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I'm writing a book and my first chapter is action, then the 2nd chapter I want to introduce the main character who id=s not in the action. I staRTED THAT SHE IS WRITING A NOTE TO HER FRIEND, BUT I JUST DON'T KNOW HOW TO BEGIN  DESCRIBING HER WITHOUT IT SOUNDING AKWARD. pLEASE HELP AND POSSIBLY GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE.

Let me address a separate issue first, and that is that readers assume that the characters in the first chapter are the main characters. How does the first chapter make readers want to read more, if it does not involve at least one character that will sustain them through the remainder of the book?

Now as to your question about how to describe a character, your best bet is not to describe him or her at all, and certainly not in one long narrative. Instead, each character should build a little at a time, preferably through action or dialogue, every time he or she appears in a scene.

Instead of the narrative saying “Mary had blond hair,” the scene could go something like this:

Mary tucked a tuft of her blond hair behind one ear before she began writing.

In the above example, readers can visualize her hair more clearly, because she did something with it, which is better than the narrative simply telling readers a fact. Writers know they should show, rather than tell, but sometimes they don’t realize when they are telling and when they are showing. “Mary had blond hair” tells, rather than shows. It has no action. The second example shows action, and the blond hair information comes out through showing, rather than telling.

Later in the scene, instead of the narrative saying something like “Mary had long legs,” the information could come out through her actions, such as this:

She smoothed her skirt down over her long legs.

Again, the second version has action that shows, whereas the first version simply tells.  

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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