1. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

    Jul 20, 2015
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    Ohio, U.S. of A.

    How to introduce a character as intimidating?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JadeX, Jan 11, 2021.

    My MC is a teenage cadet at a military academy, where he has just been accepted to a prestigious officer training program. This program will blend book learning with in-field learning, and the commandant who leads it will be absolutely brutal. He'll be essentially the primary antagonist for the first part of this three-part story.

    I need him to be intimidating and imposing right from his introduction. I want the scene to be tense before he even enters the room, and then I want it to be clear that this class of young cadets is terrified of him. What are some ways that I can do this?
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021 at 12:10 AM
  2. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

    Aug 30, 2018
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    Norwich, UK
    I would go and look up "characteristic moments" because ideally you want the first meeting with any character to tell us more than just one thing.
  3. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

    Jun 23, 2020
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    Let's see --

    - Have everyone be tense when he enters the room, even if there is no rational reason to do so.
    - Have someone talk about this person, whether fact or rumour.
    - Make him speak in a sharp, determined, but low volume manner.
    - Make him command someone and they instantly do it.
    - Emphasize self-control. The scariest people are the ones who have complete power over their emotions.
    Baeraad, Cave Troll and BlitzGirl like this.
  4. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Senior Member

    May 30, 2018
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    All this is basically what I would have written in response to this thread, so...just quoting it! :D Intimidating characters, whether or not they are in a place of power, whether they are bad guys or good guys (I have intimidating good guys both male and female in my own story) are so much fun to create.
  5. Shannon Davidson

    Shannon Davidson Member

    Jan 4, 2021
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    I did this with a military character. She's the LtCol of a military base, and when I say this woman is brutal, that doesn't even begin to describe her.
    I introduce her by way of visual first, and start building from there. First mention of her:

    As if his words were heralds of their arrival, lights appeared in the distance. Soldiers—perhaps forty in all and well-armed—emerged from the south entrance gate marching in a two-line formation toward the station. It was an eerie sight. The headlamps on the soldier’s helmets swayed in unison with the men’s synchronous march, creating the vision of a monstrous, luminous centipede slithering its way down the dark and winding hill. At the end of the procession strode a woman, a tall and slender figure wrapped in darkness and barely visible. Beside her was a creature, tremendous in size and black as the night. It paced warily back and forth, growling as it ambled through the shadows with its nose to the ground. With a flick of her hand, the woman motioned to the animal. It raised its head to look at her, then bounded up a hill and vanished into the thickening murk of the dense woods.

    “What is she doing here?” Jessup asked.

    “Hold your tongue, Corporal, before you lose it,” the sergeant growled, though Milford was just as curious as Jessup as to why she had come. The unexpected presence of the officer could only mean one thing: trouble.

    So I set the stage for things not going well right from the outset. From there, Ryder's effects on the officers and the soldiers in the scene, as well as the non military characters is described from my POV, such as how a person reacts to her, ie sweat on his brow, trembling hands, inability to speak clearly, etc. Those feelings are supported by the haughty, arrogant manner in which she interacts with them. She is cold and callous, and isn't someone to be trusted. In the next excerpt, a train's engineer and conductor are being questioned by Ryder, and I think this part illustrates my point:

    Carter released his grip on the driver, allowing him to fall at the lieutenant colonel’s feet. Arthur remained standing, shaking violently as the soldiers held him firmly upright.

    “¡Por favor, Señora!” the engineer begged. “¡Yo no sé nada! ¡Yo solo manejo el tren!”

    “Really? You don’t know anything?” Ryder asked sarcastically. “If that’s the case, then why so nervous? Men who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear. You two look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

    “Who wouldn’t be nervous?” the conductor retorted angrily. “Your men just shot at us!”

    The lieutenant colonel turned her head slowly in Arthur’s direction. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then hesitated. “I can see your point,” she said, “but I’ve been watching you quite closely. You’ve been acting squirrely since you arrived, and that makes me curious as to why.” She tapped the man cowering on the ground with her boot. “What about you, my quivering little friend? What’s got you so riled up?”

    The engineer peered hesitantly upward, sucking in a breath and quickly lowering his eyes upon seeing the name and rank of the officer before him. “One hears stories, Colonel.”

    “Stories about what? About Elderwyld?”

    “Sí, Señora.”

    “Really? How fascinating! What sort of stories have you heard? Have you heard any about me?” she asked in a teasingly flirtatious voice.

    “Eh… Sí, Señora.”

    “Are they good or bad stories? Be honest now. We’re making progress here.”

    “Perhaps… not the most pleasant kind, Señora. But I am sure they are exaggerated,” he added quickly, forcing a smile as he glanced timidly up at her.

    “Oh, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Ryder suggested. “You’d be amazed what a girl like me is capable of in a place like this.”

    The engineer’s strained smile quickly vanished.

    Things go rapidly downhill from there, I'm afraid, lol. Does that help?
  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Whispers and rumors are good. The more truthful they are
    is actually more scary, compared to the more wild speculations.

    In my unfinished sequel novel, there is a point where I have
    Corporal Corlixia heading to an enemy installation in her
    warframe, when the CO of the base uses a private channel
    to broker a deal with her. Main reason being, the CO has
    heard credible rumors of other secret bases being hit, and
    their CO's getting some rather extremely unpleasant deaths.
    Also doesn't help the fact that she is hyper intelligent, and
    still learning to understand certain emotions, that are the
    driving force behind her vicious activities.
    And yet she is a fairly decent being deep down, despite
    trading one destructive trade, for another.

    I guess where I'm going with this, is that actions speak louder
    about an MC, than their words. So a skinny teen facing someone
    with a zero tolerance for BS is already going to be intimidating
    to them. If not, then they are gonna learn real quick.
    Lifeline likes this.
  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

    Oct 12, 2015
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    On the Road.
    Good point @Cave Troll! :) Very easily a person can be perceived as intimidating, if his actions are out of the norm or simply not what the viewpoint character is used to.

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