As writers, we spend an amazing amount of time getting to know our characters. Then we have to figure out how to introduce them to our readers. There are four ways we can do this. In the DIY MFA Writer Igniter challenge, Gabriela Pereira refers to them as TADA:
Thought and Feeling
What does your character think about what is going on? This doesn’t mean that you have to say, “Jane was angry.” But perhaps you could say, “Jane couldn’t believe that she had to give up her entire Spring Break.”
What your character actually does. Something that Pereira pointed out is that we should pay attention to contradictions such as when our character’s actions contradict what she thinks, feels or says. So Jane may resent giving up Spring Break but . . . “Jane couldn’t believe she had to give up her entire Spring Break, but she pasted a smile on her face.”
Again, this can be particularly revealing when it contradicts emotion or action. “Jane couldn’t believe she had to give up her entire Spring Break, but she pasted a smile on her face. ‘What an honor to be a part of the team.'”
This goes beyond eye and hair color. What involuntary reactions can be seen by those around your character. “Jane couldn’t believe she had to give up her entire Spring Break, but she pasted a smile on her face. ‘What an honor to be a part of the team,’ Jane said as she grasped the shell charm that matched the one worn by her friend.“
The tricky thing about using all four of these elements is that we tend to rely on one or two more than the others. To reveal which ones you rely on and which ones you neglect, Pereira suggested that we graph the four on a compass. North is Thought/Feeling, East is Action, South is Dialogue, and West is Appeance.
Read a scene. When you read one of these as it relates to your POV character, make a check. Let’s say that your scene has 18 Thoughts, 8 Actions, 20 Dialogues, and 2 Appearances. Put a dot on that axis proportionally near the center for low numbers and the outer circle for large. Then, to make it all more visible, connect the dots and color in the quadrangle.
The four melon colored compasses are from my mentor text, Plaid and Plagiarism. As you can see, the balance shifts from scene to scene. I went ahead on graphed my own opening scene.
What did I learn? Generally I use a lot of dialogue, but there are very few characters so scene 1 was more thought and action. But I’m going to have to make sure I get Appearance into the story and, for that, I will break out my Emotion Thesaurus.