Romance novels are often accused of being formulaic because they all have a happy ending where boy gets girl. That guaranteed happy ending is why romance novels sold well during the recession. What makes them different from one another is the journey. After boy loses girl, what must he do to win her back? What dangers must our couple face in a suspense to triumph over the bad guys?
You could say comedies are formulaic. They make you laugh and then, in most cases, have a happy ending. Last night, my husband and I watched Let's Be Cops. I expected a silly movie that would make me laugh. What surprised me was the way the writers kept increasing the danger. At first, the main characters could end up in jail for impersonating police officers. Then they bought a police car, which would increase the length of their sentence. Next, while impersonating police officers, they interfered with the illegal activities of the bad guys and humiliated them. Soon we discover one of the bad guys is a detective who wants to kill them. Although that is bad enough, they each must run for their lives without the other until they join up to defeat the evil villains.
I knew how the story would end twenty minutes into the movie. How we got to that ending was a fun ride.
That is what we must do as a romance writers. Drag your hero and heroine through hell and back until they have grown as people and accomplished their goals. At that point, they have earned the happy ending.