First Impressions

first impressions

Judging a book by its cover

We’re told this is a bad thing, but first impressions can be powerful. The negative connotations in real life can become strengths in writing, where without strong first impressions you will be unlikely to hold the attention of a reader long enough to craft a second.

For the example exercise below, I was sat in a cafe – and people watching has always been one of my favourite pass-times. It didn’t take me long to find a suitable candidate!

Describe the person in front of you in 200 words

He’s in his late 20s. His hair is a mess, his face unshaven. The glasses perched mid-way down his nose are thick-rimmed, his jeans skinny cut. His jumper fraying at the wrists, with threads loosening from between the stripes. He sits, slouched, lazily sipping his half fat, extra-hot twattacino with a pile of academic texts under one elbow. Lecturing an attractive but bored looking young woman opposite him on the evils of the modern world, and how we should all live our lives selflessly in pursuit of a better one. I suspect I’m thinking the same thing his companion; ‘Can this guy hear himself?’. His narcissism off the scale, he continues to explain exactly what he thinks and why he thinks it

I suspect I’m thinking the same thing his companion; ‘Can this guy hear himself?’. His narcissism off the scale, he continues to explain exactly what he thinks and why he thinks it in the most painfully right on way I’ve heard in forever. Punctuating his inane drivel by flicking his unkempt hair from his face more often than really necessary. Just another affectation being sported by a guy composed entirely of affectations. His overly earnest proclamation, as he sips his £4 coffee, that a worthy life should be selfless somewhat at odds with the expensive watch on his wrist.

Use those first impressions

Wherever you are right now, look around for the most visually interesting person you can see. Use your first impressions to build a character for them based on the superficial. There are echoes of extreme editing here – without discipline, you may find it difficult to achieve much in the 200-word limit. Let us know how you get on – leave a comment or head for Facebook and Twitter if you prefer, as well as our other social media networks from the links in the menu above.

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