Just Write It

By Kay Springsteen

Hooker with a heart of gold meets rich man who rescues her from the streets: A lighthearted look at the life of a prostitute who hits the big time and then turns around to rescue the man who rescued her. Pretty Woman is one of those movies I love to watch. I don’t care that it’s older, or that the premise is extremely far-fetched. It’s fiction. It doesn’t have to make sense. And the interactions of the characters is amazing, as is the job the actors themselves do of portraying this complex group of people. Pretty Woman is billed as a romantic comedy, but did you know it didn’t start out that way?

The screenplay for this movie was originally written as a highly emotional, somewhat dark trip through the world of prostitution, an examination of the differences in class. The dead body in the opening of the movie originally played a much more prominent role and there were no funny snails at dinner scenes, lazy days in the park or quarter of a million dollar necklaces for trips to the opera. The story was seedy and gritty and heavy.

But the producers saw more potential in the story than that. By turning it to a romantic comedy they played to what the audiences of 1990 wanted. Pure, fun escapism. But not so much of an escape they couldn’t dream of that romantic rescue happening to them.

Add in an already established hit song by Roy Orbison, and you have audience appeal.

But what does that have to do with people who are writing fiction today? Everything. The plot of Pretty Woman was only loosely reminiscent of the original. But the author, J.F. Lawton, worked with the studio and producers and agreed to the changes that shot that movie to one of the most successful romantic comedies ever.


Oh right, the lesson. Well, the lesson is simply to be flexible. Write what calls to your heart while you’re in the creative stages, but don’t write with a closed mind, and when you type that last word, don’t let it be written in stone. You never know who might come along with an idea of tweaking your story just enough to make it one of the highest grossing romantic comedies of its time. With a handful of tweaks, you might find yourself sitting on “the next big thing.”

All because an editor or a publisher or… a producer… says to you, “I really like your story but would you be willing to make a few changes…?”

So…would you? Or do you feel J.F. Lawton should have stuck to the original script?

I write highly emotional-charged stories. I don’t do romantic comedy nearly as well as I write drama. But if Hollywood called and asked me to change one into a romantic comedy, would I allow it? In a heartbeat. Time enough later to be a prima donna. First you gotta get to the top.

“You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.” (Melanie Griffith as Tess  McGill, Working Girl)

Happy reading and writing!


2 responses to “Just Write It

  1. Very good point about flexibility.
    I was asked that very question — “I really like your story but would you be willing to make a few changes?” — and it didn’t take much time or anguish for me to reply, “YES”.
    That said, in your example of the Pretty Woman script-to-film, I’m quite surprised to learn about how darkly the original was written. My mother-in-law, who absolutely LOVED that movie, would not have gone within 20 feet of the original novel, as described here. In fact, the proper ‘temperature’ setting for her favorite fiction was in the range of Georgette Heyer & Barbara Cartland.
    BTW, I wish Rita were still alive, because she would love most of the “clean fiction” published by Astraea Press.

  2. I do love the movie and I’m surprised that it wasn’t originally a romantic comedy.

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