Introducing the Hero: How to Flirt with your Reader

WritersdontcryIntroductionIf there’s one thing authors like to talk about more than their cats, it’s their characters. There are so many things to tell us about your character! Like, the depth of their wine-dark eyes, the whalebone curve of their lips, how their favorite color is the orange-pink of ocean sunsets…. And so on, down through favorite animals and up through the way they smell. And it’s understandable! You’ve spent so much time with this character that the moment they appear on the page, you want to share them in all their incredibly detailed glory.

But that’s kind of like grabbing someone you’ve just met in a full-throttle, full-body hug—while you whisper in their ear about every success you’ve achieved since the 2nd grade. All in hope of impressing them enough that they’ll like you. It’s a little too much, too soon, and no matter how awesome you actually are, they’re liable to back away slowly until they can bolt out the door.

When your reader first meets your main character, it’s a lot like flirting in a crowded room. You’re competing not only with all the other characters and setting elements in the room, but also with all the other books out there. And on top of that, you are forbidden from making the first move! So of course you want to do everything you can to help your character make an impression. Here are a few tips to help you—and your character—flirt your way into readers’ hearts.

1. Smile like a Sphinx

Nothing is more engaging than a secret. It’s like a flickering smile and a promising glance from across a room. One that hints at your clever understanding of the world, the startling depth of your personality, and the scintillating nature of your wit. It begs further investigation. It could be that the ruffian in the back of the bar with the too-intense eyes is actually a ranger-king-in-exile with a heart of gold, it could be that your hero was raised by a clan of chimera everyone assumes are the product of her imagination, or it could be hints from a devil that one twin is markedly different from her sister in ways unaffiliated with her appearance. Hinting at your hero's secrets flirts with the reader, drawing them in with the promise of learning more.

Leave a Comment

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this blog until approved.

Comments (5)

Fritz: Thanks for the recommendation! I'll have to check that book out.

Lauren: Thank you so much! Your comments made my day. Possibly my week as well. :)

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Monday April 16, 2012 at 9:23 AM

I love your blog and all your posts! There a lot of places to find writing advice but honestly you do it best. Your posts are sassy, and blunt and totally informative. So thank you for that! Have an awesome day


Posted by: Lauren | Sunday April 15, 2012 at 6:52 PM

I'm not sure whether the genre will be barrier, but if you are looking for a "flirty" villain, I would suggest checking out Dr. Impossible of _Soon I Will Be Invincible_ by Austin Grossman. Dr. Impossible was one of two first person narrators in the novel--the other being Fatale, who, if not having had to paired up with Dr. Impossible, would have been more engaging. Alas, she was overshadowed in my mind by Dr. Impossible.

Posted by: Fritz Freiheit | Thursday April 12, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Thanks, Kat! I'm glad you find it useful. I agree: Mr. Darcy is the perfect example of the sphinx--and man, has it earned him legions of admirers!

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Tuesday April 10, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Great post - some good tips there for us writers. Although sometimes whingey people can be very entertaining to read... Diary of a Nobody, A Confederacy of Dunces. But it's their making a massive problem out of a tiny thing that is so entertaining. I think about books with incredibly memorable characters, like Pride and Prejudice, where Austen does exactly what you describe as "Smile like a Sphinx" in Mr Darcy... brooding, not giving anything away until almost half way through the book!

Posted by: Kat | Monday April 9, 2012 at 12:39 AM

Lists + Reviews

Best Books Literature + Fiction Nonfiction Kids + Young Adult Mystery, Thriller + Suspense Science Fiction + Fantasy Comics + Graphic Novels Romance Eating + Drinking


Interviews Guest Essays Celebrity Picks

News + Features

News Features Awards


Omnivoracious, The Amazon Book Review

Feeds Facebook Twitter YouTube