Monday, August 27, 2012
Introducing Memorable Characters
1. Keep immediate introductions down to three or fewer. We typically don't need to know the whole boatload. If it becomes important to learn more about others in the area, do so after the reader has lingered on the first characters enough to get a picture of something about their personality or physical description. Let the first characters soak into the mind before moving on.
2. Give the characters different enough names/nicknames from one another. Don't have them all rhyme or start with the same letter. I'd rather not meet Amanda and Mandy at the same time.
3. Give something memorable about each character in a quick way so we can connect it to that person. The senses are good for this. Visual--The crooked way he wears his hat, walks with a cane or other prop. Sound--Maybe they speak with an accent or are unusually silent. Smell--Her delicate perfume reminded him of Aunt Martha. Touch--I wanted to reach out and smooth the boy's wiry hair that wouldn't stay in place.
4. Repeat a word from a previous used list of descriptions to later trigger more from the list. For example, I'm introducing Jimmy to you and say, "He's such a good kid. A real boy scout. I'll bet he never told a lie in his entire life." The next time you meet Jimmy in the story I might say, "You remember Jimmy--the boy scout?" It all comes to recall.
5. Do make it memorable, but don't info dump on each character as we meet them. Let us discover more about the important ones as the story evolves.
6. Minor characters like the waitress or bus driver can be given their 15 seconds of fame. One memorable thing about simple character roles can enrich the setting.
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