Ahh, first impressions. In life, they’re so easy. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re wretched, sometimes they’re so utterly remarkable that you meet the person again and say: “Are you SURE we’ve met before?” But they are what they are. Because in real life, you don’t (with some exceptions, I suspect) get do-overs when it comes to introductions. And frankly, there’s some great relief in that fact.
But in writing, introductions can be agonizing. Let’s take, for example (and one I happen to be working with currently), a pair of soon-to-be-lovers. You as the writer can’t wait to have them fall in love, can’t wait to discover where they will go, the funny, saucy encounters they’ll enjoy–heck, even the door-slamming fights. Now if only you could get over that darned first meeting and get to the good stuff!
Because let’s face it, SO much hinges on that first impression. Especially in fiction. Sure, we’ll give a character a chance to redeem him or herself later (everybody has bad days!) but that first scene when one character lays eyes on another has to draw us in and reveal something intrinsic to their relationship that leaves us thinking…YES. Wow. These two cats just hit it off. Bigtime.
In a word: CHEMISTRY.
We all know it. We all love it. And creating it between our characters has to be as organic and authentic as it is between us and our own loves. Two people just have to click. But sometimes the gap between that click moment in our minds and the click moment on the page is so brutally wide we can’t get across it–and until we do, the story itself just won’t move forward.
So we try everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING.
We have them meet at a coffee shop, or maybe on the side of a road, or maybe in a grocery store both reaching for the last head of lettuce (okay, so that one was eliminated early…).
We try Accidental (“Tell me that wasn’t your car I just side-swiped?”), we try Planned (“Are you my four o’clock?”), we even try a combination of the two (“Hey, you just side-swiped my car!–and, oh my god, YOU’RE my four o’clock?!”).
But the fact remains that their budding, building connection–and the reveal of it–has to flow naturally to be convincing. And that, my friends, is the rub that keeps us reworking that first scene until it, yes, CLICKS.
So what about you all? Can anyone else can recall a similar dilemma with any of their main characters–and, better yet, an inspiring account of how you solved it!