Monday, May 30, 2011

First Impressions

I'm busy finishing up a mystery game which is due this week, so here's a rerun of a popular post I wrote a few months ago. I found rereading it served as a good reminder for me - I hope you'll enjoy it.

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 - Thanks for re-posting this. You are so right that the way in which we introduce a character really matters. In a well-written novel, each character makes a distinct impression that the author uses to drive the story. And what's interesting is that we can see those first impressions by looking at the way other characters treat that character. It all serves to let the reader know who's who.

  2. Agent Rachelle Gardner spoke to our RWA chapter last week about openings. She made some good points (one of which was avoiding having your opening line(s) be dialogue, for various reasons. I recapped it all on my blog last Thursday.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  3. Margot; You make an excellent point, Margot - how other characters treat each other also adds to any reader's first impressions.

    Terry; I always try to open my stories with a situation, not dialogue.

  4. Good advice, especailly the one about meeting the characters at not their finest moment.

  5. Lauri; Not everyone gets to make a good first impression; sad but true!


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