Sunday, September 10, 2017
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Let Us Guess From a Character’s Introduction How Important He or She is Going to Be
On the other hand, you’ll have this: “I was taken down to the command room where I met analysts named Adamson, Bowers, Cahill, and Dumont. They all shook my hand and then we turned our attention to the briefing.” Then, by the time the book is over, Bowers turns out to be the love interest. Don’t do that either.
As I mentioned here, audiences want to keep track of as few characters as possible. Every time you introduce a character, you’re asking your reader for a favor, “Sorry, but I’ve got yet another character I want you to remember and keep track of.” Audiences are always looking for permission to lose track of a character.
When they read the first intro above, they think “Oh boy, I’d better clear out a bunch of head space to keep track of Quartermain, even if it means forgetting about some of the earlier characters.” When they read the second intro, they think, “Oh good, these four analysts are not being given any distinguishing characteristics, so I don’t have to keep track of them. Their four names can go in one ear and out the other.” Then later, when Bowers becomes more and more important, they’ll think “Wait, who is this guy, did we meet him before? I forget, let me flip back…” Trust me, your readers will be pissed with you if they have to flip back.
Let us guess correctly how important a character is going to be. Don’t bother to name Sgt. Quartermain if he’s never going to be mentioned again, and if your heroine is going to fall in love with one of those four analysts, have him stand out when he’s introduced. You don’t have to mention how hot he is or tip off the fact that he’ll be the love interest, but at least give him a little character note, so we’ll (begrudgingly) remember who he is later.