Establishing Character with a BANG

One of the things I've noticed in my first drafts is that I do information dumps on the reader when I first introduce a character.  Sometimes its physical description, other times its too much history.  This of course has to be taken out in the second draft. 

So how do you weave in characterization without obtrusive info dumps?  Through action, dialogue, and character responses to situations.  I think my favorite way of working in characterization is through an action scene.  The way a character responds tells so much about their personality.
Instead of telling about a character through narration, show a character's personality through a scene.  A couple weeks ago I posted on narritive summary vs. active scenes and this links right to it.  To keep a reader engaged and interested in your book you need to let them draw their own conclusions . . . but don't be too ambiguous, then you run the risk of your reader not connecting to your character. 

In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers Browne and King devote an entire chapter to establishing characterization and exposition. They discuss the pitfalls of dumping characterizations on readers.  If you have too much characterization right up front you run the risk of boxing in your character also you make it so the reader can tune out and become disengaged from the book.  To keep a reader interested you need to let them draw their own conclusions about the character through their actions.

In Smolder the way I introduce Brett to the readers has always bothered me, I know its one of the weakest aspects of my book.  After reading the chapter on characterization I took another look at that first introduction.  I realized that the readers don't immediately connect to her.  I've rewritten the section several times now and I'm still struggling.

So tell me... What book stands out in your mind for really establishing character with a bang? 


  1. I loved Jumper by Steven Gould. The MC and his relationship with his father was just so, sharp (and disturbing since it's physically abusive). I loved that book.

  2. Ooooh I love getting to the soul of a character when I throw them in a really emotional scene. It could be an action scene--maybe one character protects another even though they supposedly hate each other, or maybe it's a really quiet but intense scene.

    But as for introducing a character, first impressions--like in real life--are important. Sometimes I like throwing readers off. I like giving readers just a taste for how these characters present themselves. Everything that they're hiding just makes them even more interesting.


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