The meet cute is the first scene in a romantic comedy. Or it's a cute and memorable way the leading couple in a screenplay meet. And now it's how romance writers refer to the scene where the protagonists in a romance novel meet as well.
Here's what you really need to know about "meet cutes": They are crucial.
Social scientists say in the first minute of date both parties decide whether they will see each other again. Often we form our opinions of others after only thirty seconds. And in a romance novel where the entire story hinges on this couple the meet cute is like the reader's first date with your story. Crucial. In other words, if your characters don't even have chemistry--if this scene isn't real (coming back to this) why should I waste my time?
Part of what makes the meet cute so important is because it's true to life. Most of you remember how you met your significant other, or your spouse. You remember this for two reasons: 1) Obviously--this person is important to you. 2)It was a unique experience. It was memorable. It plays a huge role in why this person is important to you.
The first thing I ever said to my husband was, "I don't date Catholics." He married and converted me. There is a story there. And you find this kind of stuff in fiction too.
What if I don't write genre romance?
Well, if your story depends on a strong romantic plot, you still need to nail the meet cute. Even if the romance is just a subplot for the subplot to work the romance has to meet the same elements it would meet as the main plot. The difference is the romance is not main the focus so it can be tied up before the major conflict and it can take a backseat to other things.
Here's an example of a meet cute from my novella The Fate Of A Marlowe Girl. (But you can find these everywhere).
“Cómo estás?” he asked.
I knew like five words of Spanish. “Bien.” I ducked down to pull the power supply out and mumbled to myself, “My freaken sister is having an X-rated soiree in my room, because that's what a normal person does two weeks before they get married. Taxes are due in two weeks, and I have a hundred clients and a whole firm counting on me.” I plugged the charger into the outlet and came up with the computer end in my hand. He still looked at me. Wow. I had no idea he was paying attention. “Well, at least you don't speak English,” I mumbled. “Bien,” I said again louder.
The bartender looked at me. “En qué puedo servirle?”
“Something strong.” Yeah right. Like you can drink something strong. “Margarita.”
I opened my laptop and got back to reconciling files.
“Señorita?” the bartender said, putting the drink down beside me.
I took a big drink of the margarita. It tasted like acid, but I forced myself to swallow. It burned going down. So much for that idea.
It was quiet enough in the bar that I could think. Between thoughts of killing my sister, I managed to clear accounts or flag them for further review when I got to the office. But every time I looked up, it seemed like the guy beside me had his eyes fixed on me. Yeah, right. Guys like that don't check out girls like me.
Most of the times I caught his glance, I blushed, so I tried to avoid seeing him. I glued my eyes to the computer screen. I heard him say something in Spanish to the waiter, and two minutes later, the waiter set another drink next to me.
I looked at the waiter confused.
“Del señor,” he said nodding his head toward the guy beside me.
Oh. So I had some Romeo beside me who liked to booze up girls who didn’t know Spanish. I shot him a glare, and before I could return my eyes to my computer, he gave me half a grin.
“Most girls say thank you, but it's okay. I don't speak English anyhow.”
What's your favorite meet cute?