It’s the moment we all look forward to in a love story: when the lovers first meet. In Hollywood, it’s called the “meet cute.”
This scene may be the first time they are actually meeting or it may just be the first time we see them together in the story. Either way, it’s pivotal because it sets up the entire ride. It’s not just the meet cute between the characters, it’s the meet cute between the readers and the characters, too.
If it falls flat, there’s a good chance your readers will emotionally checkout. Even if the romance is a b-story in your project, it should still be memorable and hook your readers so they become invested in following their relationship journey.
Here are some tips on how to write a meet cute for a romance that will pull readers in and set them up to fall in love with the pairing.
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How to Write a Memorable Meet Cute
Most popular types of meet cutes
The options for a memorable meeting between love interests are as varied and complex as the characters themselves.
Just like tropes can be the springboard and foundation for unique storylines, though, they can do the same for a meet cute. Here are some of the most popular types of romantic meet cutes.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Perhaps the most classic meet cute is when the two characters have an instant connection. This doesn’t necessarily refer to insta-love (though some stories take it that route), it’s more about the characters feeling an attraction to each other from the moment they meet.
External factors (or even internal conflict) then serve to keep the characters apart despite their mutual desire for each other.
ENEMIES AT FIRST SIGHT
The other end of the spectrum is to have the characters hate each other when they first meet. This is always fun because you get conflict right from the get-go and get to follow the journey of how these two characters find their way to each other.
In this case, they’re usually forced to spend time together despite their distaste for one another, and in the process, love unexpectedly (at least to them) gradually develops.
Of course, you can’t forget the unrequited love scenarios. One character falls for the other or at least has an attraction, but the other isn’t interested yet for some reason or another.
This is common in stories where one of the characters is in a relationship, one is famous or in a higher class and isn’t aware of the other, one sees the other as an enemy, or one has been overlooked because they’re not the other’s type.
THE AWKWARD MEETING
Sometimes, characters won’t even realize they’ve just met a love interest because the entire scenario was embarrassing, uncomfortable, or stressful. There’s something endearing and relatable about this, as long as the audience knows that’s where it’s going. As the reader, it can feel like you’re a friend that’s looking on and sensing the potential before the characters do.
This is a popular trope for romantic comedies. However, be careful not to cross the line into making the reader uncomfortable. It should be awkward in a fun, charming way or a dramatic way, not in a cringe-y way.
Think outside the box
There is nothing wrong with using tropes that you love, but there’s a difference between tropes and cliches. The latter is what you want to avoid at all costs.
Think about how you can make your character’s meeting unique. It should be as personal to them as any other part of their story, unique to the reader, and a special memory that will always be tied to these two particular characters and their love story.
If you do want to use a cliched meeting, how can you turn it on its head? What can you do to give it an unexpected twist?
Set up the story, characters & conflict
The best meetings between characters are the ones that give you insight into how these characters are going to have a ripple effect on each other’s lives. What tips the reader (and maybe the characters) off that they’re witnessing a life-changing moment?
Make sure the scene isn’t isolated from the rest of the story. It should lay the groundwork for the story, show who these two characters are, and set up the conflict that will complicate their love story.
It’s a tall order but when you hit all of these things, you’ll have a magical meet cute on your hands!
Do your research
Become a student of meet cutes and take notes on your favorites and least favorites in other works. Create your own notebook of case studies to determine what made the ones you loved so powerful and the ones you disliked fall flat.
What are the common elements between them? What made them stick with you and make you feel something? You may also be inspired by one of them for your own work, giving you the starting idea for a unique meet cute between your characters.