Why Characters Matter From the Get Go

This is my dog, Emerson. I can tell you great stories with amazing plots about Emerson, but right now are you interested?

Maybe slightly but not really. I mean he’s cute but why listen to a story about him? Why care?

What if I mentioned that he is a warrior lapdog who sleeps facing the door and guards me while I shower? Kinda interesting quirks.

How about if I tell you he snores and makes noises like a little old man all night?

Or that if you miss his breakfast time, he will sit in bed groaning and staring at you until you wake up and feed him?

Okay now you’ve got a character sketch. He’s a quirky dog who clearly thinks he’s human. Do you like him or at least feel some reaction to him?

Now would you listen to a story about him? Even if I meander off course slightly–you might give me some leeway. (Although I’ll try my best not to)

Why? Because you’re interested in my main character. You’re wondering what he might do.

Emerson, realizing he was dealing with yet another flawed human, sat patiently in the middle of the kitchen–right in Dad’s way as he made himself a sandwich. Emerson glanced at Dad, then the cabinet where his food was and finally at his food bowl. He repeated this eye movement a dozen or so times until Dad got the message and opened the cabinet to find his food and feed him.

Not the most interesting story, but you listened right? Why? Is it because the character sparked your interest?

What do you think? Do you show enough of your character to intrigue the reader early on? What’s your experience with developing characters in your story?

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4 Responses to Why Characters Matter From the Get Go

  1. Rivka says:

    What a great picture of Em!

    I don’t think a character sketch would be complete without a description of Emerson’s walking booties and how even hardened NYers would smile at his obvious joy to be outside. I would love to hear a story about Em’s adventures! 🙂

  2. Lucas says:

    I was getting curious about whether Emerson was going to bark at Dad as if to say “hurry up with my food!” Sometimes my canary chirps hungrily when I forget to give her some new seeds in the seed cup. I always feel terribly guilty when this happens. The poor little dear has no hands so there’s no way for her to get the seeds from the pantry herself. We have to pay attention to the needs of our feathered and furry friends.

    • He was a bit more patient back then. Now he barks more. All these stupid humans have frayed his nerves. 😛 I feel terrible when he is hungry because I got self absorbed. The bugger is always by my side when I’m sick or sad. Definitely one of my new years resolutions to pay more attention to him. 🙂

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