Tuesday, October 29, 2019

When Introducing a New Character...

Of all the zillions of characters introduced since the first book published eons ago, several probably stand out to you. You could probably rattle off several, right? Sure.

On the other hand, we've read--and probably have written--some characters that have evaporated from readers' minds the second the page was turned. 

I'm thinking about the many characters who are introduced like this: a man wearing blue jeans a brown jacket and round glasses ...and blah, blah blah...his hair was brown, walked into the room. 

Usually, these character introductions droll on for a whole paragraph, and sometimes more. I'm bored. Seriously, the unique glasses did not help me see this guy as anyone interesting.

**Authors don't need to specifically describe a character when introducing them. A character simply needs to stand out from the crowd.**

Say my established characters are sitting in a restaurant and a waitress enters the scene. She is important (after all she is the one who killed the detective, but the readers won't know this until page 273.) She is wearing the same uniform as all the other waitresses in the restaurant, so why bother mentioning her black pants, white shirt, and company tie? She also has her hair pulled back like all the other waitresses and has a name tag that no one can read until she stands at the table. All of this can be summed up with a waitress burst into the room. 

What makes her interesting is the tattoo above her wrist. Ah, now we know which waitress. Your turn. Tell me what the tattoo looks like. Where have readers seen similar markings before? Uh-huh. Now you have it. The seed introducing this waitress has been planted. 

Such a unique description initiates a good character introduction. What other striking details say something about the waitress's personality? 

While the reader is distracted by the action, he/she later remembers the way this waitress scanned the restaurant. A typical waitress focuses on her tables, her orders, her food that is ready to be delivered, but the waitress with the tattoo kept tabs on the entire restaurant. Why? Now that the clues are all in on page 273, we remember that it was the waitress with the tattoo who kept tabs on the entire room who happened to pick up a steak knife from the floor, twirled it around to sit point side out on her tray. Like a knife pro.

Since this is a suspense story, we, the writer, will let this waitress, the one with the tattoo, fade after the introduction, not totally disappear from the storyline. She will make tiny, periodic appearances before page 273, so insignificant the readers will be shocked in the discovery, aghast they hadn't seen the clues laced in story after a fabulous introduction. muwhahaha. 

I am a suspense author. You may write a different genre. You too can introduce characters in a memorable way. Look back at the moment when your hero or heroine first stepped on stage. He may seem like the amazing handsome hero...but aren't all heroes? What caused the heroine to take notice of him and only him? What helps the hero notice the heroine over all the other girls. Something is different. What is it?

~Mary Vee
Photo by Mary Vee

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Sylvia's Secret. A Christmas Story. I have a new book release! 

Fifteen days before Christmas, the staff at Sylvia Duvet's mansion discover she is missing. Her daughter arrives at Detective Carhill's office in a panic, concerned the gossipers and media will create their own story, embarrassing the family name. After all, a wealthy widow only disappears if...she simply can't bear to think of the possibilities.  

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Christmas is Mary Vee's favorite holiday. She loves to travel to places like New York City and Paris. Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her king.  

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kaybee said...

Mary, this is an important point and one I try to be aware of. Every character has to be distinct and memorable.
Hmm, I don't know, maybe the tattoo could be something specific to the victim? Like the Greek letters for his old fraternity, which she had tattooed on her to remind her of whatever he did/didn't do to her? Or, and this would be really fun, one of the chemical symbols, and the element turns out to be important in some way. I don't know, but it's fun speculating.
Nice to meet you at ACFW.
Kathy Bailey

Anneliese Dalaba said...

I absolutely love Mary Vee's style of writing in this post. So engaging! Love it. But the content was best of all. She got me to rethink my current work-in-progress. I know I can make it better. Thanks for this.