However, recently I realised how important it is to step outside of the fact that you, as the author, know these two characters are destined to spend a lot of time together. Instead, get into their heads during that first meeting. For example, when revising the love interests’ first meeting in my WIP a few months ago, I revelled in their witty banter and loved making both characters’ personalities shine through so that they could see they were meant to be. It wasn’t until I reread it, getting into my characters’ heads at that particular point in the story (rather than my own head which knows them inside-out), that I realised…
THIS GUY WOULD BE REALLY ANNOYING – DOESN’T HE HAVE ANYTHING ELSE GOING ON IN HIS LIFE? WHY IS HE SPENDING SO MUCH TIME ON A STRANGER?
My poor characters were simply trying too hard. Realistically, when you meet someone for the first time, you aren’t that invested. Yes, I believe in instant attraction, and you can want someone to like you straight away, but ultimately, if you’re going about your daily business and strike up an unexpected conversation, you aren’t going delve into straight-up teasing/banter/surprising that person with your one-of-a-kind personality. In fact, if someone starting taking the mick out of me within seconds of first meeting, I’d probably think they were an idiot, and not in a ‘hate-to-love’ type of way, just a ‘leave me alone’ kind of way.
Of course, if you want your characters to find each other annoying then it’s perfect! A person who is initially annoying to your MC can grow into something else (and it’s SO much fun to watch that happening!). But my point is if you’re trying to give your characters an instant spark, then sometimes you have to forget that you already know they’re going to become friends or lovers. Imagine the situation as though the interest were any Tom, Dick or Harry and ask yourself, WHY is my MC continuing this interaction? WHY is the friend/love interest continuing this conversation? Have they got a super friendly personality and talk to anyone? Or are they singling your main character out (if so, why? And is that a bit creepy? Are they just hanging around waiting to meet your MC?)
These are all questions that I ask myself when I write character meetings. Of course, fiction isn’t an exact reflection of real life, and so it’s OK to keep your characters talking when in reality your MC might have walked out of that coffee shop checking their bag for stolen items. Simply take a moment to get into your MC and romantic/friendship interests’ heads and ask yourself why they’re still chatting. If you know that, then the Meet Cute will stay cute!