As we mentioned in the previous article all characters are going to have a moment where they first meet. The old cliché is their eyes meet across a room and they’re destined to be together forever. This is a cliché often associated with romance novels and does appear but it doesn’t appear in all of them. In fact the moment of meeting is considered a big deal in romance because this is where the story often really gets going. Sometimes it’s on the first page and sometimes we’ve established the characters before they meet either way it’s a big moment for the story. Less attention is paid to this reoccurring in other stories, and if it is noted it’s often looked at differently.
The moment of Holmes and Watson meeting is the Sherlock Holmes stories is incredibly important. It’s so important the first story A Study in Scarlet is dedicated to it but we pay less attention because the main plot is about a crime. There’s also an argument that the establishing of their relationship is less sneered at because it’s about male friendship whereas romance novels are associated with women’s ‘romantic fantasies’. Let’s note here that romance is a far more diverse genre than ‘boy meets girl’ and the readership is far more diverse than just women, I’m simply referring to the stereotype. Male friendship is considered a serious thing and women’s ‘romantic fantasies’ are frivolous. (There’s more than one article worth of things to explore about romance stereotypes versus romance novel reality so we’ll have to come back to the detail later.)
When two friends meet in any novel and the story rests on their relationship it’s just as important as the love interests meeting in a romance novel. In the case of Holmes and Watson they come together for practical reasons, to split rent, their moment of meeting is being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. If we look at it like that we have the exact same style of meeting being repeated in romance novels where love interests are introduced through a friend.
What’s less common in romance novels is the established relationship where the meeting happens off page. Or is it? There’s entire subgenre of romance stories where characters ‘re-meet’; for example, one moved away and then returns to their home town and re-meets an old flame or an old friend they didn’t see in a romantic light when they were younger. Here is a demonstration of the off page meeting. We know it happened, it might be discussed, or we might even see it in flashback but it still happened. Just because it didn’t happen on the page doesn’t make it less important.
How characters meet is an important part of backstory, eventually we’re going to have to consider it and considering the on-page meetings in romance novels can help. Meetings don’t have to be dramatic, the chemistry doesn’t have to be immediate, but why did these two characters stick together? Was it circumstance? Did they keep bumping into each other? Did they simply find each other interesting? These things in the past play into the future of the relationship. As we discussed in Why These People? what makes these relationships work, how they met is part of that.