How to Write a Swoonworthy Meet Cute

How to Write a Swoonworthy Meet Cute

In my opinion, there are three pivotal plot beats that make a romance work. The first is the meet-cute, the screenplay writers’ term of the scene in which our characters first cross paths. (The other two are the black moment and grand gesture.)

The meet cute generally comes after the opening and leads into the inciting event, the catalyst that will for them together.

The term meet cute makes me think of romcoms, but the first moment your characters meet don’t have to have the humor, awkwardness, or cuteness that romcoms often have. What they do need to do is make an impact on the reader that tells them there’s something-something between our lovebirds.

The Elements of a Meet Cute

When your characters first come onto page at the same time, the reader should know that this is the couple they’re supposed to root for. To make that happen, your meet cute should use:

Romance Genre and Tropes

The romance subgenre and tropes of your book set the tone, mood, and expectations for your readers, and they often indicate the type of meet cute you’ll have in your book.

Each subgenre – be it historical romance, contemporary, paranormal, or romantic suspense – comes with its own set of rules, expectations, and conventions. A meet cute in a historical romance, for instance, must contend with the societal norms and constraints of the time. On the other hand, a paranormal romance might allow for a meet cute sparked by an extraordinary circumstance such as being saved from being hit by a car by a sparkly vampire.

Tropes in romance are essentially plot themes or character types that readers look for or avoid when choosing romances to read. They provide a framework within which your meet cute can unfold. In the enemies to lovers trope, the meet cute is fraught with conflict, a delicious tension that promises a journey from disdain to deep affection. While this can be an initial meeting in which there is immediate disdain, it could be the characters already know and hate each other when we first meet them in the book. Either way, the meet cute plot beat (where readers first encounter our couple together) must reflect this hate.

Common meet cutes in romances that involve tropes include:

  • Insta-love or love at first sight. This can be toned down to interest at first sight.
  • Insta-hate or enemies to lovers.
  • Unrequited love or friends-to-lovers.

These aren’t your only options. Sometimes the meet cute is awkward, like in a romcom. Perhaps it involves danger, like in a romantic suspense or paranormal romance.


Before our characters’ eyes meet or their hands accidentally brush against each other, there’s something equally crucial that sets the stage for their memorable encounter: the setting. Setting orients your readers to time and place, but also contributes to how and why your characters are coming together.  The setting should enhance the encounter, adding layers to the characters and their budding relationship. A well-chosen setting can reflect the personalities of your protagonists, foreshadow their relationship dynamics, or even act as a metaphor for their journey ahead.

But remember, setting doesn’t have to be in person. In today’s digital age, “setting” can include virtual spaces and online platforms. Imagine the possibilities of a glitchy video call leading to a chance encounter or a mistaken message in a gaming chat room. These modern settings can bring a whole new level of relatability and charm to your story, resonating with readers who live and love in a digital-first world.

Choosing the right setting for your meet cute is about blending the familiar with the unexpected. It’s about creating a space where magic can believably happen, whether it’s in a crowded elevator or across cyberspace.

Character Introduction

Introducing your characters during a meet cute is like setting up a blind date between them and your readers. It’s that pivotal moment where first impressions can either spark intrigue or miss the mark. This introduction is where the threads of personality, quirks, and potential for love begin to intertwine.

When your characters first appear on the page, especially during their meet cute, they need to pulse with life. This isn’t just about what they look like or what they’re wearing (though those details can add a nice touch). It’s about giving a glimpse into their essence, their desires, and the flaws that make them human and meant for each other.

Here’s the secret sauce to making your characters stand out in their first encounter: Show, don’t tell (yes, I know, that old rule again!). Instead of simply describing John as nervous or Mary as free-spirited, let their actions and interactions with their environment do the talking. Perhaps John is constantly adjusting his tie or avoiding eye contact, while Mary might be laughing a little too loudly with a stranger, her eyes alight with curiosity and zest for life.

While the opening allows us to meet one or both characters on their own, together, they need to be greater than the sum of their parts in terms of reading experience. To do that, the couple needs chemistry. This is where readers can sense and feel there’s something more going on between the couple. Chemistry is best shown through the senses (that show don’t tell rule again.)

Remember, in the romance novel, the introduction of your characters is more than just a meet cute moment; it’s the foundation of their journey together. It should resonate with authenticity, setting the tone for their relationship and the obstacles they’ll navigate.


The fun in a meet cute for a romance reader is the snap, crackle, pop of the moment that sets the entire course of the romance novel into motion. As an author, the meet cute isn’t just about bringing the couple onto the same page of your book. It’s about making that meeting unforgettable. The spark is the heartbeat of the meet cute, the moment when everything changes, and the air crackles with possibility. It’s the magic that transforms an ordinary encounter into a pivotal, heart-stopping event that neither character (nor your reader) will forget.

How do you conjure such a spark? It’s all in the build-up and the release, the tension and the surprise. It’s in the unexpected – a twist of fate that throws your characters into each other’s orbits in a way that feels both serendipitous and inevitable. The challenge is in making this spark not just believable, but irresistible. It’s the kind of moment that makes your reader’s heart skip a beat. It should speak to the longing for connection, tapping into the universal desire to find a perfect mate.

That’s easier said than done. In a world where readers are bombarded with countless tales of love and serendipity, how do you make yours stand out? The answer lies in deep POV where the reader experiences very sensation, every thought, every sight and sound, through the point of view character of the meeting. Readers need to feel the crackle between the couple viscerally.

As you weave the spark into your meet cute, remember that you’re not just setting up a plot point; you’re laying the groundwork for your characters’ journey towards each other. It’s the start of their dance toward an HEA.

Dialogue and Interaction

The dialogue during a meet cute is where words are more than just spoken; they dance, they clash, they flirt, they falter. This is where your characters’ personalities truly come to light, through the exchange of banter and unspoken tensions that mark the beginning of something new.

But crafting dialogue that resonates, that feels real, requires effort. In real life, speakers hem and haw, have brain farks and go off tangent. The trick to novel dialogue is sounding real without being real. It’s about capturing the essence of human interaction.

Further, dialogue is a place to reveal characters; their personalities, vulnerabilities, their quirks, their hopes, their fears, and perhaps, their initial reservations.

But don’t forget the power of what’s not said. The pauses, the glances away, the half-smiles – these silent beats between words are just as telling as the dialogue itself. They’re the moments that invite readers to fill in the gaps, to feel the burgeoning connection between your characters on a visceral level.

The challenge in a first meeting is to have a balance of ease and awkwardness, of curiosity piqued and boundaries still in place. But even in a situation in which the characters already know each other, there should be a hint to the resistance and interest.

Crafting the Perfect Meet Cute

Knowing what a meet cute involves, how do we transforms a simple meeting into a scene that sticks with readers, urging them to root for the love story from the get-go? The answer lies in a delicate dance of conflict, tension, and originality.


Let’s face it: without a dash of conflict, you don’t have much of a romance much less a meet cute. Internal and external conflicts can wreck havoc on a first on-page meeting of our characters. Conflict, especially in those initial moments, does more than just add a layer of excitement; it breathes life into your characters, making them more relatable. In many cases, the meet cute is where we see the flaws in the characters’ beliefs or their true colors as the encounter their first obstacle to achieving the goal. We see how they act in the real world when faced with an adversary or an instant attraction.

Conflict introduces a hurdle right from the start, setting the stage for the characters to overcome it. But remember, these conflicts are not just obstacles; they’re opportunities for connection. They force the characters to engage, to communicate, and ultimately, to understand each other on a deeper level.

Building Tension

Romantic tension is the lifeblood of the meet cute. From the moment of the first encounter, how you build this tension dictates the pace and passion of the budding relationship. But how do you strike the perfect balance between attraction and obstacles? This tension should feel like a tug-of-war between desire and denial, a delicious uncertainty that keeps both characters (and your readers) on their toes.

But how do you master this tightrope? If they like each other, they can go on a date and the book is over. If they hate each other, they can avoid each other, and the book is over. The meet cute needs to show the electricity of chemistry, while providing all the reasons why that attraction shouldn’t be indulged, which can relate to character’s goals and/or inner conflicts that stand in the way of their falling in love. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that they come from worlds that shouldn’t collide, or the personal barriers they’ve built around their hearts. While the characters might use these obstacles to avoid love, they also deepen the tension, to make the eventual coming together all the more sweet.

Dialogue can go a long way in helping build tension. The back-and-forth banter that teases or clashes, the conversations that skirt around what they really want to say, the confessions that come out all wrong—this is where tension thrives.

The meet cute moment is where the fire starts, the tension is the spark.

Be Original (Avoiding Cliché)

I’ve been starting but not finishing a lot of romance books lately. Partly it’s time, but partly it’s not being hooked into the book. The books aren’t bad. In fact, they’re well written and came to me with high recommendations. But there’s nothing about it that has gripped me. They feel much the same as what I’ve already read. The one I’m mostly likely to finish at this point is Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren. Why? Because Hazel is completely different from the heroines I’ve been coming across lately.

Let’s face it, the basics of a romance involves two people coming together, overcoming personal issues and outside obstacles, to finally commit to each other in love. In a world where every story feels like it’s been told a thousand times, how do you make your meet cute stand out? How do you ensure that this pivotal moment feels as fresh and exciting as a new love? The secret lies in originality, in dodging the well-trodden ideas to create a moment that makes readers take notice and interest.

Think outside the box by:

  1. Be unconventional. Ask, “What haven’t I seen before?” Maybe it’s setting your meet cute in a location that defies expectations—a silent meditation retreat, the backstage of a magic show, or the quiet corners of a nocturnal library. Or perhaps it’s flipping the script on traditional roles and scenarios, allowing for a refreshing twist on the dynamics of the first encounter. Why not have the knight in shining armor be the one who’s rescued? In a typical office-second chance romance trope, the woman walks into her new bosses office only to discover he’s her ex. Turn that around. What if she was the boss? What if the encounter takes place at an office party where things are getting rowdy?
  2. Draw from characters. Originality in a meet cute often stems from the characters themselves. That starts by having well-developed characters with backgrounds that impact how they live today, goals, desires, fears, flaws, and personality traits and quirks (as in the case of Hazel…she’s hoot).  A character who’s a passionate botanist might meet their match in a community garden, not over roses, but over a stubborn weed that refuses to die.
  3. Do the opposite. If you find yourself doing what others do, consider flipping it and do the opposite to offer something unexpected. In a retelling of Cyrano De Bergerac, perhaps a woman is writing letters (or emails or texts or DM’s) for another woman who is trying to attract the love interest. Instead of runaway bride, have runaway groom. Instead of fake marriage, have fake divorce (okay…so I’m not sure how that would work, but you get my point).

Examples of Memorable Meet Cutes

Here are a few fun meet cutes:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game is a popular contemporary romcom is an enemies to lovers office romance. When we first see Lucy and Joshua, we know they work in the same office where they engage in ongoing warfare involving competitive games and sharp banter. Told from Lucy’s POV, we learn that she’s a sweet person who is perplexed by why Joshua is so grumpy all the time, and annoyed that he isn’t charmed by her outgoing friendliness. They’re already adversaries when the inciting event occurs; they’re both up for the same promotion.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White, & Royal Blue is a contemporary enemies to lovers fake friendship romance between the First Son, Alex and the spare heir, Prince Henry. When they come together on the book page, it’s not their first meeting. That first meeting left a 14 year old Alex angry, so at 21, when he attends the royal wedding, he’s a bit of an ass, which results in a wedding cake fiasco. This media disaster leads to the inciting event, the two have to be fake friends to fix the bad publicity.

Naked in Death by JD Robb

In Naked in Death, kick-ass detective, Eve Dallas first meets Roarke (just Roarke, no last name) the Irish billionaire with a sketchy past at the funeral of the victim she’s investigating the murder of. Before they meet on the page, they’re in the same room, and each takes a notice of the other (the start of the awareness and snap, crackle, pop). He doesn’t have time for her, but offers her a ride back to the airport where she can question him. While Eve is closed off personally and a by-the-book cop, the ride is charged with energy that puts her a bit off balance. Because Roarke is a good suspect for the murder, her path crosses with his quite a bit and, much to her chagrin, the guy is too charming and sexy for her to avoid.

By the way, the In Death series has this great gimmick in which Roarke carries with him always button that fell off Eve’s coat. That button comes off in the limo drive during the meet cute. (I love that.)

Lover Unbound J.R. Ward

Lover Unbound is book five of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series of contemporary paranormal romances. Vishous, a warrior vampire, is shot and taken to the hospital where Dr. Jane Whitcomb operates on him, discovering he has a 6-chambered heart and other unusual biological characteristics that fascinate her. Vishous wakes and in the fate-mate trope, he’s immediately taken with her, especially since he’d been having dreams about her. His “brothers” kidnap her to take care of him, which sets up their romance.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Duke and I is the first Bridgerton book. It’s an historical fake relationship romance involving Daphne Bridgeton, the oldest daughter who is now of marital age, and the Duke, Simon Basset, who like Mr. Bingham in Pride and Prejudice is the target of every mother who wants to marry off their daughter. In the book, Daphne and the Duke are aware of each other, but the meet cute is at a ball, which isn’t unique, but historical romances also need to abide by social norms of the time. Daphne wants to marry, but isn’t excited about her prospects. The Duke doesn’t want to marry ever, but wants to keep the mother’s and their daughters away from him, which sets up the fake relationship that will use the Duke to elevate Daphne’s appeal and prospects, and stop mothers and women trying to attract the Duke.


Do you have other great meet cute moments? If you have questions or feedback, let me know in the comments below!

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