Learning from the Masters: The (Sort-of) Meet-Cute

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As I explained last week, I’m looking for examples of meet-cutes in which the two parties concerned already know each other. There actually aren’t a ton of those out there in YA, or so I’ve found. Yet I do have one for today, an example from the trilogy I’m currently obsessed with

“No fainting in the middle of the road,” said a voice close to my ear as a heavy arm landed across my shoulders and gave me a squeeze. I looked up to see Mal’s familiar face, a smile in his bright blue eyes as he fell into step beside me. “C’mon,” he said. “One foot in front of the other. You know how it’s done.”

“You’re interfering with my plan.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes. Faint, get trampled, grievous injuries all around.”

“That sounds like a brilliant plan.”

“Ah, but if I’m horribly maimed, I won’t be able to cross the Fold.”

Mal nodded slowly. “I see. I can shove you under a cart if that would help.”

“I’ll think about it,” I grumbled, but I felt my mood lifting all the same. Despite my best efforts, Mal still had that effect on me. And I wasn’t the only one. A pretty blond girl strolled by and waved, throwing Mal a flirtatious glance over her shoulder.

“Hey Ruby,” he called. “See you later?”

Ruby giggled and scampered off into the crowd. Mal grinned broadly until he caught my eye roll.

“What? I thought you liked Ruby.”

“As it happens, we don’t have much to talk about,” I said dryly. I actually had liked Ruby–at first. When Mal and I left the orphanage at Keramzin to train for our military service in Poliznaya, I’d been nervous about meeting new people. But lots of girls had been excited to befriend me, and Ruby had been among the most eager. Those friendships lasted as long as it took me to figure out that their only interest in my lay in my proximity to Mal.

Now I watched him stretch his arms expansively and turn his face up to the autumn sky, looking perfectly content. There was even, I noted with some disgust, a little bounce in his step.

So why does this work?

1. Their relationship is established right away. They have an easy, familiar way with each other that’s immediately apparent.

2. How she feels about him is dropped in subtly. Alina doesn’t come straight out and say “I’m in love with Mal and I hate watching him flirt with other girls.” You come to understand this through action and dialogue.

3. Their history together is brought in–but only briefly. There’s no long drawn-out paragraph about how they know each other or what brought them here, just a brief one in the middle of the action and dialogue.

4. The scene never stops. This goes with the last one–you get to know these characters, where they’re from, and what they’re feeling through what they’re doing and saying. A perfect example of showing, not telling.

This was immensely helpful to me, and I hope to you, too. Are there any other great meet-cutes out there for characters who already know each other? Please let me know!

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