Have you heard the term “meet-cute”?
If you’re not into reading contemporary romance novels, you probably haven’t. I don’t mean the trade paperback romances, but a larger genre that has developed, consisting of full-length novels about heroes and heroines who often have dark or tragic pasts but find one another and a lasting, fulfilling relationship.
And it all starts with the meet-cute, the moment they first run into each other. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s tense and filled with verbal sparring, sometimes it’s completely embarrassing. But always always always, it’s cute (or at least by the end, the protagonists can look back and admit how cute it was).
I’ve never experienced a meet-cute in my life. When I was in junior high and high school (and to a degree, college and grad school), I really didn’t make it my business to talk to a lot of boys, especially boys I liked. I might have crushed HARD on them, but I generally kept quiet. When I was younger, it was to prevent embarrassment because obviously, it would be tragically humiliating if he found out I liked him! When I was older, it was because of my overly romantic, preconceived notion that a boy ought to pursue me, not the other way around, so I pretty much sat around and waited.
But I have a confession to make. I actually had a meet-cute back in October.
No, no, not with a person! With an idea.
I had just finished listening to The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo, a wonderfully atmospheric novel inspired by, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” (This is probably the third time I’ve mentioned this book in my blog, so I apologize for the repetition, but let this be an indication of how much I loved it!) Like the original story, the novel takes place in the Hudson River Valley in New York, not long after the American Revolution, and I was absolutely consumed by the setting.
I’ve been to New York City twice, I went to Cooperstown with my husband before we were married, and that’s the sum total of my experience in New York. Yet, as I was doing some research at work, an idea – a story – began to take shape, a story set in the Hudson River Valley during the same time period. And I let myself get a little excited about it, even though I was just about to start a completely different novel during November for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
This idea and I circled each other for a little while, getting to know each other better, feeling each other out. I got some fairly strong images, as well as ideas for characters and plot points, but my focus was on NaNo.
Now, a few months later, I am close to wrapping up the (terrible) first draft of my NaNoWriMo project. In a couple of weeks, I’ll probably stitch it all together and set it aside for at least 30 days. That interceding time will be dedicated to the planning stages for my next project. (When your to-write list is as long as mine and runs the risk of growing longer every day, and your availability to write is limited, there’s no room for wasting time.) I was mulling over several ideas, trying to decide what to tackle next, when the Meet-Cute Idea started speaking to me again.
It started pursuing me. And if I’ve learned anything about writing, it’s to embrace the ideas that are talking the loudest because there’s probably a reason they’re talking the loudest.
As I’ve done a few more bits of preliminary research, the ideas I had before fit perfectly into what I’ve discovered. My heart now beats a little faster each time I think about the story. I find myself kind of floating around on Cloud Nine, my steps light and a smile plastered on my face. Because that silly little meet-cute back in October is turning into something real, just like the meet-cutes in romance novels.
I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
P.S. If you feel like diving into the world of meet-cutes and contemporary romance, I recommend authors Jenny Colgan, Beth O’Leary, and Emily Henry. Prepare to swoon!