What was your name again?

Once again, another late-night post, but I’m not really complaining. I don’t know why I always feel like writing at night, it’s kinda weird actually since I’m a morning person. But whatever.

Anyways, tonight I thought I’d get into what can sometimes be the hardest part of creating a new plot or storyline: what to call your characters and what to call the book itself.

I kind of like naming characters, I find it quite fun. For the most part, I end up trying to give the name meaning relevant to where (I think) the character is going to go in his or her tale. Looking up name meanings is usually my first step, and once I’ve found a good one that I think fits, I head on over to a last name generator. I don’t give as much focus to the last name besides researching what nationality it is and things like that.

The unfortunate part is, that really only works if I’m writing characters in a modern-day setting. When you’re working with a past setting or one in the future, that has to be taken into consideration. Look up names that were common in your time period if it has already passed, and if you’re going futuristic, that’s where it gets tricky. Just as the names from even ten or twenty years ago are different, future names are probably going to be at least a bit different than ours. Maybe not completely, but a slight variation is pretty much unavoidable. For the main story I’m currently working on, I have a time frame about two hundred years in the future, and as a result have had to create most of my names from scratch or draw them from unlikely sources.

Another thing to think about with your story is “what the heck am I going to call this?” A title has to be at least a bit unique in order to stand out on that shelf in the library or on websites like GoodReads, catching someone’s attention as best as possible. Also, if someone is trying to search for your book and it comes up with a common title, it’ll just be that much harder to find.

In my opinion, it’s definitely easier to find a name after you’ve planned or written out the entire course of the story. I’m one of those people that writes and adds as they go rather than outlines everything first, so you can see why that would make sense. To find the right title, think about exactly what your book is about, what themes have become prominent in its story. Is is a chick-lit style book that’s cutesy and romantic, or a sci-fi/action page-turner? Both have completely different ideas and should have completely different titles.

For both character names and book titles, I like to keep a running list of ones I’ve thought of that I like. I might not use them for a while, there are a few that have been on the list for upwards of at least a year without use, but when the time comes they’ll be there for consideration.

Hope you’ve enjoyed yet another tidbit of what I’ve learned as a writer over the years. Your time is much appreciated, and I hope you’ve liked what you’ve read. See you all later 🙂

Three steps to better characters

Hello there fellow writers/readers! I’m on spring break this week, so my mood has been drastically improved with all of this time to get everything done. I hope your week has been going just as well!

Today I’d like to take a stab at what are essentially the lifeblood of a story, characters. This part can make or break your story just as much as the plot itself, so don’t be afraid to put a lot, and I mean A LOT, of effort into them. When you are able to created beautiful characters that are so real they could live next door to you, then you’ve mastered the art. But for those of us who haven’t, including myself at times, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • No one is perfect. No one. Not even your superhuman, scientifically-engineered-to-be-perfect character in your newest sci-fi fic. They will have a drawback, an achilles heel, somewhere, otherwise it would be impossible for them to encounter plausible opposition. Whether it’s a longing for a relationship in a romance that gets your guy/gal into a questionable partnership or a lack of humanity in the aforementioned sci-fi story, they will need something that can bring them down. Any character that hinges on mary-sue status (perfect character with no faults or downfalls) needs to either be revamped into a better idea or thrown into the furnace of discarded ideas.
  • Characters don’t have just one side to them. There’s a part that everyone sees, maybe part of them only their family sees, and things they will not tell anyone at all. Revealing everything at once to your reader could not only be overwhelming but is impractical and can lose their attention quite quickly.
  • There is always a motivation somewhere for whatever actions your characters are taking. They can’t do something ‘just because’, since even if they say that, there was a reason somewhere.
    • This can get especially important with your villains. Are they completely, 100% evil and insane and just doing what they’re doing because? Are they reluctantly following orders? Are they legitimately thinking that they’re doing the right thing?

This isn’t a foolproof list of things to consider when creating new people, but hopefully I’ve given you a few starting points to build the next protagonist, antagonist, or side character in your story.

Happy writing! 🙂