An Introduction

Introducing Your Characters

The goal of every writer is to create a character that will be loved. Now this doesn't mean your character needs to be perfect - in fact, imperfection is sometimes the thing that makes your character most loved. But something needs to draw your reader in and keep them close.

For many novelists a starting point will be to create a character sheet. This will list important things like name, age, weight, height, hair and eye color, background, etc. Once you, as the author, have an idea of who your character is it is now time to introduce them to your audience. If your character has some physical challenge - a limp, a missing limb, is wheelchair bound - it will be important to inform the reader quickly, but if that's not the case, perhaps the best way to introduce your character will be to never mention any of the things on your list. 

Readers want to be engaged and to figure some things out for themselves. They really want to get to know your character in action first and see how they relate to the situation and world around them. They want to enter a character's head and understand what they are thinking - all of which forms an impression. Tease them. Allow them to envision the character on their own. Create curiosity, or mystique in the opening scene. Show your character's sensual appeal.  And even if it is your antagonist you are introducing, give your reader some hope of goodness. All of which can be done without ever using that character sheet.

What? Why even do the character sheet then, you may ask. Because you need to know your character intimately, but when introducing them to your reader work on showing and not telling. That way your reader can feel empowered by their ability to really get to know and be engaged with your key figures. Yes, it is sometimes challenging and it would be so much easier to just insert a word or two to describe, but refrain and see how it takes your writing to another level.

So now challenge yourself: write that introductory scene!


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook


Karen Cioffi said...

Jean, great tips on creating and introducing characters to your story. Even if you're a seat-of-the-pants writer, as new characteristics appear for a particular character it's important to have a character sheet ready, so you can add the new character element. As you're going along, it's easy to forget if Josh is ticklish or not. :)

Karen Cioffi said...

Oh, love your image and saying!

D. Jean Quarles said...

Thank you.

Melinda Brasher said...

I totally agree: the author should know a LOT about the character, but sometimes it's better to let the reader imagine things, and it's almost always a mistake to trot out the whole laundry list of physical descriptions and personality quirks when the reader first meets a character. I, as a reader, couldn't care less what color hair a character has, or what her cheekbones look like. I want to know what she does when faced with a bribe or a break-up or a bomb threat.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great suggestion Jean. This technique is not only useful for novels, but for picture books, and early readers.

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