Romance Writing: The Meet-Cute

What’s a meet-cute? A girl meets boy story…gone awry.

Meet-cute: a staple of romantic comedies; a scene in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time. [Wikipedia]

Scenario in which two individuals are brought together in some unlikely, zany, destined-to-fall-in-love-and-be-together-forever sort of way (the more unusual, the better). [Urban Dictionary]

“Meet Cute is a way to quickly introduce two characters and set up their burgeoning relationship. A meet-cute is almost always rife with awkwardness, embarrassment, and sometimes outright hostility. It’s often used in films, particularly the Romantic Comedy, due to time constraints; while on television a relationship can develop more naturally over many episodes, a movie has to get their couple set up right away to fit within 2 hours.” – TV Tropes

Introducing the meet-cute: a device most often used in romantic comedies (movies), but also in television, books, and stories. One of my all-time favorite meet-cute is found in While You Were Sleeping, when Sandra Bullock’s character meets Bill Pullman’s character for the first time. It’s awkward and funny.

They continue to butt heads and misunderstand each other through most of the movie. The scene is poignant, funny, and draws the viewer into the story. I can’t help but feel sorry for both characters, because I sense they are “destined for each other” (as in Sleepless in Seattle).

Which brings me to Sleepless in Seattle. Though they unknowingly cross paths more than once, the couple doesn’t actually meet until the final scene. The meet-cute scene is subtle. For her, it’s a radio broadcast. For him, it’s a quirky letter from a woman half a continent away. It seems impossible. The good, strong romance develops first in the viewers’ mind and heart. That’s genius writing, IMHO.

Can an author effectively use the meet-cute in writing romance meant for the novel, not the screen? [Click to Tweet]

Not only is it possible, but desirable. However, it takes skill and good comic timing. It fits best in the sub-genre: romantic comedy.

Let’s look at an example of one in Picture Perfect, a book by Janice Thompson. Hannah, a wedding photographer aiming for a high-profile wedding job, has an interview with a reporter for Texas Bride. At the end of her interview, trouble enters in the form of a rival photographer, who just happens to be, “devilishly handsome.” He also happens to be the reporter’s next appointment. After a brief introduction, Hannah looks down at her shoes and realizes she has on two completely different ones. When she glances up to find that Drew and the reporter are also gazing at her feet, her nerves take over. As Hannah rises to leave, she catches the toe of her sandal and spills coffee … in Drew’s lap.

Now, that’s a meet-cute. The main character has completely humiliated herself in front of a really good-looking, single guy. Destiny. Could it happen in real life? Absolutely, and probably has, which is why we may find it hilarious.

My mother tells the story of the time she first met my dad. She was working behind the candy counter at a local movie theater in Seattle, Washington. She noticed her best friend (who also worked there) flirting with a slightly inebriated, but very handsome young sailor. More than a little irritated with both of them, and knowing her best friend’s steady boyfriend was due at any moment, Mom stepped in and diverted the sailor’s attention. Just in time. She did such a good job of diverting his attention, he returned the next day. They were married a few weeks later, and stayed married until he died in 2007. That’s a real-life meet-cute.

If you’re a writer of romance, and want to include a meet-cute in your story, I would advise you to study from the best. Watch movies like the ones I mentioned earlier. Also, The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara is another great one. While you’re in Ireland, you can check out Leap Year, with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. It has an excellent meet-cute.

Can you think of other meet-cute scenes in books you’ve read, or movies you’ve seen? Feel free to share those in the comments. We love to hear from our readers.

Writing Prompt: Construct a short meet-cute scene in front of a neighborhood farmer’s market. Your characters are a young college student named Anne, a young farmer named Charlie, and a boy on a bike. Have fun with it!