Last week I talked about meet-cutes–the moment when the protagonist meets her potential romantic lead. Today I want to give another example…
This one is from one of the most well-written YA contemporaries I’ve read in a while.
A loud clatter blasts me out of my thoughts, my seat, and skin all at once.
“Oh bloody hell, you scared me!” The deep, whispery English-accented voice is coming out of bent-over guy on the alter picking up the candlestick he just knocked off. “Oh Christ! I can’t believe I just said bloody hell in church. And Christ, I just said Christ! Jesus!” He stands up, rests the candlestick on the table, then smiles the most crooked smile I’ve ever seen, like Picasso made it. “Guess I’m damned.” There’s a scar zigzagging across his left cheek and one running from the base of his nose into his lip. “Well, doesn’t matter,” he continues in a stage whisper. “Always thought heaven would be crap anyway. All those preposterous puffy clouds. All that mind-numbing white. All those self-righteous, morally unambiguous goody two-shoes” The smile and accompanying crookedness hijack his whole face. It’s an impatient, devil-may-care, chip-toothed smile on an off-kilter assymmetrical face. He’s totally wild-looking, hot, in a let’s-break-the-law kind of way, not that I notice.
Any marked peculiarity in the face indicates a similar peculiarity of disposition
And where did he come from? England, it seems, but did he just teleport here mid-monologue?
“Sorry,” he whispers, taking me in. I realize I’m still frozen with my hand plastered to my chest and my mouth open in surprise. I quickly rearrange myself. “Didn’t mean to startle you,” he says. “Didn’t think anyone else was here. No one’s ever here.” He comes to this church often? To repent, probably. He looks like he has sins, big juicy ones. He gestures at a door behind the altar. “I was just skulking about, taking photos.” He pauses, tilts his head, studies me with curiosity. I notice a blue tattoo poking out of his collar. “You know, you really ought to put a lid on it. Such a chatterbox.”
I feel a smile maneuvering its way around my face that I resist as per the tenets of the boycott. He’s charming, not that I notice that either. Charming is bad luck. I also don’t notice that his sinful self seems smart, nor how tall he is, nor the way his tangly brown hair falls over one eye, nor the black leather motorcycle jacket, perfectly worn in and ridiculously cool.
So why does this work?
Last week I talked about how I liked the fact that the protagonist didn’t go overboard with description, but this is mostly because it wouldn’t have been in-keeping with the tone of the scene (an action scene) or the novel (a plot-driven YA dystopian). But here–a character-driven YA contemporary that’s made up of beautifully descriptive passages like this–it works wonderfully.
This passage also focuses mainly on the object of the meet-cute–the person who is not the protagonist–and this could be problematic in another novel. But in this novel, the protagonist is actively trying to not draw attention to herself. Hence her drawn-out silence and attempts to “not notice” things about this boy. It tells us a lot about her, as a character, while also giving us a vivid picture of him.
The biggest thing to remember about writing a meet-cute is description–you need to introduce the love interest in a memorable way–but also the filter through which he or she is described. What the protagonist notices, says, does–all these things put together should tell us just as much about him or her as we are getting from the description of the love interest.
Stay turned for more examples of meet-cutes in the coming weeks!