Jul 05 2011

How to Introduce Major Characters

Published by at 6:06 pm under Character Development,Writing Articles

1.  If at all possible, give the new character something interesting to do that ties into a plot element that has been major.  For example, maybe the new character has some obvious connection to a major goal or obstacle for the main character.  For example, maybe a wizard or superhero can only graduate from her academy if she passes telepathy, but there’s only one telepathic teacher’s assistant and he has a reputation for singing about himself in the third person while scrawling lewd graffiti in the cafeteria.  (Sigh, telepaths).  The more you connect the new characters to things we already care about, the easier it will be for us to care about them.

 

2.  Please use only interesting visuals that help develop the character.  Red flag: The story spends more time on the colors of the character’s eyes, hair, skin and sometimes clothes than on visual details that would help develop interesting and/or important information about the character and/or his role in the plot.

 

  • UNACCEPTABLE: “Damon the necromancer was wearing black robes that clashed with his smoky blue eyes.”
  • BETTER:  “Good God, Damon, is that rabbit’s blood on you?  You’re soaked in it!”  Damon sipped his coffee.  “It was him or me, ma’am.”


3.  Please don’t introduce too many characters at once.  If you introduce characters more gradually, it’ll give us more time to become attached to characters before the next ones come in.  If there’s a flood of important characters, it may be overwhelming for readers.  Unless it’s the first page, I’d generally be careful about introducing 3+ significant characters on the same page. If you do so, make sure that it’s easy for readers to keep track of who’s who. One major problem I see somewhat often is when a main character joins a team of 5+ superheroes and meets all of them at the same time, which pretty much guarantees that the new superheroes will have a hard time making individual impressions on the readers. In that case, it’d probably be more effective to have the main character meet with a few of the superheroes first (perhaps while they’re evaluating the main character for membership) and then introduce the rest later.

 

4.  When you introduce an important character, please give him/her opportunities to show his/her personality.  Try to put the character in a situation where he/she would act differently from most other characters.  That will give the character more opportunities to stand out.  In contrast, if he/she is just doing what pretty much anyone else would do in this situation, the character will probably be forgettable. Unusual behavior tends to be a lot more memorable.

 

5.  Are the characters acting in-character?  For example, if Damon’s first encounter with readers is talking about why he’s soaked in a rabbit’s blood (in self-defense, he claims), they’ll prudently conclude that he’s absolutely nuts.  If it turns out that he’s actually an even-keeled pacifist that would never hurt a soul, readers will get really confused unless there’s a good reason for the discrepancy.  For example, perhaps Damon actually got the blood on him while ineptly trying to brew a potion, but he’s too embarrassed to admit his incompetence.  Or maybe Damon is afraid to admit he’s a softy because everybody expects necromancers to be stone-cold killers.  Or maybe another character mentions the discrepancy between how he usually acts and how he’s acting now.  (This will help cue the reader that something else is going on).

 

6.  Do we get a pretty good feel for the character (or at least some aspect of the character)?  If the reader cannot identify at least one personality trait of an important character after his/her first scene, please rewrite it so that the character comes across more clearly.  If you feel like the character’s personality is not coming across clearly enough, double-check what you’re spending the space on.  (Ineffective visuals? Actions and dialogue that are too generic to make the character stand out?)

91 responses so far

91 Responses to “How to Introduce Major Characters”

  1. Grenacon 05 Jul 2011 at 8:54 pm

    This is really good advice, I’ll have to do a major re-write of my own novel draft.

  2. Contra Gloveon 06 Jul 2011 at 2:13 am

    You’re not the only one, Grenac. My own story suffers from similar flaws, but I expected from the beginning to have to rewrite the whole thing to turn it into a polished story.

  3. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 6:17 am

    Yeah, I’m doing a NaNo/JulNo right now and I might be having a problem with this… ah well, the first draft ain’t supposed to be good! 8D

  4. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 7:31 am

    Hey, I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo too 8D!

    My main problem is character flooding, too many in the first chapter. I try to tell too much, too soon and I have a slight problem with telling rather than showing :I

  5. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 7:42 am

    Sweeet! What’s your NaNo about?
    I’m here xD http://www.campnanowrimo.org/campers/mynaophelia

    Ah, yeah… I managed to keep it down to three characters in the first chapter, but I think the MC had a problem with #6 in the first chapter ’cause it was just an attempted escape scene, doesn’t show much about her. :/

  6. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 7:58 am

    I’m right here http://www.campnanowrimo.org/campers/grenac

    My Novel’s going to be about these heroines trying to cope with their life problems (like someone’s guilt about not being able to save someone from death, for example) before they fall prey to the villain’s ‘sinister plot’ to use their negative emotions to make them turn to their side. Honestly, I’m terrible at summaries and I’m going to have to come up with another title, hopefully that won’t be a problem.

    And you have a deviantART too! Oh joy :D!

  7. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 8:26 am

    Awesome! And your novel sounds pretty cool, you must have real powerful chars :3
    Yep! I need to clear out my dA tho, I’ve had art on there since 2008. xD Your art is really cool though, I love your style!

    What’s your wc?

  8. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 8:35 am

    Eh, I’m trying not to, I don’t want Mary Sue’s D: Strong emotions, yes.

    I’m on my fourth account XD Thank you for the compliment <3

    This might be a stupid question, but what's a wc?

  9. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:08 am

    I mean powerful as in strong emotions and well-developed chars. 🙂 Not like, superpowerful!zomg characters. xD

    WC = wordcount. ^.^

  10. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:14 am

    Oh! Hahaha, well I’m not very bright as you can see XD

    It’s around 5k, technically more, but I did a re-write and I’m doing another one XD

  11. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:18 am

    Don’t rewrite DURING the NaNo! xD The whole point is to make a novel with no editing! (As chaotic as that is.) It sounds awesome, tho!

  12. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:23 am

    XD I can’t help it. I have too many characters in my first chapter :B

    I might just do another novel and come back to this one later XD;;;

  13. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:32 am

    At least keep your wordcount then xD You might as well, you still wrote it in July!
    (And seriously. Save the editing for August!)

  14. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:35 am

    I tend to type pretty fast, so it wouldn’t be a problem to start over. It’s still early on though, I wouldn’t do something like this in mid-July. It’s actually a lot less actual editing and more like “this sucks, I’m a terrible writer >:V”

  15. Mynaon 06 Jul 2011 at 9:55 am

    BUT THAT’S THE POINT! Grenac, this is NaNoWriMo, it’s supposed to suck! 8DDD *is hit in the head with a chair*

  16. Grenacon 06 Jul 2011 at 10:03 am

    I’m just nitpicky XD It’s something that I have to change, I know.

    Someone helped me find a good starting point, so I think I’m set 🙂

  17. Castilleon 06 Jul 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I’m doing Camp Nano as well. It’s not about superheroes though, I may decide to make the august or November Nano about superheroes. Right now, I’m focusing more on a ‘realistic’ camp Nano novel about a second Civil war.

    I haven’t given up on superheroes just yet, just taking a break from it for the moment.

  18. Malcolmon 06 Jul 2011 at 3:41 pm

    What are ways to get a reader connected to the main character in a short period of time.

  19. B. Macon 06 Jul 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Here are some ideas, Malcolm.

    –Show the main character doing interesting things. We’ll care more if something the character cares about is at stake and/or the plot is urgent.

    –Show the character doing things that most other protagonists in the genre(s) wouldn’t do in the same situation. Please see #2 here.

    –Make the character likable.

  20. Phoenixon 07 Jul 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Can’t we just use the Cable system? When we need a new character, just introduce it and have all the other characters pretend they’ve known the new one all along and let the readers twist…I mean, figure it all out on their own.

  21. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 08 Jul 2011 at 3:22 am

    Ah, this article is really going to help me during my rewrite.

    Since it’s just a first draft for now, I basically rushed through the introductions and got to the story. Once I’m done with my draft, I’m going to use it as a guide while I work on the second one. Then I plan to ask at least three people to tear it to shreds for me during the beta reading stage.

  22. Julie Musilon 10 Jul 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I love it! And you even say please 😀

  23. B. Macon 10 Jul 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks, Julie! My first tip of reviewing is to be polite.

  24. […] How to Introduce Major Characters: I love these kinda checklists, to either use before writing, or afterwards to make sure you did everything right. […]

  25. Jami Goldon 12 Jul 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Okay, I give up. I tried looking for your Twitter handle so I could credit you for this in my tweet, but I can’t find it. Anyway… I loved this and I’m tweeting it! 🙂

    @JamiGold on Twitter

  26. Marquison 12 Jul 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Hmm what is this camp nanowrimo everyone seems to be talking about? it sounds interesting.

  27. B. Macon 12 Jul 2011 at 3:25 pm

    “Okay, I give up. I tried looking for your Twitter handle so I could credit you for this in my tweet, but I can’t find it. Anyway… I loved this and I’m tweeting it!” I’m technically on Twitter as @SuperheroNation, but I rarely use it. Thanks for tweeting it, Jami!

  28. Mynaon 12 Jul 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Camp NaNoWriMo is much like the original, write-a-novel-in-a-month NaNoWriMo that the OLL (Office of Letters and Light) hosts every November. But now, they’re hosting -two- write-a-novel-in-a-month sessions in the summer, under the main ‘Camp NaNoWriMo.’ It’s all nice and summer-themed. xD

    http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/4032185

    http://campnanowrimo.org/pages/help

    The July session is in full swing, the August starts on the 1st. ^.^ (20 bucks says I’ll be doing both… xD)

  29. Grenacon 12 Jul 2011 at 4:20 pm

    The best thing about the OLL is that they’re so encouraging and supporting. The whole idea is to use the designated month to just sit down and type/write away that novel you’ve been thinking about writing, but just never get around to it. The focus isn’t to make a beautiful polished draft, but rather to get your rough draft out there, regardless of plot-holes and other errors. Once you have your rough draft, it’s much easier to get to the editing part.

    NaNoWriMo (and it’s newest Camp addition) is basically all about kickstarting you in writing your novel. You smother your inner editor for the time being and just type. It’s “30 days and nights of literary abandon”.

    I would recommend joining if you have the time and would like to take on the challenge. The NaNo forums are a great place to communicate with other writers, share ideas, and get help about different things (such as plot help, character names, etc.).

    Camp NaNo doesn’t have a forum yet, so everyone’s using the NaNo forums.

  30. Marquison 13 Jul 2011 at 3:23 am

    Ya Ok, I just signed up sounds good.

  31. Marquison 13 Jul 2011 at 3:35 am

    Oh No! Im Two Weeks Late!

  32. Mynaon 13 Jul 2011 at 5:31 am

    There are people who signed up for NaNo on the last weekend of the competition. xD Believe me, you’re welcome to hop in as late as you like.

  33. Grenacon 13 Jul 2011 at 10:46 am

    Good luck, Marquis 😀

  34. Marquison 13 Jul 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Guys… Only Problem is that I keep getting aloading error.

  35. Mynaon 13 Jul 2011 at 11:43 am

    On the Camp NaNo site? Don’t worry too much about that, the site is hot-off-the-press brand new and it’s still glitching in some places, but you don’t need the site itself to write. ^.^

    (Seriously, the first four days of REGULAR NaNo the main NaNoWriMo site usually overloads on its server and crashes several times. The Camp NaNo has the same problem, I could barely access the site for the first week. I totally upped my wordcount like crazy, though.)

    Good luck!

  36. Jami Goldon 13 Jul 2011 at 12:51 pm

    You don’t use Twitter? *shocked face* Too bad. I followed you anyway. Almost doubled your follower count. 😉

    Keep writing great stuff!

  37. Marquison 13 Jul 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Myna is the story you are currently working on at Camp. The same as Superheronation???

  38. Mynaon 13 Jul 2011 at 1:04 pm

    No, it’s a different novel. I’m still working on I Am The Jackal, though, just a bit slower than I intended. I might try to get 30k of it in August, though.

  39. […] are the heart of most books, and Superhero Nation gives a great list of how to introduce important characters so readers care about them right away. On the other hand, paranormal author Jami Gold uses The […]

  40. Wingson 17 Jul 2011 at 9:08 am

    I missed the first 2 weeks of JulNo on vacation, so I’m planning to get serious for the August run. At the very least I’ve done some decent worldbuilding and made sure that all three protagonists have characters to interact with (Darken, previously, had a lot of internal monologues. Now he has a semi-retired supervillain mechanic, said mechanic’s mutant granddaughter, and the considerably less restrained Alcatraz to talk to).

    – Wings

  41. ekimmakon 17 Jul 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I’m thinking of introducing my main character by breaking into a scientific research facility at 3 AM in the morning so she can join the school field trip she was banned from.

  42. B. Macon 17 Jul 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I like that, Ekimmak. It’s distinct.

  43. Wingson 17 Jul 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I would read that book solely based on that scene, Ekimmak. 😀

    – Wings

  44. ekimmakon 17 Jul 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Oh… That’s not a scene. That’s chapter 1.

  45. Wingson 17 Jul 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Would still read it.

    – Wings

  46. Grenacon 17 Jul 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I am now a curious frog about this chapter C:

  47. Crystalon 18 Jul 2011 at 11:17 am

    Yeah, I really like that!

  48. Mynaon 18 Jul 2011 at 11:24 am

    I would definitely read that. xD

  49. The Jedi Penguinon 18 Jul 2011 at 10:49 pm

    That sounds very intriguing ekimmak!

    I’m wondering, if you have two main protagonists, how do you decide which one’s perspective to tell the story from?

  50. B. Macon 19 Jul 2011 at 12:48 am

    “If you have two main protagonists, how do you decide which one’s perspective to tell the story from?” I think the safe/conventional answer is whichever one is more relatable to your target audience. Personally, I’d go with whichever one interested me more and/or had a more interesting perspective on the main plot.

  51. Wingson 21 Jul 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Jedi, if you’re talking about who I think you’re talking about: Easy answer would be to write Mia, but without any insight as to how Dom’s mind works he comes off as even more of a jerkass. I’d personally write both: alternate chapters maybe, show the same scene through both POVs maybe, anything to keep them both in the spotlight.

    – Wings

  52. PraiseYahshua!on 01 Dec 2011 at 8:55 am

    great article

  53. Anonymouson 23 Jun 2012 at 8:04 pm

    I have story in which one of the main characters is described in detail in the first chapter, but isn’t named. In the second chapter, he’s remembered by the narrator as the bartender (of course, using a little more of the description I mentioned was in chapter one), and it’s only then that he gets an actual name to remember him by. Is this ok?
    Also, I love this website. Everything has been super helpful, especially for a novice writer like me.

  54. Agnion 25 Sep 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I am thinking 2 different introduction to my main character. I want to which one is better.

    A) The main character wakes up from a nightmare related to a horrible incident of his childhood and then describing his unusual morning routine.

    B) Here I am narrating the nightmare (nightmare is not exacty similar to the incident. Its a very bizzare nightmare related to the incident.) and as the nightmare ends we move to a chamber of a psychiatry in front of whom the main character is describing the nightmare.

    Which is better?

  55. B. McKenzieon 25 Sep 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Agni, I feel like B) would be repetitive. If you’ve narrated the nightmare once, I think it’d probably be superfluous to go through it again with the psychiatrist. (It might be sharper just to start the book with a high-stakes scene with the main character and the psychiatrist).



    “The main character wakes up from a nightmare related to a horrible incident of his childhood and then describing his unusual morning routine.” It always depends on execution, but my first impression is that it’d probably be a lot of space before we see the main character trying to tackle urgent goals. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the character’s morning routine is distinct enough that it helps develop him. Okay… what’s at stake? What’s driving the plot forward?

  56. Agnion 25 Sep 2012 at 11:25 pm

    @ B. Mac.

    You dont have go through the nightmare twice. What I tried to say in the previous post is that as the narration of the nightmare ends we suddenly move to the psychiatrist’s chamber with psychiatrist asking the main character, ” and then?” and the main character replies, ” then I wake up. It has been happening to me almost every night since that day.” Then there is a little more conversation between the two.

  57. WindFoxeson 01 Oct 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Wow, this helped a lot! Thanks!!!

  58. Dr. Vo Spaderon 15 Oct 2012 at 12:48 pm

    @B. Mac,
    …I have a question. After the prologue, in the first chapter, my main character is introduced. Within the first few sentences, his odd name (Vo Spader) is used. This is admittedly a strange name, especially for modern society – which is the time my novel is set in. Do you think that this would be recieved negatively?
    …I had an idea to use the first chapter for my second character (Mark Diamond), as a way to introduce potential readers with something more familiar sounding. However, that seemed like a bad idea for multiple reasons, mostly confusion.

  59. B. McKenzieon 15 Oct 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I can think of a few reasons one character might be a better introduction to the story than another (e.g. an immediately interesting personality, a better perspective on interesting events early in the story, a larger role in the central plot, etc), but the character’s names do not come to mind. If Vo is a better introduction to the story, I would proceed even though his name is more unusual. If you’re really self-conscious about the name, you could spend a bit more time (maybe a few paragraphs) introducing the character before getting to the name. If readers are interested by the character, I don’t think the strange name would be a liability.*

    *Unless the name is laughably bad, like Hunter McSlaughter or something.** I think Vo Spader is okay, albeit definitely unusual. Spader could be shortened to the somewhat more ordinary-sounding Spade, although the card connection between Diamond and Spade might be unhelpful.

    PS: Diamond is around #1600 on the list of the most popular surnames in the United States. I think it’s closer to Spader than, say, Davis, Hall, Black, Mitchell, Fisher or Anderson.

    **Somewhere online right now, an impressionable teenager just read “Hunter McSlaughter” and thought “Wow, that’s the perfect name for the character I’m working on!” Anybody that happens to be that person, take heart that you’ll look back on this disaster and smile.

  60. Dr. Vo Spaderon 15 Oct 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Ha-ha, Diamond-Spade. Hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for the advice again!

  61. Yuuki12on 25 Dec 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I am having trouble coming up with a description with one of the major characters in my work. Her name is Teri Meadows and she’s one of the main characters and eventual love interest.

    One major characteristics I wish to use regards her hair. Though short and charcoal black, there’s one notable lock that dangles in front of her face. Teri when frustrated or angry, she always either blows or pushes it out of the way.

    The other characteristic in regards to her is how she presents herself. This I’ll admit was a bit tricky, given all the characters are going to a private school and such wear a uniform. But to emphasize her rebellious, adventure streak she always keeps her sleeves fully rolled up, and the buttons on her sweeter vest partially unbuttoned.

    In regards to how she’s introduced, that’s something I wanted some feedback on. In the next part I will be writing, Derek encounters her, doing some tricks on a skateboard on some stair rails in school.

    He’s attracted to her, and decides to talk to her, only for Teri to brush him off, due to her distrustful nature. I am curious to how that introduction of her is. While I understand this might stall the overall plot, I did not want it where she and Derek just bump into each other(which is cliche).

    Rather, by coincidence, Derek discovers her. In subsequent chapters, she’ll be introduced further and such their relationship will be more solidified, but how is that for an initial introduction of the character?

  62. B. McKenzieon 25 Dec 2012 at 4:50 pm

    “One major characteristics I wish to use regards her hair. Though short and charcoal black, there’s one notable lock that dangles in front of her face. When frustrated or angry, she always either blows or pushes it out of the way.” When it comes to making an interesting impression, I’d recommend using details that do more to develop the character. For example, if Damon the necromancer were soaked in rabbit’s blood, the blood would show us details about his personality we wouldn’t otherwise see right away. I’m not sure her stray lock of hair and hair color show us as much.

    “In the next part I will be writing, Derek encounters her, doing some tricks on a skateboard on some stair rails in school. He’s attracted to her, and decides to talk to her, only for Teri to brush him off, due to her distrustful nature. I am curious to how that introduction of her is. While I understand this might stall the overall plot, I did not want it where she and Derek just bump into each other(which is cliche).” Another possibility which comes to mind would be raising the stakes on their first interaction in some way. Right now, the scene sounds similar to having them bump into each other in the hallway–they randomly encounter and it doesn’t sound like anything particularly interesting happens during their initial meeting. I’d recommend changing the scene so that he needs something from her (and/or vice versa), raising the stakes on how she responds. For example, maybe he needs some sort of special favor from a complete stranger. What would be fitting for the characters and story? (For example, if The Taxman Must Die’s Rusty made such a request of a stranger, it’d probably be for help hiding explosive contraband from a security sweep, whereas the much-less-competent Gary might ask for help preparing for a career-making presentation moments before he has to deliver it).

    Additionally, especially if this is Teri’s first scene, preferably she gets a chance to respond in a way differently than most other love interests would in the same situation. For example, maybe instead of just saying no to Rusty’s request for assistance smuggling in explosive materials past a security checkpoint, she either offers some sort of exchange and/or blackmails him into helping her with some other matter she needs help with. This will probably lead to a more interesting relationship/conflict than just doing what most other characters would do in the same situation.

  63. Yuuki12on 25 Dec 2012 at 6:46 pm

    @ B. Mckenzie

    First off, thank you for responding to my post. Your advice has been very helpful. But at this point, it has let me uncertain as to how to properly introduce her. In regards to the scene, it was suppose to play out, where Derek (whom had existed a noisy environment, due to his powers), suddenly heard the sound of wheels grating.

    He would comment that it’s against the rules to skate, and Teri of course takes offense. This goes into a conversation, mostly centered on expectations and perception. The later bit is instigated where Teri upon Derek gives his name, claims he’s heard of him, and how he’s apart of a group of so-called jocks whom play the sport for prestige.

    But of course Derek claims that he just plays for the sake of playing, and has nothing really to prove. He also claims one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

    But I can see how that is uneventful. Perhaps, maybe Derek gets into a situation, in the middle of the conversation, where he needs to leave the school as fast as possible. Because of that, the only way he’ll cover sufficient ground is if he has transportation, such as a skateboard.

    Teri refuses at first, but relents in exchange for him promising him to take her to the local skate shop and purchase anything she needs there. How is that?

  64. B. McKenzieon 26 Dec 2012 at 12:29 am

    “But I can see how that is uneventful. Perhaps, maybe Derek gets into a situation, in the middle of the conversation, where he needs to leave the school as fast as possible. Because of that, the only way he’ll cover sufficient ground is if he has transportation, such as a skateboard.” This is better. As you work on the scene, I’d recommend thinking more about goals which flow naturally into the plot (perhaps something which ties into interactions with other characters). For example, maybe he wants to impress a third character (who happens to love exciting and/or rebellious things), and he wants/needs to use the skateboard as part of an act.

    Alternately, if he really needs to cover distance in a short time, perhaps the vehicle in question is a motorcycle or a drag-racing car or a rocket-propelled rickshaw or something. (Perhaps he’s seen the girl walking in from a long way off a few times and correctly guesses that she parks a prohibited vehicle at some off-campus hiding place every day–or if she’s really sneaky and/or rebellious, perhaps she’s daring enough to try to park the vehicle on school property).

    “Teri refuses at first, but relents in exchange for him promising him to take her to the local skate shop and purchase anything she needs there.” I think this is an okay concept, though it might help to come up with something more distinctive to her personality and/or the flow of the conversation up until this point. For example, if she cares about whether he plays for external prestige or some internal motive, maybe her request has something to do with that. (For example, if/when they start dating, maybe she insists that they keep it quiet to test whether he’s dating her just to say he’s dating someone or if he’s actually interested in what they have between the two of them).

  65. Anonymouson 28 Dec 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Just out of curiosity, would it be odd if I opened with the MC’s girlfriend waiting for him at a resturant, and he turns up late?

  66. Voyeuron 10 Feb 2013 at 3:14 am

    Is it alright to introduce the main character using a first-person style to show his thoughts?

  67. B. McKenzieon 10 Feb 2013 at 3:38 am

    “Is it alright to introduce the main character using a first-person style to show his thoughts?” Yes, although I’d only recommend it if the book is all in first-person. If most of the book is in third-person, I’d recommend introducing him with third-person–you can still show his thoughts that way.

  68. XosMelon 05 Jun 2013 at 5:37 pm

    “would it be odd if I opened with the MC’s girlfriend waiting for him at a resturant, and he turns up late?” – Voyeur

    I’m certainly not a professional at writing, but from what I’ve read and what I’ve written, it shouldn’t be a problem. The readers might not want to read a lovey-dovey conversation, but if there tension or suspense somehow, it can get very intriguing.

  69. XosMelon 05 Jun 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Oops. Voyeur didn’t say that, Anonymous did. My bad

  70. Docrannon 10 Jul 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Would this work as an introduction to my POV character? (little bit long, wasn’t sure of max. length?)
    ———————————
    “You lied to me!”
    Lissa ducked instinctively as the dented car door went sailing over her head and crashed into the stone wall behind her, sending up a wave of sparks. Melovent stalked towards her, his pale green eyes flashing in the dark.
    Lissa tried to think fast, but her mind got stuck on the words. Melovent was a little higher up than her usual customers – the guy had actual nemeses, for god’s sake. Plural.
    “What are you talking about?” she asked, spreading her hands wide as she took several large steps backwards and well away from Mevolent. His glare grew, if possible, even darker.
    “You sold me the crystals – you said they would incapacitate Justice! You lied! They. Were. Useless!”
    Another door – an actual house door this time – shot past Lissa’s ear and erupted into a shower of splinters and chunks of wood.
    “They did nothing! I barely escaped with my life… Justice nearly killed me!”
    “Those crystals were good!” she protested weakly. “Something must have gone wrong…”
    Her boots hit the hard stone wall behind her. Great. She had essentially pinned herself – managed to get herself cornered. She looked up at the slowly approaching Mevolent, trying to remember what his powers were and who had bought the crystals for him. He wasn’t known for winning any ‘nefarious villain’ awards, anyway. Stupid and rash, that was Mevolent’s breed.
    What was she supposed to say? ‘Sorry I ripped you off and sold you some gravel disguised as magical crystals, but you honestly can’t blame me – I didn’t think you’d ever ask for a refund. I thought Justice would just throw you off a skyscraper and that would be the end of that.’ No – she couldn’t say that. She liked her head where it was and her organs in the correct positions.
    “Did you say the incantation?” she asked finally.
    That slowed Mevolent in his tracks as he paused and cocked his head to the side. “In-can-tation?”
    Lissa rolled her fingers against her knuckles as she nodded quickly. “Well, yeah, of course. The crystals gotta be activated, see? Otherwise they’re just rocks. You have to use the inctation before you use ’em, kind of ‘charge ’em up’, y’know?” She paused, perfectly practised horror dawning on her face. “No. Oh no. Don’t tell me Spar didn’t tell you the incantation.”
    “Spar didn’t tell me anything,” Mevolent said suspiciously.
    “Are you sure? Because I’m sure I told him…”
    “He didn’t tell me anything and the crystals didn’t work!” His voice was rising stridently now. Lissa sighed.
    “I told him, I did. I told him they were useless without it… was he trying to get you killed?” She left a purposefully long pause, then, to allow Mevolent’s imagination to run wild.
    There was a dangerous, angry glint in his eyes now. “The crystals didn’t work because of him.”
    Lissa shook her head in disbelief. “Of course the crystals didn’t work! You’ve gotta say the right words. He seriously didn’t tell you?” She wiped her forehead. “I swear, I told him. Of course I did. The crystals would be useless otherwise.” She looked up at Mevolent. “I’ll tell you what. I don’t think you’re to blame for this mistake, really, I don’t, so I’ll do you a favour since you got beat by Justice and all. I’ll find you some more of the crystals, half-price this time – you can’t help other men’s mistakes, right? – and I’ll deliver them straight to you and I’ll tell you and only you the incantation and no-one else and you’ll only have to pay me three hundred dollars upfront. Deal?”
    Mevolent looked a little confused at the speed at which she had spoken, but nodded.
    “You give me the three hundred today, then I’ll deliver the crystals and the incantation to you in two days when I get the next shipload.”
    “Why not tell me the incantation now? Then I won’t need any new crystals. I’ll use the old ones.” Mevolent looked pleased with this line of suberb deductive reasoning.
    “Because -” Lissa rolled her hands together and nodded again. “Each incantation’s different, yeah? They’re like locks, no use having a key that opens two. Super rare, yeah? Justice’s only weakness, so you know, gotta keep ’em protected. If you use ’em without knowing how, you run ’em out of battery, yeah? Now, I’ll just need three hundred and your home address.”
    Mevolent’s jaw tightened. A vein began to visibly pulse in his temple. “Why the money up front? Why my home address?”
    “Because I trust you, and I need to know you trust me. It’s all about trust. You trusting me trusting you trusting me trusting me. Come on, now.”
    Reluctantly, Mevolent reached into the pocket of his very fashionable lab coat (now only $13.99 from your nearest Villains’R’Us) and pulled out a thick wad of cash and a scrap of paper.
    Lissa darted forward and plucked the money from his grip before he could protest. He scribbled a name and an address down before he handed it over to Lissa, accompanied with a warning.
    “I know your face. I know your name. I know your family. Do not double-cross me.”
    Lissa nodded cheerfully and then waited until he was gone before she pulled out a cellphone and dialled quickly.
    “Hello? Police? I’d like to report some possible supervillain activity going on around Professor Alan Little’s property at one-oh-two Lakelands, Rathcommon – that’s R-A-T-H…”

  71. Docrannon 23 Jul 2013 at 1:21 pm

    ^^B.Mac, if you’re not too busy, could you answer my question? I’m wondering if the passage above is a good introduction to my character.

  72. B. McKenzieon 23 Jul 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Hello, Docrann! I’m sorry I missed this the first time. Some thoughts and suggestions:

    –I am highly interested in anyone brazen enough to try ripping off a supervillain. I think this is a great introduction to the character, though once you’ve drafted the manuscript and are ready to begin rewriting scenes, I think Lissa’s lines could be more memorable (though her actions are great).

    –“He wasn’t known for winning any ‘nefarious villain’ awards, anyway. Stupid and rash, that was Malevolent’s breed.” What was she supposed to say? ‘Sorry I ripped you off and sold you some gravel disguised as magical crystals…'” feels a bit explicit to me. I’d recommend showing/implying as much as possible. For example, perhaps something like “Malevolent wasn’t exactly a criminal mastermind, anyway… he was more likely to buy gravel and attempt to use it as a magic crystal against a superpowered and highly homicidal vigilante. Unfortunately, not quite dumb enough to brained with a fire hydrant by said vigilante. Life wasn’t fair sometimes.”

    –She offers him MORE gravel at half-price… YES! I really love the unusual choice here to keep pushing her luck. Also, this creates this ticking timebomb situation where I’m excited about how badly this is going to blow up in her face and how she will deal with that. The character’s actions here are very interesting.

    –There are a few moments where redundancy could add more to the story. For example, “I barely escaped with my life… Justice nearly killed me!” could be rephrased as “I barely escaped with my life… Justice nearly decapitated me with a fire hydrant! [or insert some other distinctive form of execution here]”

    –In context, it’s actually sort of believable that Malevolent doesn’t kill her.

    –There are some minor proofreading issues (e.g. inconsistent spelling of Mevolent/Melovent/Malevolent).

  73. Docrannon 26 Jul 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful and kind critique, B. Mac, it gave me a lot to think about in regards to introducing Lissa correctly. Do you think that this kind of protagonist would be unique enough to stand out in the superhero market?
    How would you suggest I make her dialogue snappier and more memorable? Dialogue is probably my weakest point in writing.
    Also – which of her actions do you feel was most memorable?

  74. Wolfgirlon 05 Feb 2014 at 7:15 am

    Here’s how I introduced a character of mine. Please tell me if she appears shy to you,

    Tessa’s brown eyes were looking down at the floor, avoiding eye contact. She walked briskly on her way to class. She heard a couple people conversing in the halls but didn’t stop to chat. Tessa arrived at her homeroom and sat down. She was hunched over a bit, trying to disappear.

  75. AlucardZainon 05 Feb 2014 at 9:40 am

    @Wolfgirl

    I really like how you introduced her. Plus, it gives me an idea how to introduce mine in my story. But yes, she does seem a little bit shy. Is that what you were trying to go for?

  76. wolfgirlon 05 Feb 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Yep, Tessa is very shy.

  77. Danteon 14 Jun 2014 at 4:26 am

    I could use some help guys. I’m writing a story about about a team of three anti-heroes in world were superheroes are mostly typical. A fire breathing zombie detective, a wise-cracking female assassin and a swordsman from land only heard in fairy tales.
    Problem is i have a fantastic ending and funny insert scenes (ex. Playing basketball
    Detective:This shots for the money>misses<
    Kayla:HaHa your broke)
    but i don’t know how to intelligently justify weaving their stories together(ex. Detective and Kayla{the assassin} are childhood friends but, but the swordsman has his own story, love interest, childhood friends and enemies back in New Utopia.) In fact he only comes to “the world of humans” to search for the person who killed his parents and tortured him all through his childhood. Detective (he has no real name) on the other hand has used his powers to solve the injustices he sees in the world while dealing with the Commune(superhero court) for his methods of dealing with criminals (zombies gotta eat something) and the conflict with his aptly named sister Angel (guess what her powers are).Kayla has been assigned by the government at the age of 7 to befriend and keep an eye on Detective, she knows he knows this but like him doesn’t care and by the current age of 18 is practically like another sister to him zombie or not. She’s also one of the few premier “heroes” without any powers relying instead on her wit, guns and various military grade weapons she is incredibly accurate laughs literally in the face of death

    Any advice on how to justity these three teaming up? Is anything i need to change/work on?

  78. ErinFlighton 04 Aug 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I’m trying to figure out a way to introduce my two main characters to the reader and each other at the same time.
    Met is a teenager who no one can remember. People never notice him, and if he goes up to someone they forget he is there in a handful of seconds.

    Erica is an elementary school girl who despises being a child. She has no magic, but does have a habit of noticing things everyone else ignores.

    She has found one of the few doorways into another world, where anything full of information and sufficiently complex becomes intelligent and alive. Met was originally a computer who was brought into the other world and returned to earth before he could finish forming.

    I need them to meet, and for him to notice she can see him in a way that also shows the readers most people can’t notice him.
    I’ve tried writing several variations on coffee shop scenes but everything seems too random.
    Is there any way these two could conceivably meet?

  79. Fact-Or-Fictionon 04 Nov 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Hey, BM. Your article was helpful, but I’ve got a few questions about the specifics of my current novel. The post would be too long to discuss it here, so do you mind if I send my first chapter to you via email? I’ll also include the aforementioned questions.

  80. B. McKenzieon 04 Nov 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Sure, FOF, please send me your questions and chapter 1. I can be reached at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.

  81. Fact-Or-Fictionon 05 Nov 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Okay, thanks. I’ll get right on that.

  82. Fact-Or-Fictionon 05 Nov 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Just sent it. Take all the time you need.

  83. Richard Fosteron 06 Nov 2014 at 7:20 am

    Hey, I’m trying to figure out which is the best way to introduce my superhero character named Curiex. She’s an alien from another world, but right now I’m focusing on her development as a young teenage hero on the planet Summus. I ha the plan of introducing her as a teen flying to school on her homeplanet, but how do you think I should introduce her?

  84. X Personon 08 Feb 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Try having there be a big life event going on at the beginning of the story, that’s what I did for mine.

  85. Andrewon 10 Feb 2016 at 6:05 am

    I think what would make a good visual introduction is not to show the character right away. Start by showing off their silhouette or some body parts in a panel. Or show their shadow on the wall while they monologue as a way to add a bit of tension to it. What do you think?

  86. B. McKenzieon 10 Feb 2016 at 8:52 am

    “I think what would make a good visual introduction is not to show the character right away. Start by showing off their silhouette or some body parts in a panel. Or show their shadow on the wall while they monologue as a way to add a bit of tension to it. What do you think?”

    Situationally, I think it might be effective, e.g. in a case where the character looks VERY different than we would have expected (or maybe a scene plays out unexpectedly). For example, opening with a fight scene where we see the main character’s Army boots and maybe we see some enemy combatants looking upon him in terror, but it’s 1-2 pages until we see what’s so shocking (e.g. maybe he’s a robot or an alien or an eldritch horror). Alternately, maybe showing a fireman’s boots running to maybe initially create the impression that the firefighter is running upstairs to save someone but the camera pans out and we see that the firefighter is wildly running down the stairs, unsuccessfully attempting to escape a collapsing building.

    “Or show their shadow on the wall while they monologue as a way to add a bit of tension to it.” In context, it might be effective for establishing a creepy vibe (e.g. the difference between, say, showing a politician delivering a speech from a well-lit podium vs. showing the politician speaking from behind, a silhouette backlit by a glaring camera). However, if we only see the character’s shadow for more than a few panels, I think it may set reader expectations that there’s something important about the character’s appearance. It might disappoint readers if he actually ends up looking like a typical superhero or a typical soldier or otherwise typical for the context, I think.

  87. Byakuya91on 10 Feb 2016 at 10:56 pm

    This is a really good article. It has been especially helpful when I am revising my second draft of my own story. With that said, I was hoping to gain some feedback. In one of the earlier chapters of my work, I had introduced a new character. This being my main protagonist, Derek Masters’, other best friend Vivian Daniels.

    To give some background information, Vivian Daniels I describe as being Passionate, Honest, but also being a bit blunt and judgmental. Her passion namely stems from cooking. She is into molecular gastronomy. She loves experimenting with food, finding new ways to present/ eat it. This being tied to her belief of expressing herself through culinary and making a stamp on the world(and not be invisible). Her blunt attitude comes from her belief of not being shy and telling something for what it is. This, in turn, can cause her to be a bit headstrong; hence, the judgemental aspect. This namely coming from her childhood, where her parents were often neglectful of her.

    As such, she’s the type to get combative/defensive whenever newer people are around.

    But I digress. How I wish to introduce her is a scene where Derek is at school and is about to sit down and eat. She immediately forces a spoon in front of his face, containing a strange gelatin like substance.Derek swallows it. He likes it at first, before gagging. Vivian notes that she may have added too much of a particular ingredient to which Derek asks. Derek’s other friend Liam would comment on Vivian’s insistence of always having him be her guinea pig. She i says she needs Derek’s palette as him being unrefined gives her a unique perspective on how to improve her dish. The overall motivation is that she’s preparing for a major cooking competition.

    And as such, we learn more about her. I understand this might be quite jarring, but I am trying to introduce her so as to immediate showcase her personality Namely, her passion for cooking and elaborate on her relationship with the main character.

    I know technically it would be better if I could tie this into the main plot, but really her introduction is an attempt to set up the world/setting of my main character. As such, I am struggling to figure this out. Overall, I’d appreciate some feedback on this.

  88. Emma Collinson 16 Oct 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I’m trying to introduce a character in my superhero comic who doesn’t stand out much at the time but is recognizable later as the super villain, and this was very helpful, especially number 2 🙂

  89. James Dakotaon 14 Nov 2016 at 4:34 pm

    “2. Please use only interesting visuals that help develop the character. Red flag: The story spends more time on the colors of the character’s eyes, hair, skin and sometimes clothes than on visual details that would help develop interesting and/or important information about the character and/or his role in the plot.”

    What if the character has a very unique, bizarre and memorable hair color!?
    Foe example, Tori Smith (or the Rising Tide) has dyed her hair violent violet, vibrant blue, emerald green, and bubble gum pink to the point where none of the other characters* have any idea as to what the original color was. Is that okay?

    *Mercedes doesn’t really care about hair color and stuff since he’s blind but Tori is first introduced through the POV of Sara Carter.

  90. B. McKenzieon 14 Nov 2016 at 5:47 pm

    “What if the character has a very unique, bizarre and memorable hair color!?
    Foe example, Tori Smith (or the Rising Tide) has dyed her hair violent violet, vibrant blue, emerald green, and bubble gum pink to the point where none of the other characters have any idea as to what the original color was.” On the plus side, it’s a character choice, so it’s probably a slightly better opportunity for character development than, say, being born with brown hair or red. I like the wrinkle that nobody knows what her hair is actually like — presumably either they don’t know her that well and/or she’s REALLY committed to whatever effect she’s going for and/or she’s totally turning her back on what she was born with for whatever reason).

    However, if Mercedes (blind) were your only POV, I think it’d take more artfulness to work her hair color into conversation.

  91. James Dakotaon 15 Nov 2016 at 7:07 am

    Actually, when Tori and Merc first meet it’s from Tori’s POV (this is after the first book) and Mercedes only finds out about her hair when he gets his vision back. It’s kinda like a big “Whoa, her hair is Pink!?”

    —————————————————————————————————
    “And this is the rec room.”
    I looked around. They had a ping pong table, air hockey, comfy lounge chairs, a mini fridge, and lots of other fun stuff like foosball. I did notice there were lots of burn streaks on the carpet, and that was a little worrying.
    Carson noticed them too. “Hey, Sara, what’s with the scorch marks?”
    Sara looked at the carpet. “Oh, that’s Merc. He does that a lot.”
    I was about to ask her who Merc was when a boy wearing a blindfold just zipped in outta nowhere and appeared in one of the chairs. “‘Sup.”
    Carson blinked. “Wha..?”
    “That’s Merc. He’s…”
    “Wearing a blindfold?” I interrupted. “Why? How can he see with that thing?”
    Merc picked up a deck of cards on the table next to him. “I can see just fine, thanks.” he muttered.
    I leaned over and held three fingers in front of his face. “How many fingers am I holding up?” I asked.
    “Three.” he answered quickly, not even lifting his head from the cards.
    “How does he do that?” I heard Carson ask Sara. “Is it even a real blindfold or is he faking it?”
    Merc set the cards down and reached up behind his head, untying the blindfold. It fell off his face and left us staring mortified at the scars that covered his eyes. It looked like his skin had been melted and seared and it was just a gruesome sight in general.
    Sara sighed. “Mercedes, put it back on. Please?”

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