Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fiction - A First Meeting

While reading a speech on Diversity In Action delivered by Heather Burns on October 2, 2007, I realized that what she talked about summarized three distinct ways characters respond to one another on first meeting. This works well for any novel, when two important characters first meet and especially in romance, the most widely read genre in popular fiction, or any novel with a romantic thread. Three distinct elements in first meeting is: curiosity, introspection, and openness.

Two people meet, and the first reaction is curiosity. Each studies the other—their dress, their voice, their vocabulary, accent or not, their actions, and appearance in general. Questions and attitudes being to form. Who is this person? What is his purpose being here? I like his smile. His clothing looks good. He needs a haircut. He avoids direct eye contact. Is he genuine? Curiosity rouses an emotional feeling of like or dislike or offers reservations.

Conversation is initiated as the character weighs the pros and cons of this person. Dialogue is scrutinized for meaning and innuendo. The characters stretch themselves to understand this person and how he may affect their life or their purpose.

Introspection begins when one character tries to understand his reaction to meeting this new character. He wants to know if he’s reading the new character right. Why is he reacting as he is? Is he uncomfortable, nervous, awed, or making unwarranted judgments. These questions help the character to delve more deeply into conversation so that he may gain better understanding of the character and his own feelings. It is now he realizes they are different or similar but that’s not necessarily bad or good. They are different and that could prove interesting.

When this new awareness comes—different but interesting, the third element appears. Openness. The willingness not let the other person into your life and to set aside doubt. Our as Burns said, to take a leap of faith.

New relationships can mean taking risks. Allowing a character to accept a new person into their circle of acquaintances or friendships. In romance, it’s the movement from awareness to interest. In mainstream relationships, it’s the awareness that this person can add something new to the character’s perspective. He can help the character move forward in pursuing a goal or in opening a new door for change or growth, and help the character to be comfortable in the decision.

When you introduce one character to another in your novel be it romance, suspense, or mainstream fiction, use these three elements—curiosity, introspection, and openness to provide a deeper look into characterization as well as set up opportunities for character growth and an more dynamic way to move the story forward.

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