, but it's a little disturbing since I always did my equations wrong. *snicker*
Jaime Wright said…
Formulaic!!! Love it. I think I'm so used to it that if something twists it at the end it better be a really good twist or I'll throw the book through a window (not literally - I'm not that wicked) ;)
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jaime! YOu better not throw a book. :-)
Unknown said…
I loved The Proposal! And you're right, it was formulaic but fun. Certain formulas become formulas because they work, so I'm not averse to following formulas. I love the books that turn the formula on its head somehow but still deliver. Now if I could only figure out how to write that way...
Nancy J. Parra said…
Hi Jessica,

I really enjoyed that movie, too. Formula or not you get caught up in the characters and that's what makes it so much fun.

Great post!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jaime, I'm with you!

Thank you for stopping by. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Nancy,

Exactly! I'm going to do a post on that, because that's what pulled me in right there. The characters.

Thank you for stopping by!
Hi Jess -

Great post and discussion. :)

I've read several books lately where I knew the hero and heroine would live HEA. Like you, I find the journey to that point fascinating. The author gets the characters into some jams, and you wonder how they'll ever find happiness.

My experience is mostly in the area of suspense. I do have a romance novel started, but at the moment it's sitting on my hard drive taking up space.

Susan :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Susan,
I really love suspense. My favorite books are almost always historical romance or romantic suspense.
I can't wait someday to get a peek at yours! :)
Karen Hossink said…
Thanks for the warning. *grin*
I'm seeing this tonight ... not sure what I'm doing to myself! Attended my first post-divorce wedding this morning and now I'm going to a romantic comedy??? ;-)

I'm sure I can use my angst/loneliness/yearning as research somehow!

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