Introductions are some of the hardest things to do. Introducing yourself to someone face to face isn’t so bad, but introducing yourself on paper, or online, is actually really hard. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that lately, and trying to figure out why that is, and I think I’ve figured it out. It all comes down to context.
Introducing yourself on paper is really nothing like introducing yourself face to face. When you meet someone face to face, life provides the context. It’s the first day at school, or you’ve started a new job, or you just moved in to a new place; that’s your context. And the person meeting you have their own context, parallel to yours; it’s their first day of school as well, or there’s a newbie at work, or someone just move in the block (or the neighbourhood). On paper, and/or online, there is context as well, of course, all life is within context, but the context isn’t parallel.
I though introducing a main character in a novel would be a closer approximation, but it isn’t really. For one thing, when you write a novel, you have your choice in the narrative, and there’s a reason most people use the third one; it’s the easiest. (The first one isn’t the hardest, though. That would be the second one.) For another, there are a lot of little tricks to introducing a character. You can open the book with a secondary character, to ease the reader in the universe. You can open the novel with a conversation the character is having with another character, or plunge into the action.
Very few books I’ve read opened with an introduction to the main character, to their presonality and their state of mind. Those that do that that in common with the successful, or at least the well organized, social media personality: they have an angle, a gimmick. Some play the mystery card (“Call me Ishmael” is in no way the same thing as “My name is Ishmael”), some have a more or less narrow focus (books or movies or music or fashion or art or food or etc, etc, etc), others have a personality quirk that they play up for the audience.
I don’t have one of those. Unless … is overthinking supposedly simple stuff a personality quirk? If not, then I guess I’ll have to play the mystery card.