The speed at which we introduce our characters can be crucial to whether readers will remember them or not.
If we introduce too many too fast, they might not remember their names, or that they had even been mentioned.
Introducing our characters at intervals helps readers remember their defining details and the character’s importance to the story.
Introduce Main Characters as Soon as Possible
Main characters should be introduced as soon as they become the focus of the story.
In the case of the protagonist, this is usually within the first few paragraphs of the opening scene.
If you’re writing multiple POVs, be sure not to wait too long to introduce the other characters.
All POVs need to be introduced within the first few chapters so as not to jar the reader by switching characters after most of the book has told by only one.
Introduce Secondary Characters One at a Time
Characters can be introduced at any place in the book, although those expected to play a significant role in the story should show up earlier in the book to familiarize the reader with them beforehand.
No matter how important the character, they should not be introduced until their actions affect the plot and the main characters to keep the story on point without adding unnecessary information.
Characters not showing up until later, such as the antagonist, should be shown indirectly through the effects their actions have on the characters or in discussion to keep them in the reader’s mind until they make an entrance.
Place More Emphasis on the Introduction of Important Characters
Characters who play a large part in the story should be given more attention to help the reader remember them the next time they appear.
They should be introduced one at a time, and their presence should matter no matter their location in the scene or how it plays out.
Those that won’t ever show up again need only a brief description and any character that has no purpose should be eliminated.
You don’t have to name everybody.
Some people can simply be background characters without a name such as soldiers, customers, or people on the street.
But be sure to not give away the character’s importance by how much emphasis you place on them.
Only use as many characters as you need to get the point of the story across as too many can distract the reader.
When introducing a character, don’t tell everything about them at once.
Let the reader learn about them in pieces as they appear throughout the story to keep from overwhelming them.
Sometimes less really is more.
How much emphasis do you place on the introduction of your characters?
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.