So, here’s another one – my love of romantic comedies.
When I read out the first chapter of what would end up becoming my first novel Disco Boy in a creative writing class, I got a few laughs. Since it was one of the first pieces of fiction I’d ever tried and the chuckles came at least partly where I’d intended, I was delighted, and gained the courage to persevere with the story. (You can read that first chapter here if you’re curious about whether it’s funny or not!)
Disco Boy‘s narrator is trapped as a party DJ, playing music he absolutely can’t stand and complaining endlessly about it. He’s a bitter, cynical character, and a terrible musical snob. Since the first 1500 words read as a comic monologue rather than as a conventional story, I was asked where I wanted to take the character over the next 70,000 words or so.
I replied immediately that he needed to find love, and the room chuckled again, but for a different reason this time – disbelief. How could anybody so critical ever hope to find happiness in a relationship, another student asked. And how could any woman ever love someone so relentlessly negative?
I thought the answer was fairly obvious – Paul was so negative because he was unhappy with his own life. And in particular, he was lonely. So I thought making him happier, and more positive, would be an interesting journey for the character.
Given my history as a writer for The Chaser, though, I got a similarly response when the novel was released. The review in Time Out Sydney expressed a fairly common perspective:
Disco Boy is the debut novel from Dominic Knight, one of the founders of and writers for The Chaser. So you’d expect it to be full of cutting, cruel and cynical jokes. And you’d be entirely wrong. This is an uplifting, entirely believable romcom…
Well, I hope you wouldn’t be entirely wrong – there are a few barbs in there. But yes, guilty as charged – it’s a romcom.
Now, my new novel Comrades is far more Chaser-like, since it deals with student politics. Whereas the first novel was sweet with the odd cynical barb, this book is more satirical – or at least, I hope it is! If anything, its protagonist becomes more negative as the story goes on.
And yet it’s also a romantic comedy, charting the course of several relationships over several months. Part of the reason for this is that people in student politics seem to shag each other relentlessly. If Gareth Evans and Cheryl Kernot could hook up, just about any coupling is possible.
But the other reason is that I just plain enjoy romantic comedies. I enjoy the banter, the tension and even, if I’m brutally honest, the soppy catharsis of the ultimate resolution. I know men aren’t supposed to be into that stuff, but let’s just say that a surprising number of my guy friends were perfectly happy to be ‘forced’ to watch Sex & The City by the women in their lives!
Maybe this happened because in my high school years, I got obsessed with an English teen sitcom called Press Gang that was set in the world of a student newspaper, and featured what I still rate as some of the wittiest dialogue I’ve ever heard. (Here are the appalling titles – but it’s good, honestly!) Or maybe it’s because I saw When Harry Met Sally at a formative age, and watched it over and over again. Regardless of the reason, I’m now as much of a sucker for a good rom-com as any Oprah viewer.
So, my attempt at a satirical political novel is also fairly heavy on the rom-com, and that’s just too bad. Maybe my next book will be about battle-hardened commandos and their war against the robotic dinosaur hordes. But then, maybe I’ll be unable to resist including a ding-dong romance between a renegade commando with a heart of gold and a particularly comely robotic dinosaur?