Lookit! ;D (I figured I needed to mix it up a bit, right?) Today we’ve got Theresa Romain back again! We didn’t scare her off! (Ok, ok, I didn’t. I know it’d be down to me. :P)
Dating, Conflict, and the Careful Application of Crazysauce
On this day, mumble mumble years ago, Mr. R and I went out on our first date.
It was ok. Pretty good, I guess. We went to a sports bar and played one of those networked trivia games. Mr. R wiped up the geography section—but then came a slew of questions about the human skeleton, and a look of dread crossed his face.
Fortunately for him, I learned some weird things in third grade, including the names of most human bones. The third grade part made me O_o – that’s quite a memory! So, we won. Mischief managed! Mr. R was so impressed that he called me for a second date a mere nine days later. That was ok with me, because we were both grad students and we had some giant research papers to complete during the nine days.
Does that make for an interesting story? If it weren’t for the skeleton, I’d say: not really. Dating may be the one area of life that’s less horrible AS WELL AS less amazing than it appears in fiction. Most real-life dates don’t make for good reading, because there’s no conflict. Both people want the same thing: to meet someone they’ll like spending time with. And conflict is what propels a story along.
For this reason, a lot of first dates in fiction aren’t between the hero and heroine. Instead, the date is with someone else so that it can serve as a source of conflict; that is, a reason for the couple not to be together.
I’ll give you some examples in a table, because I love making tables (I was dropped as a baby). Here we see some sample events from my first date with Mr. R, as compared to totally made-up equivalents in contemporary and historical romance.
I don’t know why the lines of the chart won’t show up : sorry.
|Actual First Date with Mr. R||First Date in a Contemporary Romance||First Social Encounter in a Historical Romance|
|Site of date||An average-looking sports bar||A sports bar that is 1000% seedier than the heroine expected||A mad crush of bodies in the most anticipated ball of the entire London season|
|Heroine’s date||Hero||Man with comb-over, dressed in leisure suit, who bears no resemblance to photo on dating site||Noble nincompoop sent by heroine’s mother to dance with her|
|Behavior of heroine’s date||Sadly ignorant of human skeletal terminology; otherwise nice||Much loud laughter at own jokes; inappropriate touching||Unable to remember dance steps; presumes too much upon slight acquaintance|
|Location of hero||In vicinity of heroine||Seated on nearby barstool, smirking at clueless behavior of Leisure Suit Man||Standing with bored pack of alpha males, all deriding the latest debutantes—until heroine catches his eye as she dances with Lord Nincompoop|
|Circumstances of kiss||At end of date, hero says goodnight and kisses heroine*||Leisure Suit Man goes in for a smooch, heroine falls off chair in attempt to avoid||Lord Nincompoop lures heroine into garden and plants one on her—in view of notorious gossip|
|Aftermath||Nine days of radio silence, during which time serious-grad-student-type research papers were completed||Heroine chokes on gum, turns purple. Hero swoops in and successfully performs Heimlich||Hero intervenes to prevent hasty betrothal; ends by spiriting heroine away for three scandalous days of passion|
See? There’s much more conflict when the hero and heroine are kept separate by something more than research papers. (Also, that was kind of fun calling myself a heroine.) While we love it when a date goes smoothly in real life, in fiction we love heaping scoops of conflict, sometimes with a sweet crazysauce topping.
In my romance debut, Season for Temptation, the hero and heroine’s first meeting isn’t like the one in the table above. There’s no garden, and no ballroom, but there is a giant source of conflict. James and Julia meet when he comes to visit her family—because he’s in an engagement of convenience to Julia’s stepsister, who’s also her closest friend.
In real life, this is the kind of situation that gets you on The Jerry Springer Show, and even in fiction, it has the potential to cross lines of betrayal that I wanted to stay away from. I was looking for conflict, but not a crazysauce level of it. So in my story, all three people involved in the triangle are motivated by duty to their families, and they’re all trying to act in an honorable way. As it turns out, this puts even more barriers in the way of James and Julia’s romance.
Have you read a book, or seen a movie, with a first-date scene that you really enjoyed? Share, share! I’m offering a print copy of Season for Temptation to one random commenter. International entrants welcome.
BIO: Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. Her historical romance debut, SEASON FOR TEMPTATION, was published in October 2011. The sequel, SEASON FOR SURRENDER, will be published in October 2012.
Theresa lives with her family in the Midwest and lives online. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
*He still says I kissed him. But I disagree, and I’m the one writing the blog post.
I can’t think of a first date scene that I really liked but how about a first meeting scene? The one that I first thought of was in Fit For A King by Diana Palmer. It stuck out for me because the lady moves in next door to a grumpy guy with her bird Warchief and Warchief likes to scream and rattle his cage doors. *Bad bird*
So grumpy neighbor hears the screams and thinks someone is getting the snot kicked out of them and pounds on the door and says he’ll call the cops if he isn’t let in. He finds the bird rattling its cage and screeching and asks if if she knows anything about birds to and finds out she doesn’t.
It’s pretty funnny.
Thanks for the great post, I love the crazysauce comments. lol
Mary, that is excellent! I’ve heard of a “meet cute” thanks to dogs, but never thanks to a bird. Sounds like a great story.
I love your table! As a trivia nerd, I appreciate your first date story. 😉 My first thought for a great first date scene isn’t really a first date, but a first meeting. I’m thinking of the meeting of Eve Dallas and Roarke in JD Robb’s In Death series where she is trying to interview him as a murder suspect. I love his reaction to her and keeping the button and her reaction to him and his coffee!
Hi, myrandaroyann–great example! That’s some *serious* conflict when one character thinks the other may have killed someone.
Glad to meet another trivia nerd!
Very fun post. I like the first date scene in How to lose a guy in 10 days.
bn100, thanks for stopping by! I’ll have to check that movie out. I love romantic comedies but I can’t always get Mr. R to watch them with me (surprise, surprise).
Wow what a great post – I was smiling and chuckling as I read it. I look forward to reading this book now that my appetite has been whet.
I can only think of When Harry Met Sally and the scene that played out in the deli.
I love both contemporary and historical romances both regency and those with cowboys.
JoAnne—oh, that deli scene. Ha! That’s got to be one of the most famous meals ever filmed.
Glad you enjoyed the post!
Pingback: Theresa Romain, Historical Romance Author
Hi theresa ! The best first date scene I live is between jake n rose in titanic :). I love the scene when they are dancing together :), I think it is so romantic to dance happily in a first date
Hi, Aretha–I love movies with dancing too. 🙂 I also like when a date helps the characters see each other in a new way. When Rose gets up on point like a ballerina, everyone is impressed–especially Jack!
Lime, thanks so much for hosting me today! It’s a delight to visit (and return to) your online home.
I like Serendipity. But maybe it’s because I have a thing for John Cusack. 🙂
maybe31–nothing wrong with that. 🙂
I can’t think of a scene from a book or movie, but I can say there was a little bit of conflict on my first date with a certain Mr. H. He’d long played up that we should get a group together for a lunch outing, then it slowly evolved into just the two of us going out. He took me to PF Changs and I was so nervous about AN ACTUAL DATE with A CUTE GUY that my stomach was twisted up in knots and I only ate about 5 bites because I was afraid I’d make myself sick.
(Happily, I didn’t end up getting sick, and we’re still together 4 years later).
brittbradley–aha, tricky. Mr. R and I did something similar on our first date: should we go out as a group? No? Just us? Ok…just us.
Glad it worked out so well for you! And that you didn’t get sick. 🙂
Love your table. I had a first date in high school that had some drama. My date took me to a movie that I had already watched, and never even asked if I had seen it. I was too shy to speak up so I sat through a super depressing bike riding movie – twice. It was quiet drama.
Gayle–aww! Your high school self was a good sport, as well as being shy. Did you ever go on another date with the guy?
My brother took a date to see Jarhead, not knowing what it was like (um, violent). The girl went out with him again eventually, but it was about 2 years later.
This isn’t really a dating scene that I’m going to name, but it comes from Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen where Robin Hood and Scarlet finally admitted their feelings for each other. They were completely clueless that the other had feelings for the other, and OH MAN, it was plain torturous to watch them be so careful but so conscious of the other party. But of course, when they finally admitted it in a not-so-convenient circumstance, it was all the more heartwrenching and sweet. 😀 I’ve always been a fan of historical figures such as Robin Hood, and to read about his romance in a girl who knows how to fight and in his inner band of rebel heroes’ POV, that’s even better. 🙂
CYP, sounds like an intriguing story! The revelation of love can bring lots of conflict with it–or end the conflict, too. I love the idea of having one of the Merry Men be a woman. Thanks for stopping by!
Loved this post!!! Thank you for being a guest, Theresa, and you’re more than welcome back any time! (Actually, it’s more like… please come back and be a guest again, please please?)
For first dates… gah. Well, that’s something I like don’t know about. But before I was a hermit I’d be storyless too. I’m someone that needs to be like sat down and told “this is a date.” before I figure it out. Funny because I am CRAZY perceptive with everyone else!
First date book or movie wise… Movie I’m striking out. Books – Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Even when Cal and Min first meet. You know… most romances don’t actually have an “official” first date, it seems! Or I’m just that blank. But there are a lot of interesting “meets” and the gradual thing… but a straight up story on dating? … Rare, right?!
Hi, Lime–thanks so much for hosting me! I love it here at ALBTALBS. 🙂 I’ll come back and be random for you anytime.
I completely agree, there are a lot more “meet cutes” in movies and books than there are official dates. Or if there’s a date, it’s usually with someone besides the hero/heroine. Kristan Higgins’s contemporary romances usually have dreadful (and hilarious) dates in them, as the heroine goes out with wrong people before realizing she already knows the right one.
What an enjoyable post, I really chuckled at your table with the series of events and they sure a on-the-spot, with as many books as I’ve read, sure have come across those quite a number of times.
Eva, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂
Pingback: I Know. Winners. Finally. « Limecello