Friday, January 24

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, January 24, 2014 6 comments

In my previous posts in this mini-series, I discussed why insta-love is an ineffective way to build a romance plot, and suggested some alternate first-meet reactions other than immediate true love.

Today I'd like to append that list with three more creative first-meets to add to your romance toolbox.



In the novel Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell sets the scene of schoolbus heirarchy, and the hero Park's tenuous position within it. She then introduces Eleanor as someone whose total lack of fashion sense will make her an easy target for bullies. Park studies her, describing her not in a cruel way, but with a kind of softly analytic approach. He sees vulnerability and worries for her: "She reminded Park of a scarecrow or one of the trouble dolls his mom kept on her dresser. Like something that wouldn't survive in the wild" (Eleanor and Park 8).

You might say his first impression is concern, compassion, or even pity. Feelings that make you say "Awww."

This kind of first-meet is often instrumental in friendships. Think of how Buffy first meets Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Queen Bee Cordelia has taken Buffy under her wing, and walks her through the school, pausing to bully Willow at a drinking fountain. Buffy stands by, helpless, as Cordelia spews a snotty put-down at the brainy nerd girl. But as a vulnerable outsider herself, Buffy connects with Willow in that moment and later seeks her out for friendship.

Insta-aww was a fairly common  first meet emotion for the nurse romance genre, in which the spunky caregiver would fall for a brave patient. Today you're most likely to find it in Christian fiction, especially historical settings where the heroine is struggling through some kind of hardship. The hero will see her plight, worry for her, and want to help.


Pull two "fish" out of their natural habitat and toss them into the same "bucket" and they are likely to bond with one another. The shared sense of being outsiders, and shared experience of trying to survive hardship will create connection. Think of the romances that develop on reality TV competitions like Survivor. Think of Anne Frank, hiding from the Nazis and pining for the boy she left on the outside, stuck for years in a tiny, hidden apartment with Peter Van Daan. It's no surprise the two develop a romantic attachment.

You, too?

Sometimes the "out of water" isn't quite so extreme as fish-in-a-bucket scenarios. Two characters might both be new arrivals at a venue that offers a benefit, such as drama club or Narc Anon or the honors dorm. The location will indicate that they have some similarity, such as thespian leanings, a desire to overcome addiction, or top marks, in the cases of my previous examples. Knowing that the other has at least one shared value removes a barrier and can open the way for other kinds of attraction.

What are some of your favorite books, films or shows that portray insta-aww, fish-in-a-bucket or "you, too?" first meets?


  1. Replies
    1. Glad you found these useful. I realized in hindsight that there are quite a few non-insta-love approaches out there.

  2. Replies
    1. You're welcome. Hope they stir up some story ideas for you. :-)

  3. Actually, I just read "There But For The..." by Ali Smith, and your post reminded me of the way two characters there meet: They go to a play, each by himself, and there is an interruption in the play, which bothers one, but he talks to the other about it (they just happen to chat) and the other gives him a good spin on how the cell phone ringing (the interruption) actually made the play better.

    The two hit it off, as friends, both joined at first by their common bond of having been at the same play and had the same interruption, and the first guy is impressed by the second guy's take on things. So that's kind of like this, I think, as when the story develops you realize that both of the guys have something that sets them apart from the world: guy one hears his mom's dead voice in his head, and guy two for some reason locks himself inside a stranger's bedroom for a couple months.

    (Really a very good book, although not a romance.)

    1. Definitely the "You, too?" scenario can work well for developing nonromantic bonds as much as romantic ones. It's a common trope in books for middle grade readers--that discovery that you can embrace your own uniqueness AND simultaneously find something in common with another.