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  1. Prometheus
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    Prometheus Banned

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    Character intro

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Prometheus, Mar 3, 2010.

    Hey guys I need an opinion. Do you all think the following character intro becomes repetitive? Should I trim it down?

    The name of the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t Red. Her real name was Annabel but she hated that name. She thought it sounded like someone who would faint if she got her hands dirty, and would ride sidesaddle. Her grandfather had given her the nickname Red when she was a little girl because of her red hair. Now she refused to answer to anything else. She felt it fit her. It was the type of name that worked well with phrases like: “Red, drive them strays up to the upper catch pen.” Her grandfather sometimes regretted giving her the name. He wondered if the other hands on the ranch would have been less willing to encourage an “Annabel” into becoming a cowboy. It wasn’t like she was unfeminine. A person would just have to get past the lip full of Copenhagen, and layers of trail dust to see the woman who could have been her class’s prom queen. But, Red preferred to brush her quarter horse’s mane more than her own silky shoulder length hair; she would rather spend time putting liniment on cow scratches than lotion on her own perfect freckled skin.
     
  2. HeinleinFan
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    Repetitive? No. It isn't part of a larger scene -- or, rather, it might be but you don't include enough to show us the larger scene.

    The information is fine. You'll want to make sure this all agrees with your point of view, since "she felt" and "she hated" are third-person intimate, but "perfect freckled skin" is something she sure as heck won't notice about herself unless she is deeply narsissistic, and Red doesn't seem to be.

    Get into the story as quickly as you can, make this information part of a larger scene instead of an infodump, and keep everything to the same point of view. Then you're golden.

    Good luck.
     
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  3. Prometheus
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    Prometheus Banned

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    Great info I didn't realize I had mixed the POV and will fix that. This is part of a larger scene, a character has just place a call to her. She will be a key part of the book from here on (this is at about 30%) but I haven't mentioned her prior to this point.
     
  4. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I don't know exactly how this fits into your story, and that might make a difference. But the primary issue I'd have with it is not repetition, but that this reads--from the second sentence onward--like a third person (relatively close) POV. Yet you introduce "her" as "the person on the other end of the phone," which confuses me. Why? Because that suggests I (your reader) am to imagine this third person character through the viewpoint of whoever is listening to that voice, because that's how you've introduced her. But you have included things this unknown listener would not either know or be speculating about, for any reason I can think of (things like how Red--a/k/a Annabel--feels about various things, how she prefers putting linament on cows to putting lotion on her own skin, e.g.).

    Using more than one POV in the same breath (as you've done here) has the effect on me as a reader of distancing me from the story, as would happen if you were simply telling me everything through an omniscient POV. Your description is confusing because I don't know whose viewpoint is significant--i.e., the listener's, Red's, or that of the narrator.

    If, perhaps this is meant to introduce a new chapter in a book that follows one that ends with the listener about to pick up the ringing phone, then maybe it could work. Still, the first line seems a little awkward as a transition for that scenario.
     
  5. Prometheus
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    Prometheus Banned

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    Thanks Molly.

    I really need to work on my POVs through this whole project. I haven't even began to proof it yet, but have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time on these types of things. But, you don't think the material isn't too repetitive?

    Edit to add here is the transition:

    “Hey Red, I need to talk to someone. What are you doing?”
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    What this is telling me is that the narrator knows Red intimately -- very intimately. It's a close family member, best friend and confidante, or a (former?) lover. If that's the message then the POV is consistent. If not then it isn't.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    She picked up on the fourth ring. "Hello?"

    "Annabel? It's Carl. Carl Eastbrook. I was in your European History class, before I dropped out and took a job with Uncle Sam."

    "Nobody calls me that. Call me Red."

    "Sorry, Red." It fit her. Not just her hair and freckled beauty, she seemed as dangerous as wildfire and as unpredictable.

    "I remember you now. Skinny guy with long hair, looked like you were pissed at everyone and everything?"

    I laughed. "Yeah, I guess. The hair's short now, and I put on some muscle when I was in the service. But yeah."

    ***

    Let the rest show later, or not. But your opening rambles. It's stuck explaining in terms of the past. You want to stay in story time as much as possible.

    My version doesn't work if this isn't the first time they have spoken in years. But if they ARE currently in contact, there is no reason to mention the name Annabel at that time, or why she hates it. Let it come out later,
     
  8. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    You might be right. But I don't know from this glimpse who the narrator is. And, because I don't know who the narrator is, I can't nail down the significance of what is described here as to how Annabel feels about her name, herself, her habits and behavior, nor sometimes even who’s describing it and whether it’s Annabel’s feelings that are important or someone else’s speculation about them. I don't know if these are character traits as seen through Annabel's own eyes, someone else's viewpoint--the listener or the narrator, if they're not one and the same--and whose character, in particular, they’re intended to reflect.

    Part of this paragraph actually reflects the grandfather's point of view: "Her grandfather sometimes regretted giving her the name. He wondered if the other hands on the ranch would have been less willing to encourage an “Annabel” into becoming a cowboy. It wasn’t like she was unfeminine." He regrets and wonders and even may or may not be the one whose viewpoint is that she is not unfeminine (or is this Annabel thinking of herself, or our listener remembering something he or she’s been told?). Trying to incorporate all this into a single POV in order to illustrate significance (so the reader can detect it) is very cumbersome and confusing, as it stands. Especially so, if the real significance of this paragraph is simply that these two characters had a phone conversation that itself is or may be significant to the storyline or plot.

    Cog's version streamlines this in a way that very effectively uses the listener as the significant singular viewpoint. But, of course, that's just one option, and I'm not sure what the author's going for. She may not yet know herself (that's my feeling). In any case, what Cog has done is to write a good example that shows Annabel as seen (significantly) through the eyes of her listener. In order to do this, he's gotten rid of much of the clutter the listener would not know or surely would not be thinking about (or explaining to the reader) at the moment of this phone call scene.

    The original iteration reads to me more like an omniscient "telling" or even an author's own description of the story rather than the story itself (which maybe is exactly what it is, or how it should be treated, at this point in the drafting of the manuscript). Omniscience rarely works very well for me and for all these reasons that I like to count on as a reader to shape storyline significance and character development.
     
  9. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    What I noticed on a brief skim over was that some of your sentence structure feels repetitive. I saw sentences that began like this:

    HER real name....
    SHE thought....
    SHE refused...
    HER grandfather
    SHE felt
    HER grandfather
    ....

    These can make it feel repetitive, especially when you begin the majority of your sentences in this manner. Change up sentence structure/ Noun/Verb order, pronouns, etc. See how it reads then.
     
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  10. Prometheus
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    Prometheus Banned

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    Digitig is correct she is his childhood friend and were first loves, years ago.

    This info comes in the dialog a few paragraphs beyond this.

    "she seemed as dangerous as wildfire and as unpredictable."
    Cigito: Get out of my head! Seriously, can I steal this?

    Molly: "She may not yet know herself (that's my feeling)." She knows who she is but doesn't think she will ever fit in because of it. Your post is extremely helpful thanks, and thanks to Myth too.
     
  11. Manic056
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    Manic056 Member

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    I think perhaps this is where the worry about repetition is coming from. Seems to be fine however. Does contradict the earlier image her not being "unfeminine." Especially with imagery of cow scratches and horse hair. Overall though, I thought it was a solid character intro.
     
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  12. Prometheus
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    Prometheus Banned

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    I was trying to paint the picture of what a "typically" beautiful woman she would be if she spent he time other ways. But, the "but" is a little awkward. Thanks.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't try to do it all at once. My version only mentioned beauty once, almost as an afterthought. Just enough to introduce the idea that he views her that way. There is plenty of time to reinforce it later.
     
  14. Prometheus
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    Cogito, I'm taking your recommendations very seriously. Not the actual style, I don't think you felt what I was trying to say. (Dig did nail it though. :D ) But the recommendation to shift a lot of the info into dialog. This is my first draft and I'll need to do a chapter by chapter fleshing, and I'll be referencing your post at that time. Thanks.
     

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