If you don’t know what a meet-cute is, it’s those quirky, funny and/or sexy ways two people meet for the first time. This is most often used for a romantic meeting, but it also works for future friends. Most people know the term meet-cute from the movie The Holiday, but it’s been a staple of the movie industry since the 1930’s and the days of the screwball romantic comedies.
The options and variations of the meet-cute are endless and any novel can benefit from using this literary device. If you want to master the meet-cute you need to learn how to recognize some of the basic formulas, once you know these you will be able create a fresh version of this classic trope in your own writing.
Mistaken identity, who are you again:
Nothing gets the pulse racing like finding out the totally hot person the protagonist just spent time flirting with is the sibling of an enemy, their boss’s kid, or the owner of the restaurant they just gave a one star review. Mistaken identity of every kind makes sure emotions get complicated fast. Check out Ever After for one version. Is he a prince or a horse thief? Only one should get nailed with an apple.
Adverse circumstances, making good come from bad:
No one expects a great romance to bloom at a graveside, or in the case of the current romance darling of the day, at a cancer support group. But that’s exactly what makes the meeting endearing. Even with a plastic tube up her nose, Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars is special. Or take Reality Bites, because causing a cute guy to wreck his car is seldom forgettable.
Full body contact, emotional connection and conflict that starts with a crash:
When all forward motion comes to a stop by encountering an immovable object in the shape of handsome stranger. The contact can be physical, or figurative, like when two opposed ideologies slam together. Watch Notting Hill for an orange juice splashed version. This film also has several noteworthy friend meet-cutes. When Spike meets Anna is my favorite.
Bad mission statements, the hook-ups that were never meant to be:
I love it when the couple meets and everything is so wrong, it’s right. It’s when logic flies out the window and something magnetic, chemical and inexplicable remains. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is the perfect example. Both characters have a plan that never involved ending up with a partner.
The Good Samaritan, when stopping to help leads to drama of a new type:
She’s lost a dog, or he’s just been swindled out of everything he owns. When the love interest charges in to save a stranger they never expect to lose their heart. Making the couple the unlikeliest pairing imaginable just adds to the fun. Watch The Wedding Planner where a run-a-way dumpster leads to sparks and unwelcome complications.
Unequals don’t attract, when the come-on goes wrong:
That flirty hair flip flies right over the head of the intended target and lands astray. Maybe it’s dating cluelessness, gender preference issues, or just really bad aim, but sometimes a person just attracts someone they never expected to. Gone with the Wind has one – Scarlett missteps with Ashley and in anger flings a nicknack just missing Rhett’s handsome face. The rest as they say… is history.
Some people say the meet-cute is an old cliché, long past its prime, but I disagree. The meet-cute is fun, and if you revamp the formula in new and exciting ways you’ll have a winner. Keep an eye out and you’re bound to see more examples of the meet-cute everywhere.
Want to learn more about the meet-cute check out these links:
*I learned after this post had gone up that the actor Eli Wallach passed away. Wallach had a brilliant movie career, but will always have a place in my heart for his role as Arthur Abbott, an aging writer who explains the meet-cute in The Holiday. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/movies/eli-wallach-multifaceted-actor-dies-at-98.html We will miss you!
For more on romance try: Casting Call: Lovers with Baggage.