Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writerz Blok: You're OK, but your MC is a jackwagon

This is probably the most embarrassing aspect of my life to which I'll ever confess.

But I'm a fan of the show Judge Judy.

I can't help it. I like guessing which person the judge will believe.

It's usually not hard. Not if you look for the telltale signs of insincerity. Fidgeting. Eye rolling. Arm crossing. Stuttering and stammering. People give away a lot about themselves through speech, body language and facial expressions.

First impressions are made very quickly.

And you know what Momma always said about getting a second chance to make a first impression. . .

It doesn't happen. Truly.

Studies have shown that people form their first impressions of strangers in less than five seconds.

Five seconds!

And it's hard to overcome a negative first impression. Most people -- even the ones who've displayed a poor judge of character in the past -- believe their first impression is right on.

So what does that have to do with being a writer?

Everything . . . when your main character is the one who needs to do the dazzling.

That's part of the reason why the first page is so important.

(insert groan here)

I know. I know. I'd be the first person to say there's way too much emphasis put on the first page of a story.

But maybe it should be looked at like this: The first 250 words of a manuscript are like those five seconds your MC has to leave a good first impression on a reader.

The reader has to be sympathetic to your MC.

But your MC can't come across as pathetic.

Your MC has to display some sort of trait that makes him attractive to the reader.

But he has to have flaws because readers won't relate to a character who is perfect.

Your main character has to give a little bit of himself away so the reader can form a bond with him.

But your MC can't "tell" too much or give away the farm. After all, a little intrigue goes a long way.

Of course, it's all subjective.

I don't like everyone I meet. In fact, I'd rather chew off my left foot than spend too much time with certain people I know. But very few people go through life completely unloved; almost everyone has at least one redeeming quality

As long as your main character has a likeable trait from the getgo, someone will love him, too.

What do you like about your main character?


Crimey said...

I was really feeling the heat there for a moment, oh wait, I still am. Great points on why the first page has to make a great first impression on the reader. I'm dreading the day (which I'm guess is coming soon) that I have go back to page one.

Eric said...

First off, Judge Judy is a spaz. Sorry, but my biggest grudge against her is how sexist she is (in favor of women). Anyway, to each their own LOL.

As far as the discussion, I agree and yet don't agree with you. I do agree that your first page needs to have impact. And to some extent, you need to capture your reader's attention regarding the MC as soon as possible. Part of me however, thinks that if you're not loving the MC right off the bat, that doesn't mean it's a bad story nor does it mean the MC won't grow on you (much like in real life). There are people I know in real life that I maybe didn't truly appreciate until I'd spent a little time getting to know them. And all that information about them couldn't naturally happen right up front. The same way with our stories.

Kat Harris said...

LOL Eric...Let me clarify something about my fascination with the show Judge Judy. It has nothing to do with the person Judge Judy.

Like I said, I'm a fan of the show, but it's because I'm intrigued by the plaintiffs and defendants.

I also agree that you can't pack all of that info about an MC in the first page, but your MC shouldn't do anything on the first page that will make him appear like...well, a jackwagon. :-)

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Great post! Great looking blog page too. LOVE it!

I love Judge Judy too. I love her tenacity and attitude. I often wonder, "How does she know?" She's amazing. Never feel guilty for admiring strong women! Your one of them!

KM Wilsher said...

I usually identify with the characters flaws. . .that usually endears me to them. Makes them human :)

Great post, Kat. Judge Judy. I have watched her a few times, and the other judges too.

S. C. Green said...

So true.
First impressions are what make or break a story for me. I don't ever decide to buy a book without reading at least the first page.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Hey, I like that. Judge Judy's show could serve as a good character generator!

You know, when it comes to MCs and first impressions, I think scene choice is crucial.

When I began my last novel, I initially started with a scene in which the young hero was drunk. He had PLENTY of reason to want to escape his woes, but it did not work as an introduction to the character.

I think we all have lovable moments and bad ones (I certainly do!) and whether or not we are likable depends on when someone meets us. I'm glad God and some people love me despite my weaknesses, but I don't expect the same from first impressions.

Anonymous said...

Judge Judy? Really? LOL.
She cracks me up. Never saw an entire episode, but the commercials she comes across as wicked-tough. LOL.

Nice post. Yep, 250 words. YIKES!!! Pressure, huh?

It is subjective, but still, the overall concept isn't. Gotta reel the readers in with the first five seconds.

What do I like about my main character? Well, in my novel, Winged, I love how vulnerable she is. That was a new approach for me. Usually my characters are rough and tough, but broken.

We'll see if it works, though. LOL.

Happy Friday, Kat!