Monday, January 2, 2012

Writing a Meet-Cute - hints from the best :-)

Happy New Year everyone.

It’s the time of new beginnings. New resolutions. Maybe some ‘firsts’ for you...or your writing ;-) That's why we're going to talk about 'first meetings' today.

One of the best moments in a novel or a movie is the first time a couple meets. In romance it’s called the ‘meet cute’. It’s a hallmark of romantic comedies and romance novels – so who better to teach us about it than the romance authors themselves?

Let’s get to it!

Jamie Carie is known for her fast-paced historical novels such as The Duchess and the Dragon or Pirate of My Heart. What does she say makes a great meet cute in novels?

For me, I love it when the hero and/or heroine is slammed with the impact of the other person. This could be an instant attraction or something deeper, like that feeling that they’ve just met their other half. In Love’s First Light, Christophé feels a mysterious, almost supernatural connection with Scarlett which leaves his already delicate emotional balance teetering on the edge of rational behavior ( i.e. he becomes somewhat of a bumbling, mad scientist in her presence). Here’s an excerpt of their first encounter.

He saw her and stopped. She was crouched low, her head down, her shoulders curled within her, stiff and unmoving. He couldn’t help but stare at her long, unbound hair. It was dark but alive with color, the pink glow of a morning’s glory reflecting in each strand.

Gold and amber and bronze and the color of glowing coals. Bright, white light. He saw the prism in his laboratory. Blinked and saw the split of white into the colors of the rainbow. Saw them reflected on his old castle’s walls. Brilliant but cold. So brilliant.

So cold.

He wanted to tell her of it. His chest heaved with the effort not to blurt it out.

She stood suddenly and whirled around—long, dark cape and glorious hair, flowers still clutched in her hand. Christophé’s gaze dropped from her frightened face to her rounded stomach and then the gravestone that glared chalk-white in the mist behind her.

“Color,” he thought as he stood transfixed. No, not a thought.

Heaven help him, he had said it aloud.

Mary Connealy is the queen of explosive first encounters. Let’s see what she says about them:

Pepper, What I like in a first meeting. One moment of attraction or connection or appreciation between them, even if it’s just a split second, then it alllllllllllll goes bad.

In this scene, thought I’ve sent it to you as the first meeting, they had one other ‘moment’ when Alex saved her life–but he did it to save his own life–or at least that’s the unflattering spin a very stressed out Beth puts on his help. He woke up, pulled a runaway stage to a stop when she didn’t have the strength to do it alone, then crawled off to be alone without saying a word.

Then she dived in to help the wounded.

She needs help. He’s not offering. That leads to this scene, their first real exchange.

 Doing her very best to set his skin on fire with her eyes, she leaned down, hoping to find a balance where she could rage at him without Mrs. Armitage hearing her. The poor woman had been through enough.

“You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”

And wasn’t skunk just exactly the right word for the filthy pig?

“Get away from me.” The wormy, skunky pig’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.

Gritting her teeth so she could look fierce and still breathe through her mouth, she leaned closer. “You stand up right now.”

She hissed at him like a rattle snake, so she had a few animal attributes of her own. “I need help. I don’t care how hung over you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”

The man’s eyes seemed to clear. Maybe she’d pierced the alcoholic fog. “I’m not drunk.”

Interesting that he hadn’t protested being called stupid or worthless or a skunk. . . what else had she called him? She’d lost track of her insults somewhere along the line.

“Oh, puh-leeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?”

LOL. Oh my, I love Mary Connealy humor! And books! If you’ve never read one – GET THEE TO A BOOKSTORE NOW!!!

Speaking of great authors, Deeanne Gist has this to say about writing first encounters:

A slow, slow build. I want the reader to feel exactly what the heroine is feeling. That means I need to engage her emotions one baby-step at a time. If I do my job, then the tension building between the hero and heroine will ultimately extract a visceral response from my reader.

And the Maid to Match sample Dee provided??

“Mr. Sterling? Is everything—” A young maid stepped to the door. “Earl! What’s the matter with you?”

Black hair peeked out from beneath her small white cap. The eastern sun had reduced her pupils to dots, leaving eyes so blue they appeared almost lavender. Rushing out the door, she jumped between them, squaring off with Mack. “Stop it! Stop it right this minute.”

Releasing the man’s collar, Mack took a step back. Did she actually believe he was frightened of her? He felt a smile tug at his lips. “I’m not Earl, miss. I’m his brother, Mack.”

The disapproval she’d shown before was nothing compared to the horror that filled her eyes now. She pressed a hand against her stiffly starched apron. “Oh, no. You’re the brother?”

He nodded.

“And you came to the front door? What possessed you to come to the front door?”

“I was just looking.”

Rolling her eyes, she turned to the butler. “He’s a mountain man. He was engaged in fisticuffs when Mrs. Vanderbilt first saw him. I’ll take him round back myself and make sure he doesn’t get into any more trouble.”

Mack tucked his shirt into his trousers. “I can fight my own fights. You needn’t do it for me.”

She seared him with her gaze. “Do not say another word.”

He bristled and opened his mouth to argue.

She lifted her index finger. “Not. Another. Word.” With her finger still in the air, she turned back to the butler. “May I take him round back, sir?”

Tugging the hem of his jacket, Sterling tightened his lips. “Go ahead. I’ll talk with the housekeeper and tell you what we decide to do with him.”

Mack took a step forward.

The maid steepled one hand on his chest. With the other, she pointed toward the gate. “That way, Mr. Danver. The servants’ entrance is that way.”

Care to share a meet cute from one of your novels? First encounters of the best kind?
Bring them on and let us see from your characters' eyes.
What do you like best about first encounters? Familiar friends or strangers, the meeting can be electrifying.
And remember - meet cutes do not always have to be 'cute'. Jane Eyre and Rochester? GREAT first encounter.
Taking the story elements of her Blue Ridge Mountains’ heritage, Pepper  Basham writes a variety of fiction seasoned with grace and humor. From contemporary romance to fantasy or historical, Pepper likes to dip her creative interests in them all. She’s a pastor’s wife, mom of five, and university instructor. She can be found causing mischief at her group blog, The Writers Alley, or at


Joanne Sher said...

Just LOVE these. Great post, Pepper!

Pepper said...

Oh Joanne - you should see some of the others. fun!!

Anonymous said...

The "meet-cute" ou listed are great! Another one that comes to mind is from the book "Mine is the Night" by Liz Curtis Higgs. The meeting between Elisabeth and Jack was highly anticipated. Elisabeth was left sitting in a drawing room while the house keeper went to announce her presence to Jack and make the formal introductions. Elisabeth was within ear-shoot and over heard the conversation, thus increasing the anticipation of their face-to-face meeting.
-Trisha Robertson

Casey said...

Love me a meet-cute. But why isn't it a cute-meet?

DeeAnne definitely does her job right, for sure! I love her books. :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Pepper! I'm going to be coming back to this one. :) Loved the examples.

Tracy Krauss said...

Loved all of these examples. the Meet-Cute is so important and establishes the rest of their journey

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mmmmmm, I love a breathless meet-cute--especially when it is from the male perspective. To have a man thrown off balance from the sight of a woman always gives me chills. Soooo sigh-worthy!

Pepper said...

I could NOT agree more. Mine is the Night was akin to Pride and Prejudice in my mind. Loved it. And Jack rivaled Darcy...whew...good one!

Pepper said...

You know, Case - I had to check three times to make sure I didn't write it as cute meet. That's how I think of it too :-)

Pepper said...

Jeanne & Tracy
Thanks. It was a lot of fun

Pepper said...

Fabulous point. I LOVE to read a guy POV!

Martha A. said...

I have to say that Deanne Gist's first meetings are my favorite....I love the comparison!

Patty Wysong said...

Those were two of my favorite meet-cutes. Thanks for the tips followed by the examples--really helps. =]

Unknown said...

I loved this!Got a little disappointed when I saw there was no more:(