Monday, October 4, 2010

First Impressions - The Art of Introducing Your Heroes

You know that phrase “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Well, in part it’s true – but that rule has been broken quite a few times, especially in fiction.

The famous Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, is a prime example. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy have a lot of thought-changing to do – but BOY does Austen do a great job of introducing Darcy in a way that’s memorable.

Ever seen the movie versions? Whether it’s Collin Firth or Matthew MacFadgen playing the role, Mr. Darcy’s entrance is eye-catching.

Movies do this so well. When they introduce a new character, specifically a love interest, they introduce them in a way that draws your attention.

Books need to be the same way.

I figured since we’re introducing some new folks as ShopKeepers on The Writers Alley, I could chat about introducing characters in your books. Best way? By example.

Let’s look at a few:

Siri Mitchell does a great job of introducing her hero in her contemp novel, Kissing Adrien. Here’s a little clip:

That’s when I knew it was Adrien. He was always humming. And when he wasn’t humming, he was prone to break out into song. As long as he was humming, things were looking up.

I slit my eyes open and watched as he made his way through the crowd

Little boys were gazing at him, puzzled, as if they were certain he was an actor, or maybe a soccer star. He had the casual confidence which could only be gained by countless victories. He paused beside a woman and placed a hand at the small of her back to move her so he could pass by. Except that he stopped a minute to chat. Another minute to smile and flirt.

Oooo, isn’t that lovely. Can’t you just ‘feel’ it happening? Don’t you want to get to know Adrien a whole lot better? GREAT book, btw. I read and reread the last chapter.

How about we try Laura Frantz’s newest release, Courting Morrow Little. Enter – the hero

She wasn’t alone- she could sense it now. Terror rose up and snatched all good sense, and she gave a sharp cry, holding the bucket in front of her like a piece of armor.

Not three feet away stood a man. He drew himself to his full height, and their eyes locked in mutual surprise. Above his loincloth and leggings was a loose linen shirt that fell a little below his hips. Even in the dim light she could tell it was some of the finest fabric she’d ever seen. Her seamstress’s eye discerned it was English-made, without buttons at the neck or wrists and it seemed to stretch taunt as it ran the width of his shoulders. Every creamy fold was a striking contrast to his inky, shoulder-length hair. A trio of eagle feathers angled over one ear, affixed by a small silver medallion….

There was something remarkable about him – an aura of barely restrained strength, like a panther about to pounce. She took a small step backward, but his dark eyes seemed to prevent her from taking a second.

Whew, can’t Laura Frantz write?!? Wow! How beautifully done! And what a way to introduce Red Shirt. You HAVE to read this book.

Ooo, let’s do another one. What do you say? How about Mary Connealy’s newest one? Wrangler in Petticoats. A sneak peek:

Sally is in the process of falling off of a cliff when we meet the hero. Here ya go.

Her hands scrambled for a solid hold on the three or the granite. Fingernails ripped at unforgiving rocks. Her flesh shredded on prickly pine. As she dangled her eyes blinked open and looked straight into the startled face of a man. A man perched in a nearby tree like a two-hundred-pound squirrel.

The horror on his face told her, even in an instant, that he’d seen her fall. He knew he was watching someone die. He shouted and reached for her. But he might as well have been a mile away. There was too much distance between them.

Sally had one heartbeat to know he wasn’t part of the shooting from overhead….In those fleeting seconds she let herself be completely alive. Looking into the man’s eyes, probably the last human being she’d ever see, was as powerful as any moment of her life.

Okay – do you need to go buy this book now? Any book by Mary is WELL-WORTH the cost. I just bought my copy yesterday :-)

One more – and this is a Pepper-original from my novel, Here To Stay, so if you’re tired of reading about Eisley and Wes, then skip to the end right now. I’ll make it quick. Introduce…the hero.

Eisley followed Mr. Harrison’s gaze across the expanse of the meeting area, past the red bucket chairs and rows of people, and right into the eyes of a Greek god. Her vision zoomed in like a camera, blocking out everything else.

A taller, younger version of Mr. Harrison, complete with black hair and captivating gray-blue eyes, walked toward them.

His gaze blazed through her. Immediate attraction. She held in a whimper. Lord, really? Are you joking?

She tried to adjust her expression. The last thing she needed was to look like a three-year-old in a candy store. Too much eye-candy is bad for a healing heart. Very bad. It might lead to thoughts of hope or worse, possibilities. Step away from the candy and no one will get hurt.

So, how do you introduce your heroes? Heroines? Is it memorable? Does it grab the reader’s attention just as much as it does your characters?

If you’re brave enough, give us a glimpse. Just a few sentences to introduce us to your hero or heroine.


Renee said...

Great post! And I could look at that picture of Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy all day! (Did I actually just write that?!)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I'm with Renee...Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy is sweet indeed!

Okay, I will be brave a share an excerpt. Mine is a little different in that I am introducing him through his own eyes! Here he is after he has rescued the heroine from a beating by 2 ruffians. She is disguised as a boy.

Malcolm sat back on his heels and cursed his chivalrous self. What was he to do with this dirty, bruised pile of bones lying before him? By the saints, he had neither the time nor the energy to care for this scrawny boy.
He had a little over a se’ennight until the tournament at Ramslea began, and he was not about to miss it on account of a malodorous halfling. He had yet to accumulate enough gold to buy land, but this tourney would prove profitable, if indeed he could manage to get himself there.

The pile of bones stirred and let out a pitiful groan.

Malcolm sighed and, after gathering water from his supply, poured some into the boy’s mouth. The boy vaulted upright, sputtering and choking through another whimper.

“Cease, please! What are you trying to do? Drown me?” The boy propped himself on one elbow and rubbed his face with hands, smearing dirt and blood across his pale cheeks. As he looked up at his rescuer, his eyes grew wide, and he gulped.

Malcolm had to smile. Boys stood in awe of him, men stood in fear of him, and women . . . well, women wanted to have him. Time spent in the lists honing his swordplay had made his shoulders broad and his arms well muscled. He had long since been unaffected by the reactions his visage wrought.

It's a medieval, if you couldn't tell. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Pepper, those are great examples. And I just love Pride and Prejudice--it's one of the books that really made me want to write romance.

I'm about to begin a new story so I'm going to work really hard on giving both my hero and heroine an introduction that really speaks to the reader.

Kav said...

What a fun topic!!! I haven't seen the Pride and Prejudice with Matthew Macfayden...does that make me terribly backwards? I will have to see if I can find a copy.

Loved the examples you shared. I read another Siri Mitchell contemp (my first by her) and LOVED it -- such a unique voice. And, of course, Mary's a law unto herself. I can't wait to read Wrangler in Petticoats! And Laura -- well, anything by her just has to be savored. Sigh. I enjoyed reading that bit again.

Sherrinda and Pepper -- both your intros are awesome! Makes me think I have to go back and take a look at my hero intro and spruce it up again. Pepper, how to you pronounce Eisley? Love the humour in yours. And Sherrinda I ADORE medieval tales. I haven't read many Christian historicals set in that time period but the ones I have were wonderful.

Laura Frantz said...

Oh my, excerpts ~ some of my favorite things!! I love yours and Sherrinda's, Pepper. Bless you both for that! And thanks so much for including Morrow's meeting Red Shirt here. I had to tweak that scene so many times and am glad you find it memorable:) I'll admit I laughed out loud at Mary's "two hundred pound squirrel" hero! No wonder folks love her books!

Anyway, another great post. Bless you bunches.

Casey said...

I love that scene in Laura's book and I desperately need to get Kissing Adrien.

Uhhhh.... I'm not sure I am brave enough to share, but let me go look at what I have to offer...

Okay, *gulp* YOU ASKED FOR IT!

Face to face with my worst nightmare.

Breath wheezed in the cubicle around me.

My fist clenched red hot, white cold on the hard, plastic stick.

Blue dots flashed before my eyes and I reached out to brace my hands on the enclosing stall.
An abrasive squeal of the adjoining door shrilled in the air and I jolted, thumping back against the toilet basin. Water sprayed from the faucet and the swift pull of a towel being released was the only sound in the room.

But the only sound surrounding my senses was the whoosh of my own breath.

The outside door banged shut and I was alone.


I gulped and glanced down at my clenched fist. I couldn’t feel my hand anymore. It belonged to someone else, surely.

I wished so.

Hoped with every gulp of air I sucked in.

Casey said...

Oh BTW, that was my first few paragraphs. :)

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Bravo to all the brave souls who have given their fabulous the intro to their hero/heroine. I'm on break at work so I don't have access to mine. Maybe I can yet tonight. Nonetheless..I enjoyed reading all of yours.
Thanks for the post, Pepper

Julia M. Reffner said...

I'm heading out to homeschool group, but those were some fantastic picks. LOVE Morrow and Siri Mitchell (although I haven't read Kissing Adrien) and (hanging head) haven't yet read Mary but I understand she is a must-read humor author.

Congratulations on getting a manuscript perusal!! We'll all be praying and crossing our fingers & toes for you!!

I love the line: "Too much eye candy is bad for a healing heart."

Ralene said...

Some great examples. I am loving everyone's personal examples. :)

Casey said...

So Ralene, are you going to send something to us though. *wink*

Julia, I love that one line too! But then again I love that story period. Crossing everything in sight to hope I get my hands on that book!! :)

Casey said...

Kav, LOVE your visits. So glad you made your way over here. :) Thanks for stopping by today.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh, Mr., love, love!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Okay, Sarah, Firth or MacFayden?

Pepper said...

Goodness gracious, some people have had WAY TOO MUCH FUN today.
I come back to 344 unread messages!
CAn you believe that?!?
So...maybe I'll get through the first 100 tonight.

Pepper said...

GREAT excerpt, Sherrinda.
Hmmm, have I read that before? ;-)

Pepper said...

I found Eisley's name in some old English documents. In my mind, I pronounce it 'I'slee as in 'ice'.
I LOVE this story. It's soo much fun to write.

Casey said...

344?? Where? The only place with over 300 comments is SEEKERVILLE today. Goodness, Mary needs to be careful what she asks for. :)

Pepper said...

Courting Morrow is my FAVORITE of your two books. Both were beautifully written, but Morrow's story seized me (even though the waterfall scene in TFD was...oh la la)
Thanks for stopping by. ALWAYS glad to 'see' you

Pepper said...

Whew, Case
What an ATTENTION grabber. Wow!
Your first few lines really draws the reader in.

Pepper said...

Mary, Julia, and Ralene -
Thanks for the notes. It's a fun story to write and very close to my heart. It takes place in Derbyshire - the place I visited 2 years ago. LOVELY.
But I didn't meet any actors

Pepper said...

Case, I know - but between Seekerville, The Writers Alley, and ANYTHING else - it adds up. GRACIOUS SAKES - as Eisley would say :-)

BTw - I like Matthew Macfaden's insecure Mr. Darcy and Colin Firth's brusk Mr. Darcy. Matthew's smile when he meets Lizzie in Pemberley is LOVELY

Casey said...

Thanks Pep. I apprecaite knowing that. :)

AimeeLSalter said...

I'm a little embarrassed to share this, but your post got me thinking. I'd love to know if anyone else has ideas on whether this holds impact or not:

Carl’s bright green eyes stared out from beneath the soft tines of almost-black hair falling across his forehead. He was fixed on the new girl standing uncertainly at the end of the food line in the echoing Saint Matthew’s cafeteria, willing her to stick around.

*Find a seat, stay in the room.*

His best friend Michelle flipped her soft brown hair back over a shoulder. “Relax,” she murmured so softly only he would hear. “If she catches you looking at her like that she’ll call security.”

Carl met her deep hazel eyes with a flat look, then returned to staring at Dani – who’d finally made a decision. She weaved between tables, bee-lining for a now empty seat near the back wall.

Carl half-smiled as she sat down with her back to them. “Finally!” He returned to eating, but his eyes never left her for long.

Renee (BlacknGoldGirlsBookSpot) said...

Ooo la la! I love all of those "first impressions" isn't Mr. Darcy just the ultimate romantic hero? *Sigh*

XOXO~ Renee

Pepper said...

Mr. Darcy is VERY nice too 'see'. Definitely 'dream-worthy' :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Note that NOBODY else starts their books with their heroine plunging to her death off a cliff.

The word cliffhanger had to come from SOMEWHERE after all.

Just sayin...I go the extra mile for my readers. :)

Casey said...

Yes Mary, don't you. :)

Pepper said...

you don't just go the extra mile - usually the reader is being pulled along on a runaway stagecoach or chased by outlaws....
or they're being stalked by a trainload of orphans.
The readers do love it! Cliffhanging and all.
Speaking of cliffhanging, I actually had a cliffhanging scene in my speculative fiction. Sigh. (chanting now) I'm like Mary. I'm like Mary