1. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    How do you introduce a character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by mynameissarahgrace, Nov 27, 2008.

    I've decided to write in 3rd person for my [mostly non-existent] story.
    But I'm having trouble as to how to introduce the main character.
    Should I start telling about her right away, start in the middle of an event, or...?
    Any advice is hugely appreciated.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I believe in opening with a scene in which the character is doing something, preferably dealing with a problem. That shows the character's nature through his or her actions.
     
  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I second Cogito - you want the reader to be interested in your MC from the start, and some kind of action scene (with action in the something-happening sense rather than the helicopters-being-blown-up sense, though it all depends on who your MC is, I suppose...) is a good way to do that.

    Alternatively, a strong line of dialogue can be a good introduction, or even dropping straight into their head for some introspection, if they have a voice which is engaging enough.
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Pretty much what has already been said. I'll just add that, from what I've seen online and offline, people tend to hate it when a character--especially a major character--is introduced via a list of characteristics or something like that. As if the character is little more important than that tree she's sitting under, or some other part of the scenery. I know that I personally tend to skip over these kinds of introductions; it's never gonna stick in my head anyway, not if it's just a list.
     
  5. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    I try to go for the most attention-grabbing thing possible. The first couple of lines/paragraph should be a snapshot of everything your book/story has to offer. Put your best foot forward, et cetera.
     
  6. Lusira
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    Lusira New Member

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    For me I always want it to shift judging upon how important a character is. It all has to change, depending on the circumstances I guess. Obviously, it depends on how important the character is. I'd say it also depends on how prominent, if you have two main characters but they don't meet each other untill half way through, but you want the attention to be shared equally between the two, then I suggest you show events from both POV's.

    It also depends how much this third person narrator reveals about the plot line, for example;

    If you/your narrator says something like 'Little did s/he know..." to build suspense or for a cliffhanger, you might want to introduce the characters early, it would sort of tie in with the narrator already knowing what's going to happen.

    If you don't do something like that, I'd advise you go with an entrance that shows somebody's personality through their actions.
     
  7. JaM1221
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    JaM1221 Member

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    First of all, you want to establish a bond with the reader via the lead character. The more the reader can identify with the character, the greater the intensity of the plot experience. This can be done by making the lead like the reader or in a similar situation. Most likely you are (1) tying to make it in the world, (2) a little fearful at times, (3) and not perfect. Or you can capture the reader through sympathy for the lead. Put your Main Character in jeopardy(which doesn't have to be physical but also emotional), make your character have a hardship, or your lead could be an underdog or can be vulnerable. The readers have to like your Lead in dome way, else we don't CARE what happens to them and therefore wont read and takes away from the plot if we do read. You character could have an inner conflict. Don't make your character perfect and fearless. No one in reality is perfect. In reality, we have doubts just like everyone else.
    Not only can you make us want to read by making your character interesting, but by making the setting in which it habits similar to our makes us want to read. Compel the reader to move on to the middle. In order to this we have to care what is happening and care for the characters.
    Good Luck!
     
  8. El902
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    El902 Member

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    You don't see much of Anita - the main character - in these opening paragraphs, but you still get a sense of her. The way she describes Willie, what she thinks of vampires, and how even though she thinks of him as trash, she's still cautious because Willie has the potential to hurt her. It's not an action-packed opening scene, but it gets the job done.

    How you introduce your character has more to do with where you want to begin your novel. I tried many times to chose the opening scene focusing on which scene would best introduce the MC, only to find that when I opened with a scene that best introduced the story, I had much better luck. Once you choose your scene, you can choose how you introduce your character. If you don't want to begin with action - whether it be violence or Jane walking in on her husband and his secretary - it doesn't damage your plot at all, though I agree with FMK. You don't want to begin with a long description or worse, an appearance description (ie Jane Doe had long, waist length hair, brown eyes, yadda, yadda, yadda). Your readers don't have to know everything in the first chapter.

    I guess that's telling you what not to do, but all the same. Just go with what feels best for your story.

    El
     
  9. FreakierThanThou
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    FreakierThanThou New Member

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    You might want to open with whatever's an everyday scene for your character. This won't work for every story, obviously, but you can just give a sense of what their life is like at the beginning.

    Another way is to give some background. For example: Mary was born on a small farm in the kingdom of Glabadooo, to Xerbab and Eepa. (This would depend on the style of writing you use for the rest of the story, most stories I'd say, it wouldn't work for.)

    One of my favorite characters, Krys, was introduced while taking a test. Another, Hayley, was introduced with an anecdote about her stealing knives and sitting with them for hours when she was three.

    Overall, though, it depends on what your story is about, who your character is as a person, and what sort of style you're writing in. Your choice.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    introducing your character

    There is no one set way to introduce a MC in any book, its' up to you and how well you write it. You don't see Kate Almir, my MC until the second Chapter of "The Betrayal" but almost the entire chapter revolves around her. To introduce a character, you must know them backwards and forwards and know whether or not they have an issue either internally or externally that will cause an issue right off the bat to make people know them. In Kate's case, it was nightmares...now the true reason for the nightmares is something I didn't expose until later.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Whether you open with the main character or some other character, however, is an entirely separate choice. You may in some cases want to establish the bones of the central plot before bringing your character on the scene. Also, if you have a multigenerational novel, you may want to establish the family background from the outset. A murder mystery may want to acquaint you with teh murderer or the victim to start off with. Or if you are concealing who the main character is, to emerge later as a central figure, you may want to begin with the interesting people surrounding him or her as well.
     
  12. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of excellent advice has been provided already, but I'd like to reinforce one point.

    Be sure to introduce the character and not simply the body s/he inhabits. In other words, don't make the mistake of giving a character's physical description and little else. Personally, I would avoid describing things that have no meaning to that character. Why does s/he wear what s/he wears, walk the way s/he walks, or carry the things s/he carries? All these thigns should asy something about the chracter; make sure they're saying the right things and not misleading the reader. (Unless you want to mislead the reader, which is fine too.) First impresions are very important; be sure to put his/her best foot forward.
     
  13. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    I always introduce the MC first or I introduce them within the first few paragraphs along with basic plot. I usually don't tell the reader the MC's name, I let dialogue do that.

    As for showing the reader the MC's attributes and such just let the story do that over time, but make sure that there is something quite immediately to get the reader attached to or at least interested in the MC.
     
  14. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree completely. For example, the entire first chapter might describe the plight of a people or nation. Using minor (expendable) characters, it could illustrate the ruthlessness of an invading army...children trampled in the streets, innocent peasants tortured for the pleasure of mercenaries, food stolen and homes torched. In this case, the opening conveys a plight of the people and the protagonist has not yet emerged. The goal is to capture the reader's empathy for the angst of the victims while illustrating the central theme of the story, i.e. how will the helpless people defeat the terrible invaders? When a protagonist appears in a subsequent chapter, readers will quickly embrace the hope he/she brings. This protagonist may emerge from the crowd of victims...an unexpected hero. Or, it could be the dramatic arrival of a king with his combat forces. Point is, the MCs (protagonist and antagonist) arrive long after the action begins.

    Ultimately, late introduction of the MC (or MCs) will simply depend on the skill of the writer in crafting the story with enough "hook" at the beginning to capture reader interest.
     
  15. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Exactly! The "formula" I use-if you want to call it that-is to use one sentence to start the story off-and have it be the one that hooks the reader...once you have a really catchy first sentence that makes someone want to read further, then you can craft your story on forwards..
     
  16. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    I agree completely.

    What type of story is it?
     
  17. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    It is strange, to me, that you would ask this.
    When opening up the story and revealing your main character, you have freedom to do anything you want. This is an opportunity to give a first impression of this character. This is the chance to introduce him doing something he would normally do, something that shows his identity, something that demonstrates the intrigue of the character that the reader will be following through an entire novel.

    You cannot simply ask someone else what you should do. I mean, if you are merely asking for inspiration, that is understandable.
    Still, one of the most enjoyable things -- I think -- is inventing a way in which to introduce your main character.
     

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