Monday, June 25, 2012

The Writing Begins #2: Character Introductions

The ninth post in my "Writing a Novel Series", which details my experience writing 151, covers my favourite aspect of the first Part in the story: character introductions.

As I moved from the prologue of the story to the story proper, I soon realized that there would be a common theme through the first Part of the book, something that I found myself doing over and over again, especially during the first few chapters. That thing is introducing the characters. And it is something that is far from trivial. The characters that will drive the story forward and carry the plot threads of the story on their shoulders had to be fleshed out beyond the notes that were written during the planning stages of the novel. It was time for them to speak. It was time for them to come alive...

Memorable Introductions
One thing I definitely wanted to ensure was that each of the main characters was introduced in a memorable way. This was their first impression on the reader, their explosion from the pages of the novel and into the reader's mind. I also wanted it to be clear that a big and intense introduction was a clue that this character would be a key cog in the wheel of the greater story. The introductions would be special, noticeable, and sometimes take up an entire scene in the story to complete. But regardless of how, when, and why, I wanted to each of the introductions to scream "wow".

Building a Connection with the Audience
I also wanted to make sure that, upon a main character's introduction and within the pages that followed, a solid connection was built between the character and the reader. Even from their introduction, the reader should be made to feel a strong tie to this new character—they should immediately care about them. I tried my best to do this, mainly by making sure that the characters are clearly seen as vulnerable when they are introduced. The heroes of 151 are not gods so that the reader has no empathy for them. In fact, the introductions in the novel are quite the opposite: the main characters are introduced in a torture scene, a bar fight, and an escape from a well-guarded complex, to name a few. Talk about tension!

Key Details Matter
The final aspect that goes hand-in-hand with the other elements of character introductions includes choosing two or three key details to associate with the character when they are introduced. The details can be related to look (an earring, an eyepatch), their voice and tone, and how they behave. When describing how each character looked, I would single out only a few elements, such as the hero's blue tunic and dark, curly hair, in order to build a basic image of the person in the reader's mind. As far as their voice, tone, and behaviour, usually how they react to the tense situation that they're thrown into sheds some light onto how these people behave, and how they might behave in the future.

Stay tuned for more!