4 Tips to Introduce Your Main Character

Linked to your story hook is, of course, the introduction of your main character or protagonist. Within the first few paragraphs should be a distinct moment where you introduce your character. This moment cements who they are, not by telling us in a boring infodump, but by highlighting one of the following:

My Four Step Process to Introduce My Main Characters

Clues as to who the character is. 

These can be words, items they have in their possession, a mannerism or habit, and external details we show the reader. The clothing they are wearing, the way they speak, how they move; all will symbolize something to do with who they are.

Thoughts and emotions they are having. 

This is best shown in external events or actions, if at all possible. For example, “Jack felt really angry,” vs. “Jack slammed the door and threw his case on the ground with a hard thump.” The first is telling, the second showing, and has way more impact.

Internal conflicts they might be having. 

Their needs, desires, and what they think will bring them happiness. Fears which might be challenging them.

Tie everything together with context.

The context the character finds themselves in can also give vital clues as to who they are.

You don’t need a lot of clues, just a few, enough to show the core of who this character is. To show why they are the way they are. And you need to reveal this as early as possible, alongside the story hook, and definitely in the first few pages.

Another thing to be aware of is, if you choose to introduce any characters together, you could potentially confuse the reader. The more characters they have to assimilate all at once, the harder it is for them to form a bond with one, or to remember each one’s distinctive characteristics.

Also, be careful with dialogue. Although dialogue can show a lot about a character, it can also be hard work for the reader to meet a character in that way for the first time. So, mix it up a little with some narrative.

Clues can be handed out in bits and pieces, too. Small chunks, or fractions, of information that slowly build depth. You don’t need to reveal the whole of your character straight away, just enough to give core or essential information.

All these clues will start building a picture, and hopefully, give enough of an idea of who our character is. What they want, who they are, and how we might expect them to behave when the inciting incident occurs.

These four steps are how I introduce my main characters (and any character, actually, to some degree). How do you introduce your characters in your story (and to your readers)?

Check out How to Outline a Book, my step-by-step process for outlining!