Note from Lana: Thanks Louisa West for coming down to AuthorZoo to provide this fabulous article on getting the most out of your character’s introduction in a romance novel. There are so many good tips in here that you’re sure to leave full of ideas for your story. Here it is:
I is for Introductions – Romance Writing from A to Z
As writers of romance, we all know the drill: a love story starts with a killer first meeting. There’s a lot riding on it, too. There needs to be interest, some form of conflict, and most of all an undeniable spark between the characters. In your character’s version of their own ‘happily ever after’, it’s the story they will tell their fictional grandchildren. And one thing’s for sure – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
My latest story ‘The Late Shift’ in the romance anthology A Bouquet of Love features Vanessa, a goth bridal shop assistant who is minding the shop late one night and whose very own horror-novel-inspired hero COMES IN FROM THE RAIN. Let’s have a look at a few other examples.
Examples of great meetings
I’m a very visual writer, and take a lot of cues from movies. Introductions are ripe for wow-moments that kickstart an audience’s heart – think Leonardo and Claire gazing in wonderment at each other through a fish tank in Romeo + Juliet. What about Heath Ledger embracing Julia Stiles’ sass and determination in 10 Things I Hate About You? The brilliant thing about the essential meet-cute is that it doesn’t have to be super romantic in order to really set the tone for romance. Applying romance tropes gives us an edge when writing – what about ‘enemies to lovers’, or ‘mistaken identity’? What weird and wonderful ways could people in those situations meet? More importantly, what else flows on from the initial meeting?
It sets the tone for your story
Are you writing a rom-com? Romantic suspense? A contemporary romance, where your character is a woman of the world? This is your opportunity to show us your character in a defining moment, a moment that will flavour their interaction with their love interest for the remainder of your story. It doesn’t have to tie in with your central themes but it’s probably wise to do so – setting a strong foundation for the conflict your character will experience both personally and within the relationship with their love interest is key for any romance story! As my mother always says, ‘start how you mean to carry on’. Think about how Julia Roberts meeting Richard Gere in Pretty Woman sets the tone for their characters’ trust and intimacy issues which become the central theme of the film.
It shows the nature of the relationship between your characters
The course of true love never did run smooth, and conflict is integral to any relationship. It’s the fire that drives us forward into the unknown, the passion behind the motivations our characters hold dear. The first meeting is a chance to show the reader all of these things without needing to tell them throughout the rest of the story – and if you make the event memorable enough, you won’t have to. A perfect example is the proud and haughty Mr Darcy attending a ball he thinks is beneath him at Netherfield and being surprised in the lively and forthright Miss Elizabeth Bennet!
Don’t forget that conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be conflict between the characters at the time of their first meeting. Your main character could be upset with the state of their life, or have had a bad day. Perhaps your character didn’t achieve some personal goals they had set for themselves that week and they get caught beating themselves up about it. Think deeper than ‘me vs. you’ ideas!
The more unique your meet-cute, the more memorable it will be for your reader. When writing romance it can seem impossible to break new ground when so many fabulous writers have come before you. The key is to be true to yourself and add in the spice that only you can provide; draw from your own experiences of meeting new people. Go to a cafe or park and watch people interacting – or my newest source of inspiration is scrolling through stock image photos and finding random images to get my creative mojo flowing. Then get writing!
I can’t wait to meet your characters for the first time.
Meet-cutes with a difference
It’s awfully tempting to have your heroine meet her guy by bumping into him – literally. There’s nothing wrong with it either; there’s a reason why familiar-style meetings work within the romance genre. But if you’re looking for a little something out of the box, then check out these five ‘meet-cutes with a difference’:
- Your character sits down to have lunch somewhere and her can of soda explodes when she opens it. The hero offers her a handkerchief… or does he?
- Your character is running late for work. Every traffic light is red, and then she gets rear-ended by the car behind her. What happens next?
- Your character’s dog manages to slip its collar and run through the park like a wild thing. It lifts its leg to pee on the leg of a guy who is busy looking at his phone.
- Your heroine has an intense craving for a jam donut, but the last six are bought from under her by the guy ahead of her in the line. She tries to haggle with him to buy one.
- The fire alarm goes off in the shopping centre where your heroine is. She ends up getting stuck in the fire escape space with a stranger.
Meet Louisa West
|Louisa likes Pina Coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain. Determined to empty her brain of stories, she writes across several genres including fantasy, speculative fiction, and romance. She is an avid writer of short stories – some of which are available for free here.
She lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, and drinks more coffee than is good for her. When she’s not writing or researching projects, Louisa enjoys spending time with her family. Hobbies include playing video games, watching copious amounts of tv, and various craft-related initiatives.
She strongly believes that the truth is still out there.
Her books and free short stories are available from her website www.louisawest.com.