Everyone knows what it's like to want to be at their best when they meet someone for the first time. They want to leave a good impression with their potential boss, potential significant other... you get the point.
Do the characters in our books ever make good first impressions? The answer is usually no. If the answer is yes, they are probably a secondary character.
Let's look at Pride and Prejudice as an example.
We have the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, our heroine.
Her family is quite ridiculous. She knows her chances of making a good first impression on anybody are slim, but she works her hardest to be an exception within her family.
Enter Mr. Darcy.
He's rich, to be sure, but he also comes off as extremely proud, an instant turn off for Elizabeth. To make matters worse, he actually insults her! Bad form, Mr. Darcy, bad form.
As readers, we immediately dislike Mr. Darcy's character and distrust him because he has messed with our evident heroine.
Without Darcy's crucial first impression, the story wouldn't have unfolded the way it did. If he had been even somewhat pleasant to Elizabeth at their first meeting, she probably wouldn't have accepted Wickham's tragic story as readily. Then, where's the conflict?
Another good example comes from The Hunger Games.
The first story Katniss tells the reader about Peeta is how he saved her life by giving her bread when she was starving, making us fall in love with him and trust his intentions.
This example is quite the opposite of Elizabeth and Darcy's story. In this instance, Katniss, the heroine, is in bad form. She's crawling through an alley way, scrounging for anything edible so she and her family survive the night. The impression of herself that she gives Peeta makes her think that she doesn't deserve him, and that she isn't his equal. Later, we find out that that wasn't the actual first impression Peeta had of Katniss (which I won't give away for anyone that hasn't read it), but the night with the bread is the only one she can bring herself to believe.
In my book, Jane's Air, both Jane, the main character, and August, her potential love interest, are in bad form.
Jane shows up to Silver Creek dressed as a man and sporting a broken arm after running away from home.
...hold on, let's get a pic of August in here...
August sees her in this state and is pretty judgmental. He totally has male dominance issues, which are exactly what Jane ran away from home from in the first place.
So, tell me, what kind of first impressions do your characters make?
Gosh, I hope this post made sense.
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