It is often the case for storytellers to drop a character into the story without considering the significance of such an introduction. As long as the story moves ahead, they believe the character works.
But the experience is not always the same for the reader. Much like real-life, first impressions matter about story characters. How the reader perceives your characters depends on your intentional choices on what to reveal or withhold about them at the point of their entry into the story.
Beginning from this key, we will explore 5 ways you can employ to effectively introduce a character.
Character Entrance 1: Description
A straightforward Description is the most logical way to introduce a character. It is logical because your reader does not know the new guy you call John. And since books are not videos, you may need to tell/show your reader at the point of John’s entrance that, unlike most humans, John has 8 limbs. Description goes beyond the name to show the reader a bit of your characters’ appearance or what it seems like. In our example of John, you may not say it, but your reader already knows that John is likely not human despite having a human name.
The amount of Description you do at a character’s point of entry into the story should depend on what you hope to achieve. For example, if your interest is to inspire curiosity about John, you can end the Description at the point you mentioned 8 limbs. The incomplete information will leave your reader wondering what kind of animal John must be.
If you’re particularly a mischievous writer, you can tell your reader when next they meet John in the story that he is an accident patient who, for some weird reason, uses two pairs of crutches. And John is human again.
You will find a good application of Character Entrance by Description in Dan Brown’s introduction of Rachel Sexton in his novel, Deception Point –
The woman was attractive, in her mid-thirties, wearing gray, pleated flannel pants, conservative flats, and an ivory Laura Ashley blouse. Her posture was straight—chin raised ever so slightly—not arrogant, just strong. The woman’s hair was light brown and fashioned in Washington’s most popular style—the “anchorwoman”—a lush feathering, curled under at the shoulders… long enough to be sexy, but short enough to remind you she was probably smarter than you.
Note that while Description may be a logical way to introduce a character, it does not necessarily make it the best. The best way to introduce a character depends on how you want to present the character to your reader. Keep a date with us next Monday for the creative writing key on Character Entrance 2.