It would be easy to describe Edgar, the log salvage man, in a routine description, telling what he wore and how he talked, how he smelled, or how he behaved. But after a few sentences, would my readers still be with me, especially since Edgar was a secondary character? Why would a reader want to bother?
There are many ways to introduce characters and let the reader get to know them. Here is one method I used in my novel, The Wind Weeps. Edgar is important to the story, but he is a secondary character. Andrea, my main character, has a new job as a wharfinger’s assistant. She greets Edgar as he pulls in to dock at the wharf with his salvage boat and she goes to help him tie up.
Excerpt from “The Wind Weeps”
Edgar’s beat up log salvage boat, Prowler, sidled up to an empty dock space, the engine roaring and spewing blue smoke. Below the waterline, the exhaust sputtered and rumbled. A rainbow film of gasoline crept over the surface of the water. The floating wreck couldn’t have seen a coat of paint in years. Specks of white—all that was left of the original paint—stuck to dented, scarred aluminum. I assumed the jagged metal teeth attached to the bow like pieces of a huge, big-toothed saw, were for pushing logs. The open boat had a canopy over the bridge where the skipper and a deckhand might sit somewhat protected from the weather. But, exposed to the elements, the back was littered with coils of rope, peevee poles, power saws, axes, and piles of chains. Ugly, loud, and stinking of gas and oil, the Prowler’s arrival could not be ignored.
One of the older boat owners and a permanent resident of Lund, Edgar was probably in his seventies, but he hopped out onto the float with the spryness of a much younger man. He was shadowed by an invisible pong of oil and garbage. I wrinkled my nose and reached for the stern line to help him tie up.
“Hi, Edgar. I’m surprised to see you here. Don’t you usually tie up at the floats at Finn Bay?” I knew Bert wouldn’t be pleased to have him tie up here.
“Hey there, Andrea. Yah, that’s right. I won’t be long. Just have to run up to the general store to get some more tobacco. I run out in the middle of the job and it makes me right owly to be without it.”
“Course it does,” I said. He had the sallow, wrinkled skin of a seasoned smoker.
His grimy hand reached for the line I was about to tie. “Here, I’ll do that. These lines is kinda dirty and I don’t want ya gittin’ yer hands fulla grease ’n’ stuff.” I gladly gave the line over to him.
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If you enjoy reading The Wind Weeps, please check out the sequel, Reckoning Tide.