Excerpt From My Story: Haddrell’s Region

I think there was an article in a recent Writer’s Digest Magazine which talked about several important aspects of your story, that might help draw in a reader (or something similar). It mentioned the importance of a good introduction for your characters.

Interestingly enough, I never think of having good introductions for characters. (which I actually take as an indication that I should consider it more carefully). For me, I like to write stories (and read) that are realistic and, even if the events that occur in them are extraordinary, I like it to be told in a reasonable way. What I mean is: when you’re meeting a random person on the street, and your life is coincidentally and usually only momentarily intertwined, it’s quite likely you will not see that person in his or her best light. You might see him or her behaving in a way that is totally unlike their usual behavior, and then, if by chance you go on knowing them, you get to learn that one action was only a small part of a very different kind of person. In the same way, though I certainly like to establish what my characters are like and- if I have to- show the unusual behavior at some point when it won’t be confusing, I do not like to feel that my story is staged or fake. And it seems to me that in some books and shows and movies (depending on what kind any of those are) that introductions can especially be staged and I feel like I’m being forced to focus on one part of a person, which is the most important part, but I like to know what else is going on. (However, I certainly see the sense in what the article was talking about, and it’s made me think about how I introduce my characters)

Now, like I said, I don’t usually think (or rather overthink) about the introductions for my characters. In fact I usually have trouble introducing characters and figuring out what they should say first- it certainly does seem like whatever a character says first must be significant!

I was writing a story recently in which was one of the rare times I did think very carefully about a character’s introduction. Actually, I came up with a line that seemed to fit his character very well (It’s the last sentence, by the way). And here is the excerpt of the character’s introduction.

I should explain a little, actually. In my original version- I am still working on editing it, so there’s likely to be a lot of changes- Arend Van Husen is going to meet a rebel leader in a park, after being held by the police under suspicion of terrorism. He’s revealed that he knows something about a woman that is threatening the rebel leader and, after deciding that there’s not enough evidence to keep him, they send him off to deal with her.

I know that probably doesn’t make much sense, which is why I am editing it, but there’s so much more to explain that it would take a very long time. Anyway, here is an excerpt from my story, which I have revised to- hopefully- make a bit of sense:

He reached the bottom of the steep hill, and saw a man step out from behind a big containment box and come towards him.

The man was big and he looked tough- not only like he had the determination and temper to be able to pull off an intruder’s arms, but he also looked like he physically could do it without any trouble. He moved like a giant, wore a heavy black leather jacket and looked unruly.

Arend’s immediate reaction was to turn around and leave at once, seeing that he had rambled into the man’s ground, and he didn’t want that sort of problem at the moment, if he had ever asked for it. But then he remembered that he did want that sort of problem, sense, he reasoned, a rebellion leader probably would have dangerous men stationed around his domain.

He took a step toward the man and waited to see what he would do. The man looked at him, his face not showing what he was thinking, but there was a set glower on his face. He didn’t say anything, however, apparently allowing Arend to start the conversation.

“I- I want to talk to Carbrey Denson,” he said. The reaction to hearing the name was unexpected. The man tilted his head slightly, as though he’d expected something else and he had to understand this in a different way. He didn’t say anything at once.

“You want to see Carbrey Denson?” The man finally said, rather stupidly.

He simply nodded. They stared at each other, which frustrated Arend. He wanted to get on with things. He didn’t understand why they had to be standing here like this- if he was the leader’s guard, then Arend wished he would take him to him, or beat him up if that’s what he considered necessary.

Deciding that he didn’t want to go on this way, seeing that he was apparently supposed to be carrying on the conversation, Arend said, “Look I don’t have any weapons and I came here because I’m supposed to be helping him, so could you just take me to him?”

“Were you sent by someone?” The man asked.

Arend hesitated, wondering if saying the police had sent him would put him in any danger. He couldn’t avoid the truth, so he said, “It’s- it’s a kind of penitence thing, because the police couldn’t prove I was an extremist,” he thought mentioning that might make the man like him better, “So they sent me to help- with the problem.”

The man laughed suddenly, apparently amazed and amused by what he said. He didn’t say anything more, however, simply went on looking down at Arend, seemingly looming.

Arend thought a moment and then asked; trying to bring some informality into the situation, sense it was already strange enough, “Are you Denson’s bodyguard?”

The smile on the man’s face suddenly faded away and he stared at Arend a moment. Then he seemed to consider his question and said, almost as though he actually meant it, “I don’t think I need a bodyguard.”

And now I will explain why that introduction was so important for Carbrey Denson. He’s a big, threatening man- physically. However, throughout the story- and even though he was less of a villain than I meant- what I intended to show is that it’s not his physical presence that Arend has to be careful of, but his intelligence. He’s the kind of character that you think you’ve figured out, and then he simply turns your ideas upside down. This introduction is important, especially the last sentence, because it shows- and I’m afraid I can’t be more specific than this: it shows what kind of a person he is.

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