Let's talk today about that moment that sometimes frustrates writers but hooks readers, the thing the rest of your book hinges upon and that contests, agents, and editors all judge you upon.
Which usually happens in the first chapter of a romantic book.
Sometimes writers complain about the typical romance structure feeling formulaic, and as a writer, to a certain extent I can understand that, because you may feel limited in what your creativity can do. And let's not forget there are exceptions to the "rule" (such as Sleepless in Seattle). If you think your story could be an exception, go for it! But most stories aren't exceptions, and for good reasons.
Because as much as writers may think they want to break with tradition, the formula exists for a reason. It works. As a reader of a lot of Christian romances, I can tell you that I have put many of them down after feeling frustrated by the story. A good rule to follow is that if something doesn't feel fun to you to write, it probably won't feel fun for someone else to read. But even if it is fun for you to write, that doesn't necessarily mean someone will want to read it. You have to prove to readers that your story rocks. And one way to do that is through establishing a really great "meet" between your hero and heroine. When a reader sees chemistry between the two main characters, it will make him or her want to keep reading! Looking back, I realize that some of my own favorite books held my interest because they had such a great first meet, and then had me wishing throughout the whole book that the hero and heroine could have that kind of moment again. In many ways, this mirrors the basic doctrine of Christianity, if you think about it. We were in perfect communion with God, we fell away from that, and we've been longing for it ever since. And isn't that what Christian fiction should do, demonstrate to the world the relationship between Christ and the church?
So here are a few ways you can keep your "first meet" interesting...
1) The spark. We want to see the "it" factor when we read. We want to think, "Oh yeah. I remember that that feels like," and we want our heart to skip a beat as we live vicariously through this heroine who's just found a major hottie.
2) The conflict. You need a reason to keep your hero and heroine from falling in love immediately, and we need a reason to worry. If the spark is really as true as you make us think it is, then these two people need some major obstacles to keep them from a relationship. If you can find a way to incorporate the conflict/obstacles into this first meet scene, all the better for your book because we know right off the bat what they're up against.
3) The need. Running opposite the conflict you set up, you need a force that pulls the hero and heroine together. It can be simple thing, like being neighbors, or a more complicated thing, like an arranged marriage. But if we don't have the assurance that the hero and heroine are going to be in regular contact with each other (resulting in more conflict and obstacles, of course), we won't want to keep reading. So be sure you build this element in early on, maybe even into your "meet" scene.
What questions do you have about these things? Do you like writing the first meet?