Friday, April 3, 2009

Nice To Meet You...

First, I must tell you a fortune cookie story. Back in university (shout out to U of Calgary Alumni), we would head down to China Town for fabulous Chinese food. Naturally, there were fortune cookies at the end of the meal. I love fortune cookies – for the excitement of a random peak into your future and for the crunchy, sugary treat. One night a new person joined our little group and he shared with us this game. Each of us was to open the cookie while the others looked on. Then we were to read our fortune out loud and add ‘between the sheets’ to the end of the fortune. It took only one person’s fortune to reduce us all to fits of laughter. I have never read a fortune since without adding those 3 little words. Here’s an example of a fortune I got shortly after I started writing seriously:

"You have an active mind and a keen imagination. Apply your ideas."

Go ahead – add the 3 words. And the great thing is it works for every fortune.

OK – enough of that. The Meet! Somewhere and at sometime the hero and heroine of your story must meet. Most experts agree that it better be sooner than later considering this is romance we’re writing. Now the 'when to meet' generates various answers. They say by the end of the first chapter, definitely by the end of the second, and no later than the third. As a reader, I want those two people to come face to face in the first couple of pages – that’s why I’m reading the book! That relationship determines the rest of the story as we wind our way from beginning to Happily Ever After, with external and internal conflict raising the stakes and making us wonder just how the author is going to reach that ultimate end.

The job of the writer is to make that moment in time memorable. It’s a promise of love even if the protagonists don’t really care for one another at the beginning. Something has to spark, zing, or sizzle so that inevitably those two characters will develop an emotional attachment. And it has to be done in a way that’s unique and interesting – much like the hook on that first page. Here are some examples (with movies to illustrate – I think movies are a powerful learning tool for writers).

The Cute Meet – having the hero and heroine ‘bump’ into each other. They don’t know one another, but that meeting sparkles with anticipation. One of the best illustrations for this is the movie Failure to Launch – and before you scream at the computer screen about it not being a cute meet, let me explain. She’s hired by his parents to get him out of the house – so she stages a ‘cute meet’. A random bumping into one another in a furniture store. He’s interested and she flirts – the promise of love. A perfect example.

The Reunion Meet – the hero and heroine already know one another, have history with one another, and their time has come to sort out their differences and fall in love. This requires backstory! They have a history together that the reader must learn about, but without the info dump at the beginning of the book. Their story needs to be woven through the book, flowing with the reality of the now. The movie Fool’s Gold is this kind of a story. They are in the process of getting divorced, but decide to go on one more dive for a treasure they both believe is real, a treasure that has nearly destroyed the love they have for one another.

The Work Related Meet – self-explanatory. My favorite example of this one is The Wedding Date. She hires an escort as her date for her sister’s wedding, and to try and make her ex-boyfriend jealous. What I like about this meet is that it sets up a fabulous external conflict. When they sleep together and he finds a wad of money in her wallet, misunderstandings and hurt feelings lead to both of them fighting the temptation of love. Another great example of this is Pretty Woman.

The Historical Meet – when writing historical, societal norms and marital laws restrict to some degree the way a heroine and hero conducts themselves. But the meet can be as exciting and unique as in a contemporary. Tristan and Isolde is my favorite medieval romance movie. She discovers him washed up on a beach and tends to his wounds while keeping him hidden from her family. He is eventually forced to leave and returns home only to discover that she is promised to the man who raised him. An arranged marriage, but not the hero and heroine’s. It’s a beautiful, although tragic, story. A Room with a View is another good example of the historical meet.

Each meet in a romance novel is different. Each sets up the story of two people falling in love. And creating the sizzle between the hero and heroine in that first scene together is what we do. "Hi, we’re romance writers. Nice to meet you."

And, since Anita filled us in on generators, I’m going to leave you with this link. Yes, fortune cookie generator! Here’s mine (and don’t forget the 3 little words):

To be great is to be misunderstood!

So People of Blogland, how do your hero and heroine meet? Is there a particular meet that you don’t like to read in a romance novel? Care to share your fortune cookie saying with us (I know you went over there and checked it out)?



Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey, good post Janet! I think my cutest meet is from my novel When You Least Expect it where Bobby is sitting way in the back booth of the cafe by his lonesome and Hannah walks toward him, face buried in the new menu, turns around and pratically sits on him before she realizes the booth isn't empty. I had fun writing that scene.

As for your link, after I clicked for my fortune, a box popped up and read, 'Your fortune is too short, try another,' Now, what does that tell you?

But I didn't redo it and thank goodness I clicked it a few mins after midnight or I would've been worried for Thursday's blog:

Today is not a good day to teach.

Yup, if I'd read that yesterday morning I would've had the jeebies all day whether I believed it or not. LOL

Janet C. said...

Morning, Anita :)

That sounds like a great 'meet'. And would be fun to write. Is this one of your MS you've sent off for a contest? Or is this the one that finaled in Linda Howard's contest? You've talked mostly of Charley's Saint - which is a reunion meet, if I remember correctly.

LOL on that fortune - yeah, that would have given me pause as well.

Silver James said...

Wow. You're making me think this morning and I haven't had coffee yet. In FAERIE FATE, Becca is thrown back in time and Ciaran is "called" to find her, beaten and bloody beside the road. I'm not sure what to call this kind of meeting. Fated, maybe?

I break the rules in FAERIE FIRE. They don't meet face to face for a few chapters, though they might *see* each other in passing without knowing. It's necessary to set up suspense, trust me. Trying to introduce them sooner completely borked things.

In SHADOW DANCE, it's a Random Meet. Guy is a cabby at the airport and Katherine gets in his cab quiet by chance. (Or is it, *bwahaha*) WALTZING MATILDA is a combination of Work Related and Cute. Matties is in a bar for a colleague's retirement party, turns around and Gabe bumps into her, spilling her drink down the front of her silk blouse. (Well, maybe that's more Clumsy than Cute. :P )

In SEASON OF THE WITCH, definitely Work Related. Sade's FBI, Sinjen's a vampire charged with murder. She interviews him in his jail cell their first meet.

Great post, Janet!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Very good, Janet. Yes, When... is the one that finaled in the Linda Howard contest. I'll find out how I did in that one around the 25th. eeps.

Janet C. said...

Those are some great meets, Silver. I love the "fated" meet - very intriguing. And as far as your protagonists not meeting right away in Faerie Fire - if they 'see' each other, the reader is satisfied with the implied connection and can anticipate the actual meet (a good way to build suspense).

I'm curious - is the Season of the Witch your WIP with the very evil villian (the one you speak about with such revulsion)?

Looking forward to reading your meets in your published works :)

Karen said...

Here's my fortune - Laugh now, wait until you get home (between the sheets).

My wip is a reunion meet. At first I made the very newbie mistake of having them meet later rather then sooner - Chapter Three, if I recall. Then I deleted chapters one thru two (trust me, good move) and the meet moved up to Chapter 1 Scene threeish. Now the meet takes place around page three which I hope is a good meeting place cuz I ain't changing it or I'll be writing this first book forever (can you tell what kind of writing mood I'm in?).

Janet C. said...

Oooh, I'm excited for you Karen. I'm trying to visualize the 'new' and improved opening of your manuscript. I'm glad the move feels good to you - and I know all about re-writing ad nauseum :)

What can we do to get you out of that yucky writing mood? Do we need some writing exercises? Do you need an MSN Intervention? Let us know, cause you need to keep writing (I've read Karen's work - she's very good).

Good fortune. I went back this morning and got "Boys smell" and spewed coffee with the extra 3 words tacked on :)

Silver James said...

Ah, yes. Evil Villain(tm). That book would be Uninvited. Aidan and Hope meet on the first page. However, she's two. He's...two hundred? It's more a horror story with romantic elements than a true romance. Hope grows up and Aidan appears in her life to hide her every time Asb'el finds her. Asb'el is a Nephilim (fallen angel) and gives new meaning to the definition of evil. He does despicable things.

WITCH is the first book in the paranormal series, Penumbra Papers. It's urban paranormal and Sinjen was a Knight Templar now professor of ancient history who's accused of murdering a student. He's actually not evil at all. LOL. His *real* name is Kristian St. John. Yeah. My muse was running with scissors that day! LOL

On a lighter note, I forgot to mention that my family has played the fortune cookie game only using the phrase "in bed" for years. And my fortune from the generator? Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards... I'm not touchin' it! ROFL!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet! That's precious.

There's no school today and my son peeked around the corner to see what I was laughing at. I don't know if it was your words or the image of you spewing coffee as you read 'em but it's funny either way.

ban said...

mine said "you'll find true love if you're blind"... does that mean i should keep the lights off ? :D
oh, so many stories i'm dying to read - silver, karen, anita ... wish there was someplace we could all share little snippets - oh, did i type that out loud ? :)
my wip is fantasy with romantic elements so i'm sure i break a few of the 'rules' but i'd have to say the meeting of my 'hero' and 'heroine' is work related ? she is part of a scouting party that is sent to help the hero and his friends.
what do i hate in romance stories ? easy - i hate when the hero and heroine fall in "LOVE" and between the sheets before getting to know each other a bit first. please ... give me a chapter or two of believable build up and by that i don't mean they lust after each other for 75 pages as if they were soulmates-at-first-site, i mean give them a little time to figure each other out, let the emotions and attraction grow. anybody can do 'love-at-first-site' i want to see the characters interact, get a feel for their relationship ... you asked - i answered :)

Erika said...

Janet, good post.

My hero and heroine meet while on vacation in Hawaii where they have a first name only fling. They meet again in "real life" only to learn shocking secrets about each other that they will eventually have to decide if they can live with. *eyebrow wiggle*

Janet C. said...

Ha - Silver. I'm not touching that fortune either. Let's just let the readers enjoy - 'nuff said :)

Yes, Uninvited, I should have remembered. The more I learn of that manuscript, the more intrigued I am. And, for the record, I love anything Templar - so Witch sounds fabulous.

Janet C. said...

And I'm not going to touch your fortune either, ban - my dirty little mind would require a PG rating on this blog :)

A snippet blog - wouldn't that be great? Hmmm, perhaps something to think on - what's the rules on posting snippets of your work and the whole issue of previously published? Of course, if it were a private... Just thinking out loud here, folks.

Fantasy would be different that romance - and here, Silver can jump in with her ideas of writing another genre with romantic elements. Your 'meet' sounds great - about when in your story does the 'meet' take place, ban? I'm looking forward to hearing Hayley weigh in on this as well.

I'm with you on the "love at first sight" meet. I want the attraction to be present, I want to know that those are the two who will fall in love, but I also want a build up, a gradual rise (no pun intended - see dirty mind) in sexual tension. And I want another subplot to weave through the story that enhances the romance. I'm thinking of a blog post on subplots, hmmm...

Thanks for your insight and thoughts, ban - always appreciated and anticipated :)

Janet C. said...

Hey, Erika - that's a 'what happens in Mexico (Hawaii), stays in Mexico' meet. Kidding :)

Yours will make for a great plotline - we, the reader, have already seen the attraction, so the question then becomes can these two create more from their pairing than just that physical attraction. I'd buy that. More like a 'lust at first sight' meet. To further ban's discussion - we've seen the bang, but then it's torn down and must rebuild in the real world. Make sense?

What's the title, Erika?

Erika said...

Title??? Ummmm, I don't have a title. Do you think that's important????

I'm open to suggestions. :)

Janet C. said...

No - not necessary at all. I thought that if you did, you'd like to share it.

I go with working titles of my protagonists - Hugh and Mena, Gillian and Mac, Grayce and Droyn, Ryan and Jane...

For the novel that's complete (Hugh and Mena), I asked my beta readers to come up with a title. I'm horrible with titles. Then, I picked a couple that I liked, finally deciding on The Seduction of Lady Bells. A long process - almost as long as writing the first draft :)

Do you have a working title?

Karen said...

Thanks for the kind words, Janet, I appreciate them. I think I've written myself into a bit of a boring corner or maybe it's sagging middle syndrome.

Hey, ban, I like the posting snippets idea. will think on that, too. maybe we could have Sunday Sharing or Sharing over the Summer or something? And I can't believe I just said that!

And I gotta say, I'm not opposed to the sex at first sight kinda meet. It can lend itself to all kinds of complications from serious to hilarious. I think it's a complicated, messy, real life issue.

And now I have to go because I'm obviously stalling. I could chat here all day.

Erika said...

I do having a working title. I call it Jack & Carly. Kinda funny now that I've read your comment. I don't know what else to call it. I like your idea of beta readers coming up with a title. I may try that out when the time comes.

Erika said...

How do you get beta readers?

Silver James said...

You ask, silly rabbit. Send it to me. I'll be happy to read it. ;)

Janet C. said...

There ya go - thanks, Silver. If you want to send it my way, I'm also willing to have a look see.

I'm thinking ban might be onto something. If we create a Beta Blog, we could read and critique each other's work. Still just thinking out loud.

Also, Erika - I forced, I mean asked, my friends, family, and co-workers to read Lady Bells. I think I've had 30 people read the damn thing so far. They all liked it - but, really, what were they gonna say?

ban said...

well, i'm glad i slipped and mentioned it ! (sunday snippets sounds great) yes, if we made a site that was invite only we wouldn't have to worry about the first rights thing. i've got a yahoo account with a chat site attached - we can use that if anyone is interested.
and now i must go back and make a revision - as there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. a story with a plot like erika's sounds interesting. (i don't deny the existance or pull of lust) but she is going to take the time to re-introduce her characters after the initial 'incident' :) and build upon that. i was refering more to stories that NEVER develope the relationship between hero and heroine ... they immediately love each other and there's no more depth than that. and yes, i've read a few like that :(

Janet C. said...

I understood what you meant, ban - I was just talking out loud.

Erika - I hope you understood what I was saying. As ban says - there needs to be a build up, a development in the relationship.

And I thought of another that I don't necessarily enjoy - the protagonists coming together in a suspense, getting it on because of close proximity/danger/etc - then at the end they've fallen in love. All they've done is solve the mystery/murder - I don't buy a solid relationship is built on that.

Just my opinion :)

Karen said...

Excuse my ignorance but what is a beta reader or a beta blog? Never mind I'll Google.

Janet C. said...

Hey, Karen. A beta reader is a friend, family, non-professional person who reads your work. I read 6 chapters of your story (and I want to use your title - which I think is great - but am not sure you're ok with that), so I'm a beta reader.

The Beta Blog is just me thinking out loud for a title of a private blog where we could share snippets of work with each other - as ban suggested.

I worry about published work when we post any of our stuff here in a public blog. I know I've read something about the amount you can post, but am not up to speed on the exact specifications.

Erika said...

Oh. *sheepish grin* I guess that makes sense. You could be sorry you offered when I take you up on it. :)

I totally agree on the build up of the relationship. You never really know someone who have an affair with for 5 to 7 days (and nights). Real life is a whole different scenario. You have jobs, bills, friends, family and baggage that you didn't take on vacation with you.

I've been struggling a little bit recently but I think I found my fix so now it's all about working the fix into my existing story. Rewrites...crap.

Erika said...

*...never really know someone who YOU have an affair...*

See? Rewrites. *headdesk*

Karen said...

Do you mean the title Common Ground? Or Dry Spell? Doesn't really matter, go ahead.

I like the idea of a beta blog.
But excellent idea to check out legalities.

Must run, have to go pick up mini-Chick!

Silver James said...

It's my understanding that as long as a blog is private, ie. a yahoo group, Live Journal group, etc, there's no problem over rights. The site is done for critique purposes, not *publication* or promotion. It's technically the same as printing out copies and passing them to friends and family to read for opinion and feedback.

It sounds like fun, ladies! Please count me in?

Other genres with romantic elements. Ha, Janet! I'm hardly an expert. In those, the writer follows the basic tenets and 'rules' of the genre. If the MCs happen to get together and fall in love, then you've added romantic elements. In order to be eligible for certain RWA contests, I do believe it has to have a happy ending and other romantic rules like once the H/H get together they get *together* only with each other, but don't quote me. I'm not sure.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hrmm, my 'meet' if you want to approach it in romance terms, would fall into the type you talked about before you listed categories... the initial encounter where emotions are snapping rather than idle, but I wouldn't call it cute. More the 'look at my money again and I'll skewer you' meet.

And my fortune sounds like the premise of some paranormal story... or something between a revisit of Persephone or Faust, depending on the angle: I found my soulmate, but then he lost his soul.

ban said...

actually hayley, if you add the three words at the end your fortune is quite romantic ... or would it be more acceptable 'he lost his HEART' ?

Janet C. said...

Karen - I really like "Common Ground" - so fitting with the whole premise and Chase and Lily's background.

Silver - thanks for the info. I figured a private blog would be OK, but a public would have some rules/regulations with regard to publication. And thanks also for the RWA info - I knew they had specifics for genre with romantic elements.

Erika - good luck with rewrites. I know they're mind boggling. I'm glad to hear you have found your fix - fingers crossed that it works. And isn't that the reason we take holidays, so we can leave the stress/baggage/worries of the every day behind? Too bad they're always waiting for us when we get home :)

Hayley - I like a 'sparky' meet. One where you, as the reader, knows they're perfect for each other if they could just stop bickering long enough to see it. I loved you fortune - and ban is right, it could be very romantic. Maybe even a tagline :)

So - Beta Blog? Who's in? Silver put her hand up, I could be coerced, anyone else? Shall we give it a whirl?

Karen said...

Sure, why not.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
You've got quite a conversation going on today! Good topic.

From my own books I've got a couple of cute meets and a couple of more serious ones. In "Her Best Man" Sarah meets Will at the altar when she's all set to marry his brother (it doesn't work out). When Hannah has an attack of vertigo Quinn rescues her from the roof of her house in "Till September". Leah is a psychic who has a vision of David's nephew being kidnapped in "Seeing Things" and they meet in the police station. Meg and Zane meet in "A Long Way from Eden" when they find out her son got his daugher pregnant. I could go on and on.

I think the Saturday or Sunday snippets idea is great. We're going to have to explore that.


Janet C. said...

I'll put you down, Karen - see what happens...

Thanks, Jana - didn't expect it to be so busy. But 'meets' are great in romance novels. Nothing like the connection to get the ball rolling right away.

I especially enjoyed Riley and Iris' meet. Classic :)

Erika said...

I want in! ME ME!

Helena said...

Sorry I was so busy yesterday -- out of the house most of the day. I sure missed a lively exchange.

In my wip my 'young' couple meet on vacation in Portugal (Fiona from Canada, Duncan fron Scotland) so this a chance meeting where the spark has to ignite quickly because both are moving on the next day. Thank goodness they both have e-mail until Fiona's trip reaches Scotland.

The other couple in the equation have a reunion meet -- brought together again by circumstances neither could have foreseen or wished for.

I like the explanation of the 'cute meet' from the movie "The Holiday": Eli Wallach's character (the old movie mogul) tells Kate Winslet it is when He goes to the sleepwear dept. wanting to buy pajama bottoms, and simultaneously She is looking for a pajama top. They negotiate a share of the same pair of pajamas, and presto -- the cute meet! (I think he called it the 'meet cute')

Haven't had time to check out the fortune cookie site, but I expect only the best. The last time I was at a Chinese restaurant I found several fortunes in one crisp little cookie, and all promised riches, travel and other wonderful things. So I can't lose.

Molli said...

Sorry to be late; like Helena, life has just been getting in the way! Okay, first things first: fortune cookie says I will have a happy life with my true love. Can't argue with that, with or without the extra words.

As for meets, I've done: late evening fireworks in the park with smoke-rolling-over-the-ground-eyes-meeting-across-the-gloom (and there go those pesky FBPs again); in an office when he opens a large crate to find a soundly sleeping harem dancer; and in the airport when the last man she wants to see again arrives to meet her in place of her aunt. Of the three, I had the most fun with the harem dancer in the (very large) crate (and frankly, so did the hero). That was a "cute" one. I'm learning more from the airport "reunion" scene -- I'm having trouble with it because I don't have a real handle on their earlier relationship so I'm going to have to do some "pre-writing", and that's a good lesson for me.

So... Snippets. Sounds interesting. Please keep me "posted" as it were.