Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Impressions, Part 2

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.


Jonathon Arntson said...

My first impression of Keira Knightly was in Bend it Like Beckham, it was so love at first site! Oddly enough I was on a plane on my way to the UK when I saw that film and tried to find her the whole time I was there (she was on location filming PotC). My point, is that Keira's magneticism is a good model to think about when you have an electric character. She could totally play our favorite literary heroine's and she does. I think she should play Katsa, as long as they make that before she gets too old. (I know she's young now, I'm just saying.)

Is August available? That's my birth month. I'm a Leo, are we compatible?

I am excited to reveal your cover soon!!

Jonathon Arntson said...

As for my's hard to think back on the first time we met. In hindsight, I've realized that it's so important to wright down the details of the first time your MC pops into your head. They will change overtime, but you can never redo that first epiphany.

inthewritemind said...

Your post made plenty of sense. Quite good too! It's something I don't always really think about.

My characters...well, for The Scarlet Daughter, Naomi at first comes across as someone to feel sorry for; she's recently lost her mother and she's pretty much an outcast in society. Enter Ryuji, one of her guardians and eventual love interest, and he is completely not sympathetic to her plight, especially at first. He sees her as childish and weak and overly argumentative (which isn't completely off). He wants her to accept her new life and not complain about it--to put on the brave face and keep the emotion within. Naomi doesn't like to be told what to do--and Ryuji is the one to ALWAYS tell her how poorly she's acting.

Don't know if that made mind is jumbled today. :P

Sarah said...

Great post! I always hope my main characters incite questions or some sort of intrigue and interest. I hadn't thought about it much, but usually, they don't make a particularly good impression.

Myrna Foster said...

Great post--it made me think about my own characters.