As I hope most of us recognize by now, it’s those first lines, first paragraphs, first pages, and the first chapter that are all-important in catching the attention of an editor, agent, and reader. The opening makes a promise of good things to come. Sets the stage that will, hopefully, keep the pages turning all the way to The End.
In a romance novel or novel with strong romantic elements, there’s an especially critical ingredient--that moment when boy first meets girl. In screenwriting, it’s called “the cute meet.” But “cute meet” doesn’t necessarily mean warm, fuzzy, and funny. It’s an all-encompassing generic term for the moment the hero and heroine first interact, the point where the romance launches. Ideally the scene should grab a reader’s attention. Make a promise that this first hero/heroine interaction is just the tip of the iceberg for a rollercoaster relationship about to unfold.
With this in mind, I pulled a few older videos off my “keeper shelf” to see which “first meets” I could actually recall.
If I started humming the tune to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” I’m guessing 99.9% of you would immediately envision Tom Cruise’s “Maverick” doing his best to pick up Kelly McGillis’ “Charlie” while surrounded by his crooning fighter pilot pals. Only too late does he discover she’s one of his Top Gun instructors.
I’m guessing, too, that you remember the whirlwind encounter in a South American jungle between Kathleen Turner’s timid romance author “Joan Wilder” and Michael Douglass’ swashbuckling “Jack T. Colton” in Romancing the Stone. She’s looking for a hero and he has no intention of being one.
And who can forget Leonardo DiCaprio’s charming drifter “Jack Dawson” and Kate Winslet’s upper-class “Rose”--she’s balanced on the stern of the Titanic, intent on throwing herself overboard when he steps in to make her acquaintance and turn her world upside down.
And of course we can’t leave out the classic introduction of Jennifer Ehle’s clever “Miss Elizabeth Bennet” to Colin Firth’s “Mr. Darcy” in Pride & Prejudice. Darcy makes a point of snubbing her at a dance, yet can’t keep his eyes off her.
So what do all these “cute meet” scenes have in common and what can we learn from them in writing a romance?
CONFLICT IS REVEALED, usually at several levels. The classic “opposites attract,” of course, but often opposing goals, values, or motivation.
A QUESTION IS POSED that holds interest. How are these two EVER going to find enough common ground to come to a happily ever after?
CHARACTER IS ESTABLISHED – The scene show who the hero and heroine are internally through speech, dress, mannerisms, thoughts, attitude, values.
CHEMISTRY IS EVIDENT – Even though the hero and/or heroine may deny it, this “first meet” scene is where they need to be made strongly aware of each other.
A MEMORY IS MADE – This is a tough one to pull off. But in each of these movie “first meet” examples, there was something unique about them. Something that made the characters, the setting, the situation stick in my mind. Something that made them larger than life.
I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy hearing real-life “how did you meet?” stories. I mean, aren’t they fun? Almost like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. So what do YOU like to see in a fictional first meet? And what are some “cute meets” you’ve encountered among family and friends in your own real-life world? Share them with us today and, if you’d like to be entered in the drawing for a copy of my first book, “Dreaming of Home,” leave your email address, too (remember, use “at” and “dot” so phishers won’t easily pick it up).