It might be a partner, a colleague, a stranger, a long lost friend, or even an enemy.
And it’s because we do more than see. There’s a hint of perfume, or tobacco, or alcohol. There’s a pitch or tone to the voice that is stressed, excited, perhaps distant, or inviting.
Their posture is hurried, pensive, worn out, relaxed.
With someone close to us, this glance tells us even more, because we’re using all our senses, and we know the person better than almost any other. We intuit nuances and tiny differences of expression, and we just know what is up. Not so with the characters in the books we write.
The reader can’t meet the character, like we do, in real life, and get that instant perspective. So we paint the picture over time. Their voice is thin, high, deep, rasping, lilting. The other senses kick in when we let the reader know that their hair smelled of apples, or cordite, or baked apples and cordite. And their taste, yes,their taste – salty, pure, of raindrops, and more.
As writers we’re lucky – we can give our characters the dialogue that fills in the gaps.
‘ Don’t do that. Don’t try and domesticate me even slightly. Its the best way to lose me’
This is typical of Inca, the female protagonist in my upcoming sci-fi novel and graphic novel (also quite typical of my real life partner). We get to know her barriers, her thing.
Just like we get to know the people around us. It just usually takes a while to paint the character with words, until a point where the reader can fill in the gaps, and know what the character is feeling, thinking, or might do,
But that’s great isn’t it? Instead of one tell-all glance, we get to build our character at the pace the reader reads. What I’ve learned from this is, I don;t have to do it all at once.
I don’t have to slam down in front of the reader a tall, short, blonde,bald,wise, sad, egocentric, introverted, party animal recluse.
I can just give them one glance at a time.