My response to stillnotbored's post was getting kind of long, so I posted the essence of it there and will continue to muse on my own page to protect the uninterested.
Good point, and come to think of it, I'm the same. I don't necessarily need to know who to cheer for--or who the writer wants me to see is the goodie or the baddie--but I do want an indication of why the character is important. However, I do make that statement with a qualifier: I may not need to know the import of the character, the dialogue, or the whatsits in each scene, but I do want to be entertained and I do want to *have to pay attention* in order not to miss something that will come into play later on. In other words, the whys and wherefores don't need to be crystal clear immediately. I like cookies, and I like layers. Give me seeds; give me aha! moments. This pertains to plot as well as character.
As a reader I want to feel smart, to know that my paying attention will be rewarded; and in order to get me to pay attention, I need characters with presence, quirks, a strong desire, a visible problem. And when I say problem, I don't mean one of the genre "blow up everything/kill everyone the character cares for so I'll feel sorry for them and want to read their story." Call me shallow, but if I don't have a prior investment in a character, death of loved ones, explosions, et al. aren't going to move me. I'm much more engaged by moral dilemmas. So, first appearances are better when they show me that the iceberg (character) is worth uncovering judging by the tip (intro scene) I read. As broad and useless as it sounds, entertain me (make me laugh, wonder), engage me (make me question, suspect). That is the key: Show me just enough about that character to entergage me.
From a writerly perspective: Characters are *people.* Some of them you can peg right off--the typical shallow as a mud puddle variety--and others need a little more time, a little pressure, an opportunity to reveal the full range of their strengths and defects--and I tend to take this into account when judging how to present them on the page (IOW, what is their purpose in the story and what do the readers need to know about them? Will they grow during the course of the story? etc.) I do believe, though, that in my WIP I laid the "bad" on a tad too quickly in my villain's first few scenes, so this question from you comes at an opportune time to help me thresh this out.
All in all, I love when an author can change my mind about a character (think Malta in Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy), so, no, I don't buy that the writer has to lay all the characters bare on their first appearance on page. In fact, I prefer if they don't.
I think it is fine and dandy to say that I do such and such when I'm writing, but it is quite another to pull it off successfully. Upon further reflection of my character echelon, I think that those in positions to change do not necessarily do so. If I had to catalogue the changes, I would say I'm into "Re's"--I have a "Realization," a "Relinquishment," and a "Rebuff." Yet, come to think of it, the Rebuff is not even something that is followed closely enough for that final rejection to count. Um, not developed enough as in non-existent. Oh dear. So, in fact there is no rebuff. *Maniacal laughter ensues* OK *thinks, thinks, thinks* *feels a breakthrough concerning the ending coming on.* As a result of this rewrite, I knew that one character thread would end differently, and yet, I didn't know how. I decided to just wing it until I started getting close and, hopefully, as a result of lots of motivation-mining, the characters would take over. And voilà. I just had an epiphany.
Thanks so much stillnotbored for asking those questions. I may have gone off on my own tangent, but it is exactly what I needed to do. I may not be itching to get back into the writing, but epiphanies are a good place to start!