Monday, March 14, 2011

How Did You Two Meet?

I’m piggy-backing off the Captain’s blog from yesterday. Hellie talked about the first beat of seven explained by playwright (and very smart man) Billy Mernit in WRITING THE ROMANTIC COMEDY. Today, I’m talking about the second beat.

The Cute Meet – aka The Catalyst.

These two beats (the setup and the cute meet) often happen simultaneously in Romance novels. Gone are the days an author can spend a chapter introducing us to the hero, and then another letting us get to know the heroine. (Though Eloisa James does a marvelous job of letting us get to know the heroine long before she meets the hero in her latest, WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST.) Now, it’s right to the action and somehow, we have to make the reader care about these total strangers.

The Cute Meet is often funny, it does include the word “cute”, but it doesn’t have to be. It does have to be meaningful. Something significant has to happen that sets these two into motion. The characters don’t have to be strangers, but whatever encounter they have in the beginning has to be significant enough to change something in their relationship. For good or bad.

Jenny Crusie does this so well. In BET ME, Min is not in a good mood when she meets Cal. Her boyfriend just dumped her because they aren’t having sex, and then she overhears said ex bet Cal he can’t get Min into bed. As soon as their first words are exchanged, you know these two are going to challenge each other constantly, but you also know they’re a perfect match.

The movie Sweet Home Alabama is an example of two people who have definitely met before. When Melanie walks back into Jake’s life, she’s carrying divorce papers. Jake isn’t interested in signing any papers, and Melanie isn’t leaving until he does. It’s obvious the moment they see each other again that they still love each other. Well, obvious to everyone but Melanie. She spends the rest of the movie fighting who she really is, telling herself the same things she keeps telling Jake, that they’re over.

The Cute Meet sets the tone for everything that follows. Min in contrary, Cal can’t resist a challenge. Melanie is running from her past, Jake is trying to pull her back to it.

Do you enjoying writing this part of your story, or is this one of those things you edit over and over? What’s your favorite Cute Meet in a book or movie? What’s the most original you’ve come across? SEP’s heroine wearing a Beaver Costume has to be one of the most creative, but then SEP has the Cute Meet down to a science.


2nd Chance said...

Yeah, writing the cute meet is fun... whether it's cute or not! But for a romantic comedy, I guess it's given it has to be a cute meet. ;-)

Cute meet in a movie...well, when Buttercup realizes it's Westly she just pushed down the very steep slope in The Princess Bride is a good one... and I did enjoy the cute meet in The Three Musketeers where D'Artagnan meets the '74 movie was a good one.

Let me think of a good one for a book... Hmmmmm!

Quantum said...

I think my favorite 'cute meet' is probably by Sophie Kinsella in 'Can you keep a secret'. The heroine starts chatting to a stranger on an aeroplane when she fears death from the violent air turbulence. She reveals all her secrets, loves and hates, as one does under stress *grin*
She later discovers that the stranger is the CEO of the company she is working for ....

This was my first Kinsella, and the author went straight to my auto-buy list!

I just had a look at Hellie's cute analysis from yesterday. Getting the chemical equation right, preferably at the very beginning, is so important. It determines whether the reader will delve deeper or try another book.

Another author going straight to my auto-buy list is Lexi Revellion with 'Remix'. Here the Heroine finds the hero, with his dog, sleeping on her balcony. An explosive mix waiting for a catalyst.

Come to think, nearly all the authors on my auto-buy list are superb at romance chemistry!

Very cute blog Bosun! :D

Marnee said...

I like to read the meet, but writing it is a little more difficult for me. I've rewritten mine a bunch of times now.

Favorite cute meets? I think that JR Ward does a great job. But she drags out the meet usually. In the way of, introduce chunks in the secondary characters' POVs before the characters meet.

But when they do meet, wow.

And I think Pamela Clare did a great job with hers too.

Bosun said...

Wow, I didn't do this topic well at all. Huh.

Chance - I almost went with Princess Bride, but I was thinking of their first meeting, not their reunion. Good call.

The way Emily and Alan meet in The Kraken's Mirror is quite interesting. He saves her, she's temporarily blind, she shows she's no withering female, and he agrees she's definitely not. LOL!

Bosun said...

Q - You and Hellie share the Kinsella love. I haven't read her or even seen the movie based on one of her books, but I do think she has a style all her own. Is it the humor, the putting characters in uncomfortable situations? What element sent her to your autobuy list?

Marn - Two more authors I've yet to read. LOL! I picked up a Ward once, read a few lines, and had to put it back down. I couldn't handle that, but I don't think she's suffering without me as a reader. :)

If I ever get around to the Clare books, I know they'll make me feel like a completely inadequate writer, so I'm still avoiding them.

Donna said...

Fun post, Terri! I love the cute meet. In fact, I love hearing how people in real life meet their spouses/partners/whatever. I usually ask them, because I love the circumstances, and I also like to see their faces as they describe that moment. :)

When I'm writing, the meet is probably one of the first things that pops into my head. It sets the story in motion, so I enjoy writing that scene.

The cute meet in my mind right now is one I recently re-read, from Suzanne Brockmann, since her new book is coming out next week, and it involves this particular character. Here's a link (go down to question #20 for the actual scene):

Bosun said...

OMG! I can't blame her for keeping her distance. What great descriptions. She is good. Damn. LOL!

Hellion said...

OMG! I can’t blame her for keeping her distance. What great descriptions. She is good. Damn.

Which is what Donna has been saying all along if you'd just listen. *LOL*

Hellion said...

I can't speak for Q, but Kinsella is funny to me because she does that exaggerated ridiculous really, really well. You know where this is going--though clearly the heroine doesn't--and like watching a trainwreck, you can't look away as the character makes everything infinitely worse for herself because she cannot admit she is in over her head.

I remember that scene from Can You Keep a Secret--and it is hysterical. Who hasn't gotten a little freaked out on a plane due to turbulence and then suddenly started chatting up a storm in order to not die next to total strangers? She has a guilty conscience suddenly and wants to confess all her dirty little secrets and the secrets are hysterical, ridiculous, and yet believable/credible. (Which is another thing Billy Mernit talks about in the book--about creating characters with purpose, empathy, and credibility.) Kinsella's characters have all that.

The scene that always sticks out in my mind is in Undomestic Goddess when she is a lawyer hired as a housekeeper who knows NOTHING--less than nothing--about it. Cannot cook so much as oatmeal, and promised this crazy meal to the employers that included some chickpeas. She doesn't even know you have to soak beans and cook them several hours before you use them--she has roasted dried, uncooked chickpeas, burned them black, and she and the hot gardener are staring at the "rabbit pellets" in horror before she turns to the employers and explains that she can't work with such shoddy cookware. *LOL*

Stubborn--and cannot admit defeat or ask for help. For some reason, you have to admire that in a character. And then admire them when they do take help to overcome their hurdles.

Sorry, I was rhapsodizing.

Cute meets. I think one of the most memorable for me is when Harrison Ford and Anne Heche meet in 6 Days, 7 Nights. He's so AWFUL, and she's so stuck up...and then he gets drunk later and hits on her. Which makes it worse--so they so thoroughly can't stand each other. It's like When Harry Met Sally (beginning) meets Gilligan's Island.

And I always like when a Julie Garwood heroine meets her highlander for the first time. It's not so much a cute meet as a heroine meeting a rock for the first time and trying to have a conversation with it. Then something cute usually happens right after--like in The Bride when he tells her they wouldn't consummate their marriage until she shares his plaid, she takes a bath in the loch, freezes, and he wraps her up--and just as she gets warm again, he points out she's sharing his plaid. I'm not sure that counts as a cute meet--but it is amusing and you know they're going to end up together.

Bosun said...

Hellie - I think the Garword reference shows the moment the author reveals the hero has both a personality and a sense of humor. Until then, as you say, they tend to be stubborn rocks. LOL!

The cookware thing is killing me. That's RESOURCEFUL right there. LOL! And shows an intelligence I love in characters.

I also love how they scattered vignettes throughout When Harry Met Sally with the couples telling how they met. The couple who were born in the same hospital crack me up. They end up meeting in Chicago instead of NY and the fact he rode an elevator extra floors just to keep talking to her is so sweet.

Hellion said...

What's awesome is that the employers are so horrified, they buy her new cookware. *LOL* And she does learn to cook.

The gardener's name is Nathan, btw. *LOL*

Bosun said...

There's just something sexy about that name, isn't there? LOL!

Bosun said...

Dead before lunch, can't say that I'm surprised. LOL!

2nd Chance said...

I have to get up earlier! I have a cute meet with my husband, btw. I interviewed him for the high school newspaper when he took over the position of drum major our junior year.

Man! He was a hard interview! Had to reach down his throat and pull out answers! Never saw him again until the last dance of the basketball season, when he asked me to dance...


Donna, I'm making my way through the Brockmann sight, like wow!

Bosun said...

Chance, you're one of the only people I know still happily married to her high school sweetheart. Which pretty much saves me from being a complete cynic.

My parents worked together at a grocery store, she a cashier and he a bagger, and according to my mother, she couldn't stand him. LOL! But she agreed to give him a ride to and from work when he didn't have a car. The rest is hystory. That was almost 44 years ago!

Janga said...

I think the meet cute scenes are easier if you're writing romantic commedy. I echo the praise of SEP and Crusie. Among historical authors, Anne Gracie has written some terrific meet scenes. In her latest, The Accidental Wedding, for example, the hero’s horse stumbles when he lands on a mudslide that is the work of the heroine’s young brothers, and the heroine’s rescue of the injured hero includes stripping him. Gracie has a marvelous sentence when the heroine first sees the hero against the backdrop of a lightning-lit sky: “How very apocalyptic . . . Whoever he is, he knows how to make an entrance.”

My favorite movie meet cute scenes are from classic screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s. I love the golf course scene in Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant follows Katharine Hepburn around unsuccessfully trying to reclaim his golf ball—and then she drives off in his car. Hilarious! Then, there’s the pajama shopping scene in Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife where Claudette Colbert wants only the tops and Gary Cooper wants only the bottoms.

Bosun said...

Janga - In his book, Mernit uses the Bringing Up Baby scene as an example. And Arthur, the screenwriter in The Holiday uses the PJ example when explaining the meet cute to Iris. Wonderful examples.

Gracie is another of the MILLIONS at this point authors collecting dust on my TBR. I have more than one and I know they are amazing. And yet... I love the "make an entrance" line.

2nd Chance said...

Bringing Up Baby is such a classic movie to watch! She was so insane!

Hellion said...

Bringing Up Baby is such a classic movie to watch! She was so insane!

Ironically said with disdain.

Janga said...

Sorry! I haven't read the Merritt book, and I had forgotten about The Holiday, a movie about which I am very ambivalent.

The bus scene in It Happened One Night is another great example. That's one of my all-time favorite movies. It has so many classic scenes.

Scapegoat said...

Have to say - as much as I LOVE a meet-cute, I hardly ever remember them. LOL

Bosun said...

No worries, Janga. I was just showing that you know exactly what you're talking about. LOL! The experts back you up! Or you back them up, either way.

Do not be talking bad about The Holiday. LOL! I love that movie!

Bosun said...

Oh, I love in when she shows him up by flagging down a ride with one shapely leg. And the curtain of separation. Very prudent.

Scape - You like the meat of the story, that's okay.

Hellion said...

The walls of Jericho. *LOL*

2nd Chance said...

Hey, I don't know if I could write a character like that, Katharine from BUB... And I may be quirky, but I'm not that insane! ;-)

Janga said...

I love half of The Holiday. The other half--not so much.

Bosun said...

I bet I can guess which half. LOL! I can live with it, all in all. I certainly watch it often enough.

I do think I've broken The Notebook habit. Haven't watched it the last couple times I came across it in the guide.