Creating Two New Novels. Writing One Chapter Weekly. Podcasting As I Go. Welcome to The Experiment.
This is a given. (Isn’t it?) But don’t worry, this is a little deeper than the obvious.
Your reader needs a character to follow by page 10. But which? Your central character, should be up front and center. This is the character that is driving your story. Your story may have additional central characters as well and they should be introduced in some way or form by the end of chapter one. (Generally) This list also includes your antagonist, but according to your artistic vision, you may hold out letting us in on who this person is until later or a future chapter.
It’s easy to think of a lot of obvious examples: In, The Hunger Games, we read about Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Prim, her mom, and even the general “antagonist”, the Captiol all before chapter 1 is finished.
But, this is also true in less obvious ways. In, The Help, the novel begins with Aibileen. In chapter 1, through her we are introduced to the majority of the main characters: Miss Leefolt, Mae Mobley, Minnie (through a flashback), and Miss Skeeter, (“cause she the kind that speak to the help.” – love that line!).
In, Enough for Four, we meet Ava, Lily, and Carson on Page 1. Page 6, their respective children are mentioned, although, they personally do not make an appearance in this chapter. On page 9, out of frustration, “Ava shook her head. This was crazy. Carson went around humping every girl who looked hotter than the weather without any regard for Ava and the one woman Ava falls for is a woman with the weirdest principles. Lily is a married, bi-sexual who is allowed to date women because her husband says it’s okay. “The best of both worlds,” as Lily liked to say.” From this we learn that Lily has a husband although his name isn’t mentioned. So, by page nine, we have all of the central characters up front and center.
Is it a requirement that all main characters are mentioned by page 10 or the end of Chapter 1? No. There are cases in the storyline makes it necessary to delay mentioning a central character early on. Just make sure it’s a valid one!
Introducing your characters involve much more than names and physical stats. Who are they? What are their personalities like? Goals? Desires? Problems? Status in life? Through action and dialogue, your readers should be able to get a feel for who your characters are on the inside.
Your Writing Assignment:
Get your WIP out again. Read the first ten pages. Make a list of the characters mentioned and under each name, write adjectives for their personalities that are conveyed in those pages. (Extend this to the end of chapter one if you wish.) If you’re not happy about which characters you have introduced or feel you don’t know enough about them to interest a reader enough to read on, start editing!