Monday, September 26, 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. That is very true! First impressions are sometimes the only impression so it better be the right one. :)

  2. Elspeth - You make such well-taken points here! I think, too, it's important to think about how much backstory one gives about characters, just because of that whole first impression issue. Too little backstory (or a very boring backstory) and the character makes a very bad first impression. Not good. Too much backstory or too implausible a backstory can be very off-putting. Again, not good. And yes, dialogue is such a useful way to introduce a character. The way we speak tells others so much about us!

  3. Laura; I think it's important to try and make it the one you want it to be - it might be awful, if that's what works best.

    Margot; Oh, you're so right about backstory! I think we writers can find our characters' backstories endlessly fascinating while many of our readers would find them endlessly boring!

  4. Dialogue is not only more fun to read than description, I think it's way more fun to write :-)


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