I wanted to write about a book with a character with limbs as distracted as mine, but if I go into the library I shall shatter jars of medlar liqueur and if I raid any of the piles of fiction in my loungeroom, the piles will totter and fall. In fact, one of them did, before I realised just how spectacular life was in my vicinity today. I discovered one novel that was sitting by itself, however, so that's the one I'm starting my posts on introductions and characters with. The book is Sheri S. Tepper's The Fresco.
Keep in mind that this isn't a review. None of these posts will be about how good or bad a book is overall. The fact that I adore Tepper's writing is immaterial, in fact. All I'll be doing is looking at the opening and how Tepper introduces us to core characters.
One important thing about the introduction of characters is that any given introduction can be read in a variety of ways. If you know any of the books I talk about over the next couple of weeks, please feel free to point out where your interpretation is different to mine. This sort of thing is important. It's not argument - it's showing that there is more than one way of reading the same words.
Another thing is that everyone always discusses how Jane Austen introduces her characters. (Maybe they don't. Maybe it's just the people I know. Maybe there is a Jane Austen obsession in my circles.) I shall not be talking about Jane Austen. I love her dearly and she is brilliant, but I shan't be looking at how she introduces a character. Sorry. Or am I sorry? I think I'm impenitent, actually. Not-sorry.
Tepper's first chapter is very short. It's eerie and evocative, but it doesn't introduce a person. No woman skipping along the beach, remembering her childhood. No action scene. No ... people.
To me this says that the place itself is a character, or that there's one hidden and that it might be dangerous or nasty. In this case it's clear that 'nasty' applies, as bones are found "Like a frieze of bloody murder, carefully displayed."
And that's our character introduction, in those few words. There is one, after all, even though we don't know who/what it is. Whether it's a human or a natural phenomenon or some strangeness that we don't understand, it has a personality. Or rather, we have the hope of understanding it, which means we'll be watching for it and for hints of it for the rest of the book, trying to penetrate the mystery.
Update: The Tepper was sitting alone because it's a duplicate. The first person to give me a really good reason for needing it is its new owner.
Update on update: since more than one person wants the Tepper (what good taste you all have!) I shall accept reasons until Friday then put all your names in a hat and draw one out.