Sunday, January 2, 2011
Characterization in the First Pages
I'm a little gimpy since I had surgery on three fingers last week, so I decided to try something that didn't involve a lot of typing. I've been thinking a lot about how to make my characters special and how to get the reader to fall in love with them quickly. In my infinite wisdom, I've deduced that it has to be done quickly. So, I'm posting part of my first scene in LIVER LET DIE to see if I accomplished that. Here is your introduction to Jordan McAllister, my Clueless Cook. I don't have a real cover yet, so this one will have to do.
Single white female stuck in a dead end job who barely makes the rent on the closet she calls home – looking for tall, dark, handsome rich guy who loves...
Jordan McAllister jumped, slamming her finger on the Delete key when the shrill ring of the phone on her desk jarred her from her daydream.
“Personals,” she answered.
“Ms. McAllister, this is Jackie Frazier. Mr. Egan needs to see you in his office.”
Jordan frowned. She’d been at this job less than three months, and already she was being summoned to the editor’s office. Since the administrative offices were on the second floor, she hadn’t even met the man yet. “When?”
“Now would be good,” Jackie said, inserting a touch of sarcasm and ramping up Jordan’s paranoia another notch.
Hanging up, she leaned back in the chair, trying to guess where she’d screwed up. Other than allowing an ad to run several days past its contract, nothing popped into her mind, but she was still on probation, which meant they didn’t need a reason to fire her.
Jordan glanced around the room at her co-workers, all either chatting with each other or busy at their cubicles. Since the only person who bothered to talk to her was the chubby guy in the mail room who hit on her every chance he got, there was no one to calm her fears.
Why was the editor summoning her to his office?
Yanking her purse from the bottom drawer of the desk, she powdered her face. If she was going to get tossed on her butt, she didn’t want to have a shiny nose. Shoving her purse back in, she locked the drawer. She didn’t know these people well enough to trust them with her lunch, much less her purse.
Jordan smiled. First of all, everyone stayed clear of her, acting like she was a leper after their jobs. And second, there was a grand total of six dollars and fifty-two cents in her wallet. She knew this because when she’d paid for the crunchy chicken sandwich at the deli on the corner an hour ago, she sacrificed adding a latte so she’d have enough money to buy a package of bologna on her way home.
How pathetic was she? Big city, college graduate with dreams of becoming a sports columnist for a famous city newspaper, wasting away in a small time newsroom writing personal ads for desperate people looking to hook up. Even more pathetic was that the one she’d been working on before the phone rang was her own.
She reached in the top drawer and pulled out a Hostess HoHo, thinking this was the drawer that should be under lock and key. God forbid she go through a day without one or two of these suckers. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, she unwrapped one and popped it into her mouth, closing her eyes as the chocolate immediately elevated her endorphin level. Common sense told her it couldn’t possibly work that fast, but there was something to be said for the placebo effect.
Standing, she blew out a calming breath and shut the drawer. She’d save her last chocolate treat for when she was cleaning out her desk. She walked down the aisle to the other side of the room, feeling twenty pairs of eyes on her. The newsroom was small, and it was a given that everyone knew she was on her way to getting canned. Kinda like at NFL training camp when a player got called to the head coach’s office and was told to bring his playbook.
Still, she kept her head high and tried to convince herself the editor was doing her a favor. Now, she’d be forced to go out and find the job of her dreams.
Who are you kidding?
After Brett dumped her for the cute little weather girl with perky clouds of her own before she’d even had time to find gainful employment after the move to Dallas, Jordan had spent two months searching for this miserable job. Seems the Metroplex had as many wannabe sports reporters as it did cowboys driving pickups. Her only shot at a career that didn’t include flipping burgers had brought her to Ranchero, a small town north of Dallas. The short, squatty, Human Resource Director at The Ranchero Globe had offered her the “opportunity of a lifetime” writing personal ads until “something else opened up”.
After a month on the job, Jordan realized “something else” was never going to open up. This was Ranchero, Texas, population twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and seventy-three – seventy four after she rolled into town with four suitcases and Maggie, her goldfish. Most of her co-workers had worked at the newspaper since high school, some even before. Unless someone got reassigned to the big newsroom in the sky, there would be no job openings anytime soon.
She stopped at the desk in front of the editor’s office and got her first look at Miss Sarcasm herself. “Jordan McAllister. I’m here to see Mr. Egan.”
I'm ready for critiques. Tell me if you get a sense of who my girl is and if you liked her. Then post a short scene introducing us to your hero/heroine. Don't be a chicken. We can all learn something that way.