Reworking my second characters introduction

DAgent

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So I decided to go back over the character introductions I posted on an earlier thread, and decided to expand on the headmasters introduction a little more.

---

Mr Sinclair looked over his local newspaper with the vaguest of interest as it lay on his kitchen table. He spread butter thickly over his toast before putting the knife down on the heavily scarred but formerly smooth, light orange table top with its subtle hints of browns, then sipped his orange juice, before resuming butter spreading duties. He could hear the ticking of the grandfather clock on the wall opposite him, the one covered with framed photographs from his days as headmaster, with various classes and staff peering out of group photos. He could hear his partner rummaging around upstairs for something, most likely lost for all time since they‘d last redecorated the house a number of years ago.

Just after the school closed, he wondered to himself as the rummaging got louder and more frequent. Some, what? Ten years ago now?

“You need any help up there?” he called out. Getting no response, he bit into the toast, barely noticing how its warmth brought out the rich texture in the baked dough. Something caught his eye on the paper's third page which made him sharply turn to the middle of the paper. Bypassing the usual waffle about other local events, even that night's treat for the astronomically inclined which he’d been intending to catch. An aurora borealis, competing with a full moon. And possibly fog. Maybe even rain and wind and who knew what else mother nature decided to toss into the mix.

No sooner had he seen the headline than his eyebrows threatened to leave his forehead and go off on their own adventures on the moon. He slowly sat back in his wooden chair, creaks marking his retreat into the backrest, and left his hands on either side of the plate as his gaze fell towards the jug of water, catching his own reflection.

His face wore a look of utter defeat. He looked back over the report.

“Two Children’s Bodies Found In Remains Of Old School Hall.”

So, it had been true after all,
he told himself. What would the old staff and pupils think now?
 

Christine Wheelwright

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I also wondered about the detailed descriptions of apparently unimportant objects (the tabletop, the toast). Perhaps the aim is to emphasize the mundane and routine nature of the day upon which staggering news is suddenly revealed. I think it can be justified in that context. But if the constant descriptions of things that don't matter are an ongoing feature of the novel then that may be a problem.

I love this as a hook on the opening page of a novel:

“Two Children’s Bodies Found In Remains Of Old School Hall.”

So, it had been true after all,
he told himself. What would the old staff and pupils think now?

Who would not want to read on after that? Fantastic.
 

sule

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My tastes agree with what's been said above: there just isn't very much going on in the first paragraph-and-a-half to keep me, as a reader, engaged. However, like Christine Wheelwright, I was also intrigued by the newspaper headline and character reaction. I did a little experiment - I put those two lines above the first paragraph and, for me, the descriptions of mundanities weirdly became more gripping because now they're juxtaposing a tragedy. See what you think (I haven't changed anything except the ordering of the paragraphs, so it might make the character seem more callous than you intend):

“Two Children’s Bodies Found In Remains Of Old School Hall.”

So, it had been true after all,
he told himself. What would the old staff and pupils think now?

Mr Sinclair looked over his local newspaper with the vaguest of interest as it lay on his kitchen table. He spread butter thickly over his toast before putting the knife down on the heavily scarred but formerly smooth, light orange table top with its subtle hints of browns, then sipped his orange juice, before resuming butter spreading duties. He could hear the ticking of the grandfather clock on the wall opposite him, the one covered with framed photographs from his days as headmaster, with various classes and staff peering out of group photos. He could hear his partner rummaging around upstairs for something, most likely lost for all time since they‘d last redecorated the house a number of years ago.
 

DAgent

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I also wondered about the detailed descriptions of apparently unimportant objects (the tabletop, the toast). Perhaps the aim is to emphasize the mundane and routine nature of the day upon which staggering news is suddenly revealed. I think it can be justified in that context. But if the constant descriptions of things that don't matter are an ongoing feature of the novel then that may be a problem.

I love this as a hook on the opening page of a novel:

“Two Children’s Bodies Found In Remains Of Old School Hall.”

So, it had been true after all,
he told himself. What would the old staff and pupils think now?

Who would not want to read on after that? Fantastic.
It is meant to carry on from another characters introduction who just found out about the same news at the end of her scene, but of course, out of context like this, there's no way anyone would be able to know. The idea was to show humdrum every day life, being interrupted by something truly shocking.

But I do think you and Sule have gave some pretty valuable feedback, and I'll try to incorporate that into the next draft. Thanks.
 

DAgent

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Okay, so did a bit more editing on it, here's the revision.
---
“Two Children’s Bodies Found In Remains Of Old School Hall.”

So, it had been true after all,
Mr Sinclair told himself. To think, I’d only looked over the local paper with the vaguest of interest. It now lay open on his kitchen table as he spread butter thickly over his toast, before regimentally placing the knife down on the heavily scarred, light orange table top with its subtle hints of browns, reflecting on the changes it had seen. Then the headline really hit him, and his eyebrows threatened to leave his forehead, to go off on their own adventures on the moon!

Just after the school closed, he realised. Some... what? Ten years ago now?

The rummaging of his partner upstairs got louder and more frequent, hunting for something, most likely lost for all time since they‘d last redecorated the house a number of years ago. Mr Sinclair sipped his orange juice, then resumed butter spreading duties, ignoring the ticking of the grandfather clock on the wall opposite him. The one covered with framed photographs from his days as headmaster, with various classes and staff peering back out of group photos.

What would the old staff and pupils think now?

He wished his eye had never been caught by that headline, that he had just concentrated on the usual waffle about other local events. Even that night's treat for the astronomically inclined, which he’d been intending to catch. An aurora borealis, competing with a full moon. And possibly fog. Maybe even rain and wind and who knew what else mother nature decided to toss into the mix.

“You need any help up there?” he called out. Getting no response, he bit into the toast, barely noticing how its warmth brought out the rich texture in the baked dough. He slowly sat back in his wooden chair, creaks marking his retreat into the backrest, and left his hands on either side of the plate as his gaze fell towards the jug of water, catching his own reflection.

A look of utter defeat.
 
Last edited:

msstice

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I don't know what the story is about, and what you want to emphasize, but good stories are about the extraordinary intruding on the mundane (a bread and butter wish fulfillment for most of us). I just did an experiment to see how I would write it, knowing only what you have written.


Mr. Sinclair slathered another layer of butter on his toast and bit into it, savoring the crunching sound, and the aroma of butter on fresh bread heated to optimal crispiness. He chewed leisurely. He had no need to hurry anymore. Not like when he had been headmaster. His eyes went to the yellowing photographs in heavy frames that hung on the kitchen wall. They had kept him busy. The staff. The students. Yes, especially the students. The grandfather clock gave it's half-past chime. It's loud ticking clashed with his chewing, irritating him vaguely.

He was irritated too by the loud sounds of someone rummaging upstairs. "Need any help?" he said, loudly, hoping she did not. Whatever she was looking for had likely been lost when they had redone the house. How long ago had that been? Oh, God. Ten. Ten years ago now. He took another bite. Just after that damned school closed.

He reached out with a pinky, moved the paper closer to himself, and read out of the corner of his eye. Rain tonight. Hmm, some interesting astronomical phenomenon expected. Pity about the rain, then. Eh? About to take another bite, he stopped. He straightened the paper with a greasy finger and froze.

“Two Children’s Bodies Found In Remains Of Old School Hall.”
 

TheEndIsNigh

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So....

Character introductions.

I'm not sure a devoted section on introducing a character is a thing I would read/write. They look and sound to me like mini prologues.

They're too much like - well it literally are, info dumps.

IMO it's better the reader gets a picture of the character over time and learns about what their dealing with as the story develops. It doesn't matter if the characters got blond hair, unless of course it's the precurser to the bar fight that's about to occur becasue the local bully makes some reference. Even then the reference by the bully tells us the character has blond hair.

-------------------------

Sticking the sword deep into the chest he smiled, as he gave it a slow twist and watched as the life drained from the elve's eyes.

------------------------

Says quite a lot more about a charater than an unrelated abstract paragraph two chapters before.

------------------------

Bert was a cruel bloke who liked to watch his victims suffer.

-----------------------

A pesonal gripe of mine is the old

The stranger stood at the edge of town, his blue eyes squinting in the harsh sunlight.

Who's observing this - the stranger - because he's the only one that knows his eye colour in this town.


Hope I helped.

Tein
 

tinkerdan

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Just a thought.
Your first attempt might be suffering from something other than too much description.
Rather it lacks relevance and context for the information.
Part of the reason is that there is a lack of closeness with the character and bringing us closer and perhaps engaging the senses and his own demeaner might make it interesting while giving context for those descriptions.

To Explain that I'll give an example... and since you seem to have abandoned your first attempt.

Mr. Sinclair gaze with vague interest at the newspaper splayed on his kitchen table as he spread butter generously across his toast, just the way he liked it; so as it melted into the pores of the bread and he could almost taste its salty oiliness in a vicarious olfactory manner. Putting the knife down, it made a satisfactory solid thunk on the orange tabletop, his fingers tracing the now scarred surface he scowled in disdain for people who throughout months and years were less careful in its care. For a moment when the ticking of the grandfather clock against the wall occluded everything else, he glared at it and scanned the framed photographs from his days as headmaster, noting familiar staff peering out of group photos. Slowly the sound of his partner rummaging around upstairs for something, most likely lost for all time since they‘d last redecorated the house a number of years ago, took precedence. He girded himself so he could, in a loud voice say, "You need any help up there?" and winced, realizing if they did then his much anticipated toast would be cold unless he scarfed it down in large bites that would spoil his savor.

After a moment of no response, he bit modestly letting the warm rich buttery taste waft his palette. He turned back to his paper where his eyes, by some fortune or trick of fate, rested on a column that he scanned, past local events, weather; full moon; aurora borealis; and possible fog, until he was stopped by a striking headline. He leaned into his chair for need of support, it creaked under the strain. His eyes shot up quickly as if that might erase what he had seen and rested on the water jug that was reflecting his utter defeat. Wondering what staff and pupils will make of this.

"Two Children's Bodies Found in Remains of Old School Hall."

There was now, a foul taste in his mouth.
 

Wayne Mack

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I felt there were multiple interesting plot hooks in this selection and it sets up an interesting murder mystery style story.

I would have liked, however, get a little more introduction to Mr. Sinclair and his partner (wife?) and get a better understanding of his mood. I usually find it helpful to include a character's full name, and title or nickname, if any, at the character's first introduction. Referring to the character as Mr. Sinclair after the first introduction is an interesting choice and may work. I usually, though, will stick with either just a first name, last name, or nickname for all following references. I would also have liked to learn the partner's name.

I wasn't very clear on Mr. Sinclair's emotional state after reading the headline. He seemed mildly curious, then deeply surprised, then mildly curious again, then concerned what others might think, then regretful, then bored, and then finally utterly defeated. It felt odd that Mr. Sinclair didn't either try to share the news with his partner or try to hide the news.

I suggest deciding on Mr. Sinclair's primary reaction to the headline should be and then reinforcing it through his actions and thoughts while eating breakfast and by having the setting description reflect desired tone for this section.
 

DAgent

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I felt there were multiple interesting plot hooks in this selection and it sets up an interesting murder mystery style story.

I would have liked, however, get a little more introduction to Mr. Sinclair and his partner (wife?) and get a better understanding of his mood. I usually find it helpful to include a character's full name, and title or nickname, if any, at the character's first introduction. Referring to the character as Mr. Sinclair after the first introduction is an interesting choice and may work. I usually, though, will stick with either just a first name, last name, or nickname for all following references. I would also have liked to learn the partner's name.
His partner, for now at least, is just meant to be an ambiguous mystery. Someone there to show he does have a home life, but as we see here, he's somewhat stuck in the past, hence all the photos. Not necessarily stuck in the past in a bad way, but it did play a major role in his life.
I wasn't very clear on Mr. Sinclair's emotional state after reading the headline. He seemed mildly curious, then deeply surprised, then mildly curious again, then concerned what others might think, then regretful, then bored, and then finally utterly defeated. It felt odd that Mr. Sinclair didn't either try to share the news with his partner or try to hide the news.
I'm trying to show how mixed up the news has been on him, but it's certainly something that needs working on more. One thing he's not going to do is share this news with anyone, as it's something he doesn't want to think about. Not that he'll have much choice about that during the rest of the story.
I suggest deciding on Mr. Sinclair's primary reaction to the headline should be and then reinforcing it through his actions and thoughts while eating breakfast and by having the setting description reflect desired tone for this section.
I'll take that on board, thanks for the feedback, it's appreciated.
 

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