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Writing Advice from the Bookshelf: Jeff Gerke on First Impressions (Characters’, that is)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Excerpt from The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke:

The First 50 Pages

Think of your character introductions as short stories, little standalone short films created for the purpose of presenting your main characters to your reader. They will serve not only as introduction but as résumé and business card, brief snapshots conveying the essence of who these people are.

Most of the novelists I’ve worked with over the years do not naturally think to construct introductory short stories like this. They just want to get going with the main story, and they give almost no thought to how the reader will encounter the hero. But doing so with care is essential to get the protagonist “set” in the reader’s mind. Watch some movies and see how the main characters are introduced. Then sit down and write a short story to introduce your hero.

Remember to show what is likable about your protagonist . . . engage your reader by introducing your hero in a way that shows what’s heroic or sympathetic about her. Make us care about her.

First impressions are so powerful, especially in fiction. They shape every expectation we have about what this person is going to be like in the future. In the character’s introduction is the seed of the whole story. We see, in embryonic form, who he is, what makes him heroic, and where he is going.

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Work Cited:

Gerke, Jeff. The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors, and Readers, and Set Up Your Novel for Success. Blue Ash, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2011. 93–94. Print.

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