One of my favorite components of writing is introducing characters. This is your opportunity to share details with the audience about your players. You can tease the information out in dribs and drabs, or make it read like an FBI profile. It’s entirely up to you.
When facilitating a writer’s workshop or meeting with a high school English class, I’ve often used this quick video from the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. It’s a great example of sharing details with the audience. While it’s not the first glimpse you catch of Captain Jack Sparrow, it’s definitely a memorable one.
Just like my characters, it’s important for me to mix up the introductions. In some novels, I’ve started with just a taste. Others it’s been a more formal introduction. At times I’ll write one of each, then go back and forth until I decide which one works best. Usually I’ll defer to the way my players interact. Jamie may shake her head in dismay, impatient with little information, demanding more. Hey, she’s a stubborn redhead. What more can I say?
Here’s an example from “Fleeing Beauty”. In this scene, Jamie and Linda are meeting Harrison Mundy for the first time. Jamie hopes that Mundy may have information about the robbery from her father’s studio.
We arrived at the Townsend Hotel five minutes early. Something told me that Harrison Mundy was not the type of man who would like to be kept waiting. At the hostess stand, an attractive young woman wearing way too much makeup and perfume gave us a vague smile.
“Are one of you Miss Jamie Richmond?” she asked in a breathy voice, as if she’d just run up two flights of stairs wearing stiletto heels.
“That’s me. We’re supposed to be meeting someone.”
She nodded twice. I noticed that her hair didn’t move when she did that. “Your party has already arrived. Right this way.”
We followed her across the room to a private corner table. I noticed there was no one else within twenty feet of it. A distinguished looking man with a full head of silver hair was already seated. As we drew closer he rose smoothly and extended his hand.
“You must be Miss Richmond.”
“Please, just call me Jamie,” I said, lightly taking his hand.
“Thank you, Jamie.” He turned smoothly to Linda. “May I presume that you are Miss Davis?”
She took a step back in surprise before taking his hand. “I prefer Linda.”
He flashed a charming smile at both of us. “I would be pleased if you will call me Harry. Let us sit down.”
I noticed the place setting that was to the right of his chair was disturbed. Linda took the seat on his left and I took the one opposite him. Before we were settled, an exotic looking beauty with silky black hair came over from the bar and took the empty seat.
“This is Jocelyn.”
She smiled and nodded. A waiter appeared with a tray of food.
“Perhaps a drink would be in order?” Mundy said.
I ordered tonic water and lime. Linda asked for a glass of chardonnay.
“How did you know who I would bring along?”
Mundy flashed a smile at me that was almost blinding in its brightness. “I prefer to know as much as I can about the people I am meeting. Even though I am retired, I like to keep my senses sharp.”
“So you’ve retired from a life of crime?” I asked.
“Really, Jamie, you know I am not a criminal. I was never convicted or even accused of an illegal act. I have many interests that have been cultivated over the years. Is there a particular area of my expertise that appeals to you?”
I took a moment to study him while phrasing my response. He was very handsome, with the dazzling smile, smooth complexion, and thick silver hair. He was fit and trim, perhaps a little taller than me, which would put him about five-foot eight-inches tall. I had no doubt the suit he was wearing was tailor made for his frame. He spoke with an educated tone. His nails were manicured.
“I would like to know about art thefts, particularly the best way to do it. Did you always have a buyer in mind?”
He chuckled dryly. “Jamie, what makes you think I know anything about thievery?”
“Perhaps in your studies of the subject, you learned how thieves work.”
“That is a very good answer,” he said. “May I presume your interest stems from the recent discovery of your father’s work?”
“He really did do his research,” Linda said quietly.
“You may,” I replied somewhat sullenly. It dawned on me that I was mimicking his precise way of speaking. This wasn’t like me at all. And it was obvious that Mundy was in complete control of the conversation and the situation. Disgusted with myself, I speared a prawn with my fork and focused on sawing it into bite sized pieces.
“Miss Davis is quite correct. Before I accepted your inquiry, I researched your background. It is somewhat unsettling to discover how much information can be so readily available on the Internet. Shall we dispense with the formalities and the subterfuge?”
“What the hell. I’d appreciate that.”
“Then tell me what it is you are really interested in?”
“If you were going to steal some of Peter’s artwork, how would you do it?”
Mundy leaned back in his chair. “Suppose I give you a hypothetical example of the theft of some artwork. Would that be helpful to your situation?”
“So if you were hypothetically going to steal some of Peter’s artwork, how would you go about it?”
“There are many ways to execute a perfect crime. But each one takes a great deal of careful planning and preparation. Contingencies must be calculated as well.” Mundy raised a hand. "Pardon me, Jamie, but I do not want to know what is missing. You are asking me to postulate a hypothetical robbery. I will need some time to consider various options. I must ask your indulgence.”
Puzzled, I glanced across the table at Jocelyn. She smiled and rose smoothly from her chair. I realized Mundy was now on his feet as well.
Harrison Mundy dropped his linen napkin on the table. I noticed his glass was empty and the appetizers were gone. He shot his cuffs.
“Jocelyn and I have another commitment.” He turned slightly toward Linda and lifted her hand. Smoothly he bent forward and grazed his lips across her knuckles. “It has been a delightful pleasure to meet you both.”
Linda’s cheeks flared red. “Thank you,” she stammered.
Mundy turned to me. I was standing now, trying to figure out how to prolong the conversation. His eyes were twinkling as he looked at me.
“Your reputation is well deserved, Jamie. I must admit to be intrigued by your—situation. When the time is right, I will be in touch.” With that he gently, but firmly, took my hand and did the knuckle grazing kiss. I felt a flush run through me. Who was this guy?
This week's musical selection is from Stevie Wonder. Hope you enjoy it.