Monday, January 31, 2011

First Impressions

Most of us try to make a good first impression - we check our clothes for stains, ensure we're wearing matching shoes, maybe even practice a few phrases. Good first impressions pave the way to second impressions; and after that, the sky's the limit!

Take a look at your current manuscript and see what first impression your main characters make. I always try to ensure:

  • The reader may not necessarily be meeting him/her at their finest moment (or maybe they are) but it is a moment that will demonstrate one of the character's priorities.

  • There something intrinsically likable (in my opinion) about my main characters. People want to learn more about people they like or can identify with in some way. It might the situation the character finds themselves in, it might be their background, it might be their love of shoes - but there's something that makes the reader want to read on.

  • No character makes the same first impression as another. My logic is the reader is just getting to know these people - I try to keep it as easy as possible!

  • I will not introduce a continuing character in a way that harks back to a previous event in an earlier story. The reader may not know the event and will start off feeling that they're missing something. That's just mean.

  • I'll always choose dialogue over description.
First impressions - you can only make them once.

Make them count.


  1. Elspeth - Oh, how right you are!! I like what you say about characters very much; it's so true that readers decide what they think about a book, the characters and so on in a scarily short time. I agree with you that dialogue is so effective for making a strong first impression. You know what? I also like somewhat brief, "punchy" sentences instead of long-winded ones for the same reason.

  2. Margot; It *can* be a scary short time, can't it? I know I'm guilty of it. I agree with you about punchy sentences - they can make a very strong first impression.

  3. First impressions are incredibly important--for real people as well as our fictional ones! Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Elizabeth; The bonus about writing is we get to re-write those first impressions until we're satisfied. In life, not so much.

  5. Great points. I'm going to be starting the next draft this week and revisiting those introductions. Perfect timing!

  6. First impressions are so important – maybe even more so for our characters. If I goof up, I can try to redeem myself at a future event. If a character isn’t liked, a reader will simply put the book down and read something else.

  7. It's the characters who will make the book. Good reminder to make sure the reader wants to know more.

  8. Those are great points. I love the last because it's much more fun and dialogue does say a lot more about a person.


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