In thinking about this to start writing a blog post about it, I wondered why these characters are so loved and so memorable, and I think I figured out at least one reason why. It's because we know so much more about them than the color of their hair or what kind of shoes they wear. We know how our continuing characters think and feel, so we know how they are going to react to a situation or event. We also know their back story - what happened in their lives before they started appearing on the pages of our books. That information is important so we know what shaped our character, and it is best if dropped into the current story in tasty little tidbits.
Isn't that a better way to get to know someone than by being taken for a tour of their home or office before they even step into the scene?
Open Season, and when I finished I thought, gosh I love Sarah and Angel. I started to connect with the two detectives as people again and couldn't wait to get started on the third book. I even considered abandoning the book I'm working on to start hanging out with these two ladies again.
When I introduced them in the first book, it was done with very little physical description and more showing of their thoughts and feelings:
"Sarah took a deep breath and faced Quinlin in the stuffy cubbyhole of an office." The first couple of paragraphs set up why she is there and who Quinlin is. In the second paragraph we find out how she feels about being grilled by internal affairs:
"A trickle of perspiration ran down Sarah’s back and dampened her white T-shirt. Shifting in the wooden chair, she contemplated the wisdom of taking off her jacket, then decided against it. He would interpret it as a sign of weakness."
The first time Angel appears in the story, Sarah has just taken a seat in the briefing room across from a new detective:
"The woman turned to give Sarah the briefest of nods, and she recognized the mass of tight curls haloing a creamy mocha complexion as belonging to a former patrol officer. Angel?"
Then the sergeant assigns Sarah and Angel to a new case as partners. This is Sarah's response, which reveals a bit about Angel:
"Sarah turned sharply to look at Angel, and the elusive last name clicked. Something else clicked, too. An attitude that Angel wielded like a sword, heralding the proclamation, 'Don’t think that the only reason I’m here is because I’m a woman and I’m black.'"
This way of showing character is a trick I learned from a good friend and a terrific writer who was able to introduce a character with one brief line:
"Marco knew he wanted to be an artist from the time he was five years old and got in trouble for painting a mural on the living room wall."
What about you? What characters have you fallen in love with, either your own or others? Do you have some examples of great introductions of characters?
Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Information about her books, her editing services, and her blogs can be found on her Web site at www.maryannwrites.com Follow her on Twitter and Facebook