After I'd read all of these contributions and seeing how well-written they were, I got panicky about posting my own! But I've decided to do it now, because I think it's an excellent exercise in making sure your writing says what you mean to say about your characters, rather than just being words.
So here is the first scene of Haunted Hearts...
Beth Albright gazed up at the imposing Georgian country house and hoped that it really was haunted. [This shows that Beth is intrigued by the paranormal and is a hopeful, positive person.] Any paranormal investigator would be thrilled at the chance to investigate such a classically old-looking mansion such as Hoblington Grange, and she was no different.
She stepped down from the porch, walked across the gravel, and peered down the flagstone path at the side of the Grange. Her arrival had been right on time [she's a punctual person who plays by the rules], yet nobody seemed to be here. [Why would somebody who had arranged a paranormal investigation not be eager to greet their investigator?] Three rings of the doorbell and a couple of heavy knocks on the hulking wooden front door had not yielded any results. She shrugged and headed for the side-path that led to the back garden. [She doesn't want to let this investigation go easily and is prepared to go looking for her client.]
It felt more than a little strange to be back in Little Hoblington after the years she'd spent away, let alone being back in the grounds of the Grange itself. [She used to either live or spend a lot of time in the village -- where did she go, and why did she leave? She also used to spend time at the Grange, but is excited to be back here.] A lot had happened since Beth's last visit to the house--a weekend break from university [she's educated] that hadn't gone exactly as planned--but in contrast, the big red-brick country mansion sat here all along, apparently unchanged by the passage of time. [She had moved on emotionally once she'd left Little Hoblington, even if nothing else moved with her. Did she want to put something behind her?]
An overgrown butterfly bush came into view as Beth neared the end of the path. It shook violently. A hand appeared and dropped a bunch of clippings on to the ground before vanishing again. [The person clipping the bush is doing it quite roughly. Is it because they are angry, or because they're just trying to get the job done?]
"Hello?" She quickened her step. "My name's Beth Albright. I'm here for the paranormal investigation."
The bush stopped shaking. [The other person has heard Beth, but why have they not reacted immediately to her presence?]
"I'm sorry to intrude back here, but nobody answered the front door. I was told to be here at ten o'clock but perhaps I'm a little early?" Beth suggested out of politeness. [Being a professional, she wants to be sure the person knows that she was here at ten a.m. (on time), but adds the latter part of the sentence in order to allow them a get-out clause.]
She stepped over the pile of clippings and raised her head to greet the new owner of the Grange. [She's eager to meet the person even if they're not so enthused.]
Instead she found herself unable to breathe. [Why? Whose presence could shock her so, and why does it have this effect on her?]
A matter of inches away stood a tall, well-built man. [This guy looks after himself and can handle his own.] He held a rusty pair of secateurs in one hand, while the other was loose by his side. [He's doing the job with what equipment he's got, even if it's not the best, or perhaps he simply doesn't look after things that well.] His dark brown hair was short but unkempt [he makes an effort at neatness, but it doesn't always carry through -- has he given up?], and smudges of dirt decorated his stubbled jaw and white polo shirt. Exceptionally dark blue eyes bored into hers [he's assessing her] and for a minute, Beth felt as though she'd been transported back in time to that last awful visit to Little Hoblington. [This man is somebody from her past who brings back bad memories.]
It wasn't the new owner of the Grange who stood before her. [She had assumed the same person who'd owned the Grange when she had known it before was no longer here.] Nor was it the well-spoken woman who had called her two weeks previously to arrange the paranormal investigation. [This man hadn't arranged the investigation, so who did, and why is he here?] It wasn't even a gardener.
It was Sam Aston-Wilkes. Her first love. The man she'd given her heart to--along with her innocence--and who had later discarded her as if she were as useless as the wandering branches of the butterfly bush he had just been decimating so well. [Kinda speaks for itself, I think...]
I would love to hear your comments if you'd like to leave any, as I've been hesitant about posting to match Julie's challenge! This has been fun, though :)
I hasten to add that all the annotations I have made are my intentions as an author of what questions or insights I hope are coming across to the reader as they read. I realize that somebody may read the opening scene and get a totally different idea of things, not understand some pointers, or find a couple of new ones. If this is the case, It would be great to know which notes you do or don't agree with and whether there are any clues to the characters you've spotted that I haven't pointed out.
Just finished reading: Love on the Rocks by Veronica Henry