Establishing Character Moment

"Sometimes, when you meet a new operative, it's a good idea to open with an aggressive move. You learn about people when you make them play defense: their reflexes, weaknesses, how they handle themselves under pressure. And even if they are able to counter, it never hurts to know how far they're willing to go."
Michael Westen, Burn Notice

First impressions count, and in TV and film, even more so; there's no point in hiring an actor to give us a Deadpan Snarker if people think he's seriously being a total ditz until the third act. So when the character comes into the plot you give them an Establishing Character Moment.

The first moment does not have to be huge, it doesn't have to be impressive, it doesn't even have to be first. It's about revealing a character's motivations and abilities in a single introductory scene. It could blow the roof and rappel in from a helicopter with an automatic in each hand...but if it's The Woobie, it's not a good idea (unless you're aiming for a Heartbroken Badass Hurting Hero like Harry Dresden or Spider-Man).

Sometimes the first thing needed is to set up how it fits into the plot, but this may not best reveal its character. So the Establishing Character Moment may be one or two scenes down the line. For TV shows and their episodic format, the character may first do what it needs to do in the episode and then, near the end, establish how the character will fit into the ongoing arcs and themes of the show.

Other times, the Moment may be the small calm when the character carries out something completely unrelated to the plot to show it in its natural element before putting it in an unrelenting storm of plot lines—for instance, during a Morning Routine sequence.

When it happens, it cannot be taken back. A running punt to a puppy will completely color attempts to Pet the Dog later, but if you start with a gentle stroke, then some people may get the wrong idea about your villain. Then again, a Bait the Dog moment may subvert this...or it might itself serve to show the complex, multifaceted Hidden Depths of that character.

If this happens in a musical, it can be in "I Am" Song format.

Subtropes include Bitch Alert, Moral Event Horizon, Incoming Ham, and Newcomer Saves the Day. See also Establishing Series Moment. May overlap with AM/FM Characterization.


Examples:


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EstablishingCharacterMoment