Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Introducing Characters

In her first column as Books Editor of the Women’s Post, Marianne Apostolides reflects on first impressions, “that moment — that specific point, a click of connection — when the relationship between reader and character begins.” As she thinks about how best to introduce the main character of her second book, she turns to other novels for inspiration:

I took Pnin off my shelf last night, after putting my two kids to bed. I randomly grabbed dozens of other books too, examining how authors introduce their characters. Some writers immediately tell us the character's name, others just use a pronoun; some show the character being observed, others have her observing; some describe the character's physical appearance, others put us right inside her head. These decisions are all pulling us, the readers, toward a certain way of relating to that character.

Click here to read the rest.

My head is full of memorable fictional characters, but after the fact I seldom recall the first moment that I encountered them. Marianne’s column has got me flipping through the books on my own shelves trying to recapture those moments. It seems a very important exercise for a writer, and an interesting one for any reader, to return to that first meeting.

Are there any particularly effective first introductions to characters that stand out for you from your fiction reading?


Ella said...

The first lines of "Lord Jim" always give me a chill:

"He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull."

Kate S. said...

Wow. That doubles as a great first sentence and a great character introduction. I haven't read Lord Jim, but now I definitely want to.

Ella said...

You should, Kate - I think you would enjoy it. It's a nice book for summer, too, I think it takes place in Malaysia.