You’ve heard the old adage that a romance novel is just:
Boy Meets Girl
Boy Loses Girl
Boy Gets Girl Back
Well, looking at that and comparing it to a three-act structure, one might actually be able to make it work. But it does seem a bit simplistic, doesn’t it?
In Julie Beard’s Idiot’s Guide to Getting Your Romance Published, she says this:
“Romance plots are deceptive. To the outsider; the critic, and even the reader, they seem simple. Here’s the basic premise (and I do mean basic!): Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl in the end.
How hard can it be to write a story that simple? Well, I don’t mean to be discouraging, but coming up with fresh settings, characters, dialog, and conflicts within the confines of such an age-old storyline is truly challenging! Readers know how your romance will end. The trick is getting them to forget the end until the end.”
The possibilities are endless. But you’ll need to make sure that they meet in a logical way FOR THEM. They can’t meet in a Paris bistro if none of the stories take place in Paris, can they?
But they could meet through their work. Through friends. In an elevator. At a coffee shop. In jail - I started to write “well, maybe not” and realized that in my military romance True Honor, Chris and Claire actually do meet in jail.
Which led me to go back to the other four books in the series.
True Valor - Nic stops to help Julie when her car runs out of gas.
True Courage - Rick and Lily “meet” on the radio when he crashes his helo and she’s working the Search and Rescue radio.
True Honor - In jail, when Chris is arrested for murder and Claire is his JAG attorney.
True Virtue - Daniel and Sophie meet on the side of a mountain during a Search and Rescue mission.
True Gallantry - Haha - Cruz and Kit - well, they meet in book two when Kit flies Cruz to the crash site. Their story is interwoven through the series and they get their own book in the end.
More often than not, the way the hero and heroine meet is tightly woven into the plot line. For example, Girl inherits broken down horse ranch and Boy is the hired wrangler. Okay, cliche, I suppose. But it was off the top of my head after all.
So, what comes first as you approach your romance novel? The plot or the meeting? Well, there’s no right answer to that question. But let me tell you a story.
I was driving home from visiting my daughter - about an hour’s drive. There’s a section of that road that is flat and straight and excruciatingly boring. I sorta zoned out for a moment and, when I zoned back in, for just an instant, I didn’t know where I was. My stomach clenched with panic. And then the instant passed. But, for the rest of the trip home, I played with the idea. What if I hadn’t remembered? What if I not only didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t know who I was. By the time I got up the mountain, I had the basic premise of True Valor, including the moment that Nic and Julie met.
The point is that it can happen in any order. Just play with ideas till something catches fire.
And you have your Boy Meets Girl.
Your homework: pull your favorite romance off the shelf and analyze how the Boy Meets Girl moment is intertwined with the main plot. You may want to note what page that happens on as well.
You could even do this with your favorite romance movie - like Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally or Dirty Dancing. Feel free to share any aha moments.