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Characters – First Impressions and Change

How do you show your characters’ personalities? How do you show they are good?

Or not?

No, really, think of the opening scene of any kind of fantasy/sci-fi book or show. Usually there’s something to establish the world and to show the characters have powers.

In Lucifer, first scene is him using his powers to get out of a ticket. Obviously not good, but he’s got flare so we like him for it. (And really, who can’t relate to trying to talk their way out of a ticket? 🙂

So usually there’s something to establish the world and character to make you like them. They are fighting to protect someone, they have worked their asses off and just accomplished something, or they do something we all kinda wish we could even if it’s not “good” per say, it’s not really bad.

Characters are what sell fiction.

And strong characters are complex. So they can’t just be good or bad. But you want to establish the baseline up front.

Because first impressions really do mean a lot.

If the first impression is this is a selfish manipulator whom we like anyway because he’s funny and he gives stuff in exchange for what he wants, we like him, but we know that’s his base personality.

That way, when he starts to grow and change, we know that is change without having to have seen the show more than an episode.

This also means in life it’s hard to get beyond people’s first impression of you, or that when you think someone has changed because you watch too much TV where people grow all the time that you get disappointed yet again when it turns out they haven’t grown at all! (but I digress) oh well, we’re talking fiction.

So what do you do to establish the base personality?

What do you do later to counter that, either to show the character isn’t 2D, and/or to create change?

I’m writing the 4th Ariana book and in it, I’m putting her through emotional hell. Why?

Because she’s a generally good person who spends her life helping others and solving crimes, but she’s immature and self centered. And I realized she wasn’t going to grow up without a massive shock to the system.

And because I’m a writer and we’re all just a little bit evil. 🙂

So think about your characters. What’s the first impression? What makes them more complex after that? And what shows growth?

Happy Writing.

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