I like reading stories where the characters are given an initial run-down as they are introduced into the story.
The run-down could roast the character in sarcasm, describing what others say and had said about the character, or praise him/her, would include their hitherto history and known accomplishment, rumours and hearsay.
I classify the contents of a run-down into
The author's personal description about the character/personality of the character. (Character of the character? Silly, but how else could I say it?)
The author's revelation about the thought history, desires and disappointments of the character that only the author would have known.
The character's known history
- known by general public
- known by a select few
- known by a partner
History of chatter, opinions, roasts, allegations found in item 3 concerning the character, but written without direct opinion from the author about the character.
- General public chatter
- Excerpts of chatter within family, colleagues, nemeses, small unknown parties
- Past interactions with spouse, children, close friends, nemesis.
The run-down is lightened up and made entertaining with roasts and sarcasm. A run-down is written as an intriguing short story within the story. I am not saying the run-down is compartmentalized into the four categories. Rather, the run-down relies on those four categories written as a short story.
But as the story proceeds, the actual character of those persons would take twists and turns, that would prove the initial run-down as wrong, inadequate or vindicated, besides the changes in the personality and experiences of the character.
I remember reading Dune. I remember the doctor who betrayed Duke Leto Atreides. However, I also recall observing Frank Herbert's writing of the series having become darker and relying more on author's personal perception in the initial run-down of a character, after the death of his wife. I think when an author becomes lazy making the initial run-down an op-ed piece rather than an intriguing short-story - that ruins the whole story.