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TV Tropes Monday: Establishing Character Moment

Tweet of the Day: Every Witch Way: Witches in Fantasy


As tropes go this one is as self-explanatory as they come. Yet, pulling it off successfully is difficult, especially in print. Visual media has the advantage that it shows a great amount of detail with an image, we are visual creatures after all. But on the page, the reader relies entirely on what the writer chooses to write. It is one of the reasons why many writers rely on a laundry list of descriptions when a new character enters the page. They want to make sure that the reader “gets” who this person is. But here are a few things to consider:

  • You may not want to reveal everything at once.
  • Sometimes less is more. What is missing can reveal more than what is shown.
  • Timing is important. The ECM doesn’t have to happen the very first time the character appears or be limited to one appearance.
  • Main characters are more or less always in an Establishing Character Moment because the focus is on them most of the time.
  • ECMs need not be the most action filled parts of the story. As the page mentions, having the character go through their routine can reveal as much as what they do under pressure.
  • This is a trope that begs to be subverted and played with.
  • The best ECMs have multiple layers and subtle foreshadowing.

Sometimes writers create an explicit in your face moment that falls flat because it is so obvious it distracts or delays the narrative. For best results, deploy this trope early (but not necessarily at first glance) and don’t let it get in the way of the narrative.


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