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Where do you like to set first dates?
First dates in novels don’t generally operate under the same rules as in real life.
There should still be the nerves, the anticipation, the tension during, but because in normal, everyday life two strangers aren’t usually that invested in one another immediately, there’s often precious little in the way of emotional stakes. This means that a novel has to work extra hard because there already needs to be stakes at hand (emotional or otherwise). In real life, a bad first date merely means there isn’t a second one. [Except in more extreme cases of stalking, rape, etc., but let’s say for sake of explanation that people are by and large not shitty.] In a novel, a bad first date needs to have more going on.
Which means that first dates in romance novels don’t tend to be right at the very beginning of the book. Some will have the characters slowly falling in love first through either random or arranged encounters. Some will have the first date as the first scene that operates to show a completely different set of stakes rather than romantic or emotional ones (i.e, guy keeps getting calls from boss and could lose his job if he doesn’t answer leading to a horrible first date—the reader is invested in the guy becoming a better person/getting a better, less-awful job, but not yet fully invested in the character’s romance). Some will have a secondary stake that is associated with the date (i.e., the characters are vying for the same goal, are roommates, or discover that they are connected in some fashion that may put them at odds, etc.) Continue reading