I love the enemies-to-lovers trope, but does anybody else find it tough to balance with character likeability? I find it tricky to have the heroine thinking negative thoughts about the hero in her POV without either making her look petty and mean (if the reasons for her dislike aren't good enough) OR the hero look like too much of an arsehole (if the reasons are too good). That's also true with the genders flipped, though I find readers are generally tougher on female characters than male.

I think I have it figured out for my current manuscript, with the help of wonderful alpha readers, so I'm not looking for specific advice, but I thought it made an interesting discussion. How do you have two sympathetic characters dislike each other?

One thing I worked out from decades of watching comedy is that it's very hard to dislike a character who makes you laugh, no matter how bad their personality flaws (e.g. Basil Fawlty, for any fans of British sitcoms: most of us think of him fondly, even though he's a pretty horrible person). This works well for me since I write romcom-style - I try to make the characters' voices humorous so it's amusing even when they're griping about each other.

I avoid the obvious solution of having the conflict between the MCs all be a misunderstanding, so neither of them actually did anything wrong. I'm sure we've all rolled our eyes at contrived conflict that could be sorted out with one sensible conversation.