On August 31, 2015, Jordan W. wrote, I have finally figured out my entire plot and I’m about to start writing my first draft, But there is one minor problem. I have no idea how to make my MC meet the love interest. I know what happens before and after they meet I just don’t know how to go about the actual confrontation. Can anyone offer any inspiration?
Yulia weighed in with useful ideas, some of which make my ears burn: I’m not a romance expert, but I’ve read lots of romance stories, and I can recount how the love interests were introduced there. Gail herself has written many great books, so let’s look at her versions:
In ELLA ENCHANTED, the MC Ella’s feeling bad because her mother died and love interest Char cheers her up.
In FAIREST, the MC Aza sees love interest Ijori at a wedding, and he saves her from embarrassment in the receiving line.
In EVER, the love interest Olus rescues MC Kezi from a mean, creepy guy. (Actually, both Olus and Kezi are MC’s, but you get the idea.)
Some other examples:
In Shannon Hale’s THE GOOSE GIRL, the MC Ani is sitting in a goose pasture when love interest Geric comes riding in on an unruly horse. Ani jumps on the horse and rides around before Geric tells her that it’s not her horse; they have a spat, and the next day he comes with flowers.
In Soman Chainani’s THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, the love interest Tedros throws a rose (which signifies his love) into the audience of girls. MC Sophie is so desperate to catch it, but she misses.
In books with younger MCs, the romance is a lot slower. Take Emily and Aaron in Liz Kessler’s EMILY WINDSNAP series (she’s 12 or 13 and he’s about 14). They’re just friends for a long time before they dive in.
These are great examples, and they each share a quality: a vulnerable moment. In Ella Enchanted, for example, Ella might have been more guarded with a stranger if her mother hadn’t died recently. Also, I know from sad experience that after the loss of a loved one, people and characters are eager to hear the departed remembered, to know that his or her life mattered. Char, without calculation, does this.
This absence of calculation is a common element, too, in the incitement to romance. If Char were intentionally endearing himself to Ella, he would come off as disturbing, possibly villainous.
So that’s a strategy to keep in mind, to put our MC at risk, not serious risk, because we don’t want to overwhelm the moment. And I don’t mean that the hero has to save the heroine. She can save him, or they can be in trouble together.
Here’s an approach to crafting the meeting: Make it reflect a reason the two wind up loving each other. In Ella Enchanted again, Char admires Lady Eleanor’s sense of humor. As the romance develops, Ella enjoys making Char laugh, and he, the more serious of the two, loves that she can.
So first we think about what elements cause the two to mesh. We can make a list. For example:
∙ They’re both adventurous, even risk-taking.
∙ She’s direct; he’s diplomatic. Each wishes for some of the other’s quality.
∙ They grew up in different cultures, and she loves his exoticism. He loves teaching her about his village.
And so on in large ways and small. When you write your list, go for five to ten elements. Some of the meshing can be physical, so put those on your list, too, but, unless we have strangely shallow MCs, there need to be emotional and probably intellectual traits that attract as well.
Now how can we use what we have? Taking the first one, they can meet on a wilderness adventure. He proposes something the group could do, which the tour guide nixes, nastily. She can support the idea. The first spark has flared. If my second bullet also applies, she can tell the tour guide off. He can admire her fearlessness. If the tour guide has a fit, he can use his diplomacy to lower the temperature, and she can be impressed. Spark two.
Notice that nothing enormous has happened. We’re setting the stage to let their feelings build.
Notice also that we’ve used their characters to create the situation. It isn’t enough to engineer events so that they’re in the same place at the same time. The two have to work together.
Here’s another way to think about it: When we consider how to bring them together, we can use the ways they’re alike and the ways they’re opposite. Characteristics that are unrelated won’t help much. If she loves dogs and he likes to walk on the beach, we’ll have to work harder. But if he hates dogs or is afraid of them and she loves them, ideas stop popping.
Before I go to prompts, I just want to remember my favorite romantic beginning, which comes from Anne of Green Gables: Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe are classmates, each fuzzily aware of the other, but the awareness doesn’t sharpen until he calls her hair carroty and she slams her slate over his head. I love that romantic beginning!
Here are three prompts:
∙ Think of two people you know in real life. If they aren’t near in age, imagine that they are. It doesn’t matter if they know each other. Think about how they might work as a couple. Write the scene that sets off their romance.
∙ Using my third bullet, have her be a tourist in his village and have her commit some social faux pas. Use the incident to incite their romance.
∙ Write the wilderness adventure that I set up.
Have fun, and save what you write!