I was unsure where to post this but it is more about driving the plot than characterisation. Actually, my characterisation is getting in the way of the plot! I have two main characters who need to fall in love. One of them has a very strong motivation to avoid friendships and relationships. There are many reasons for this but the strongest is that he regularly commits serious crimes for which his victims want revenge, and he's afraid they would hurt anybody he cared about in order to hurt him. I can't change this because it is central to the plot. I don't want to weaken his motivation because it creates a lot of lovely tension and conflict when they finally do become attached. The other character has friends, and has no reason to avoid making more, but doesn't want an intimate relationship. So the problem I have is how to force them together long enough for the male character to become attached to her - strongly enough to overcome his very strong motivation to not get involved with anybody. It's not such a problem the other way round because my female character can be interested in him as a friend from the start. A physical attraction is not going to be enough for him; they have to interact long enough to form a mental connection. I've been writing this story since January and this is the part that I just can't get right. I have changed the circumstances of their meeting so many times but I always struggle to write it, which is a sign to me that it's too contrived and my characters can't interact naturally in the situations I put them in. As the are both adults (23 and 28 years old) the most obvious solution is to have them meet through work. But his job is fake, a cover for his criminal activities, and the people who work directly with him have to be in on the secret. She can't know the secret. So I tried putting them both at a work-related conference (with him just maintaining his cover) but it doesn't work. It's just not realistic to get that strongly attached to someone after talking to them for, at most, a few hours during a conference. I think the clue is in my male character's strong drive to protect vulnerable people, which is also the reason for his crimes. If I could put them in the same place at the same time and have her be threatened and afraid, he would be forced to act to help her. But I really want to avoid the strong-man-saves-weak-woman-then-they-fall-in-love route because ugh. I don't mind if it's a really serious threat that she couldn't possibly save herself from, like somebody much bigger and stronger than her putting a gun to her head, but then there's the issue of realism again. There is no reason for someone to put a gun to her head, especially not in a public place with strangers around. Even if I made her strongly attracted to him from the start, she lacks the self-confidence to chase after him if he isn't showing interest, which he wouldn't. Does anybody have any bright ideas for throwing them together?