1. Xeroshi
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    Xeroshi New Member

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    How to introduce a character properly

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Xeroshi, Jun 27, 2016.

    Currently in the book i'm writing there are two characters that i've fully introduced i'm looking to introduce a third one. The difference here is the first two were in the first few paragraphs where this character is quite a few in. So i'm wondering how do i introduce a new character properly?
     
  2. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Think about what Hollywood calls an "establishing shot". What are your character's defining points? Is their profession important to the story? Show them doing it. Are their looks important? Have a minor throwaway character comment on them. What personality traits matter to the story? Have those shine through.

    Think about Han Solo's introduction in Star Wars. Without getting into the religious argument of "Who shot first", Han is established as:

    1) A shipowner and smuggler
    2) A bit of a braggart
    3) In debt and wanted by bounty hunters
    4) Somewhat unreliable (dropping his cargo at the first sign of imperials)
    5) Habitually armed and unconcerned about killing.

    That's a lot of character development/introduction in 3 minutes and 21 seconds (yes, I had to youtube it, I'm not a fanatic). How that translates to the written page, not sure, but the second part, when he deals with Greedo, is very good and takes place when the hero is offscreen.
     
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  3. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Concur. I introduce around 15 characters who play major roles for periods ranging fromthe whole story, to some that just last several chapters where they are critical to the story. I introduce them with whatever personality traits are required: one is a Chinese smuggler who will see the Romans safely north to Xiongu territory, just three chapters... he comes across as a Chinese cowboy, slender, long black drooping mustache, dismounts his horse like flowing quicksilver, rather glib. Very fixing, penetrating gaze.

    Imagine the scene in your mind... play it over and over again. What do you notice about this new character as you see him/her for the first time?
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Introduce a new character within the context of the storyline. Give the reader an anchor to associate with new character with either an event or a relationship (neighbor, enemy, spouse, cousin, fellow athlete, etc.) or with an event (a robbery, a death, getting into a taxi on the way to work, etc.)

    Beyond that, check out some of your favorite authors...reread sections of their books and see how they introduce new characters. Note the methods, then apply one that seems to fit the situation with the new character, modifying it for the story you're writing and your own writing style.
     
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  5. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    Avoid huge infodumps. As others have said, reveal the most big-picture things about them in terms of how they fit into the story right away. Reveal the other things later.

    So if the character's job relates to the role they play in the story, or to the way the MC meets them, you can mention this upfront. But if their job is just a minor detail, you don't need to mention it until a later reference.

    When doing physical description, I think it's best to stick to just the very basic things, like ethnicity/hair color/dramatically distinguishable things. This way you can mention it in one sentence or less, in passing, to give the readers a visual image without going on and on about it.
     
  6. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Things I mentioned about my pirate on introduction: tall, thin, salt-and-pepper beard which he frequently stroked, pockmarked. Mainly because someone had told the person meeting him that he was pock-marked. Black robes, colorful kafiyah over his head draping onto his shoulders, held in place by a colorful band, the rest to the reader's imagination
     
  7. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Andy Weir (yup, only one published book, but it did pretty well) never described his characters physically, and doesn't even know what they look like:

    “It’s weird, when I write, I just see a sort of blob of protagonist,” he said. “At the end of the book, when I finish[ed] the book, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you [main character] Mark’s hair color."

    source

    Obviously, that doesn't work for all stories, but if your story doesn't need descriptions, leave them out, the readers will fill in the blanks.
     
  8. The Scarred Servant
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    The Scarred Servant New Member

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    Make their introduction one that tell's the readers all they need to know about them up front before they learn the jucy details, are they an asskicker taking names? A perpetual coward/conman? Show them in their element, in all their snidyness or pure-hearted bull.

    Like, in the story I'm writing, one of my main characters is a frequent drunk who's usually always in the middle of everyone's problems. He's seen a lot of shit and screwed over and been screwed over by a lot of people, giving hima lot fo knowledge and experience. So, we first meet him in a prison cell, drinking some random liquid he picked up off the floor, easily seeing through the facade of the protaganist (Who's attempting to hide the fact that he's basically a walking, talking skeleton); but not blinking an eye and just attempting to start up a casual conversation. No questions about the crazy stuff going on, he doesn't give a damn.
     

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