How do you name your characters?  

Image courtesy of FakyFakersin

     It is a question I have seen quite a few times, so I’ve decided to share my process and hopefully get a few tips from you in return.  

     Some characters may come to you fully developed and knowing exactly who they are, name and all, simply looking for a voice to tell their story.  For those characters that are waiting to be born and molded, naming them can be as complex and intimate as naming a child.  In essence, these characters are your children, they are your brainchildren.   Here are a few methods that I use when naming characters:

1.  I know you: Sometimes characters can remind us of people that we know; be it their physical description or personality traits.  When this happens, I play on the name or nickname of the real person that I know.  For example, if a character reminds me of my neighbor “William”, I might name them “Bill” or even “Liam”.  

2.  You mean…: If a certain character trait stands out to me, I might surf baby name websites looking for names that fit those traits.  If my character is the leader of a group in the story, I might name them AlephFallon, or Harlod depending on their gender and which one “speaks” to me most.  A more obvious and literal example of this is the seven dwarves from Snow White.

Image courtesy of dorne

3.  You look like: There are times when I can see the character’s “image” clearly in my head.  When I get a sense of things like nationality, complexion, eye color and/or stature, I might do an image search online for actors/actresses or models that fit the mold.  If I find someone that undeniably resembles the image I have in my head, I will either use that person’s first name or play on the name the same way I do in #1 above.

4.  Randomize me: When all else fails, I will use Scrivener’s name generator.  It is a great tool that allows you to narrow the results based on things like gender or nationality.  You can also choose whether you want only first names, surnames or a combination of the two.  It even gives you the option of using alliteration or setting the obscurity level.  Do you want a basic name or something off the wall that fits perfectly in a sci-fi novel?  If I am looking for a full name (first and last) I tend to mix and match the results rather than using a name exactly as generated.

What are some methods you use to name your characters?  Are your methods similar to mine or do you have a few tricks of your own?

Oh my goodness, is it Wednesday already?  With so much going on, I nearly forgot to post this week’s blog.  While I haven’t been working on the edit like I should be (I know, I know, shame on me), I have been writing everyday.  So, rather than blathering on or slapping something together haphazardly, I’ll share with you a new piece that I wrote just yesterday.  

Image courtesy of africa

This tale is not a love story
It’s the ongoing saga of my weight and me

My weight and I, we go way back
We fuss and we fight but not matter what,
We stick together, through thick and thin
We have our ups and our downs,
But my weight, she’ll never leave me

No, really, I can’t get rid of her
I think she’s stalking me
I’m telling you, she’s crazy
I’ve tried everything I can think of
But she’s hard to shake

Diet and exercise,
Yeah that’s all well and good,
But one wrong move
And she’s all over me again

She’s a tricky little thing too
I caught her hiding in my spare tire
So I girded myself, ready to deflate it,
But when I wasn’t looking
She hopped into my trunk
Where she stayed out of sight
Until one day I noticed,
My jeans were rather tight

Hold on a second,
This isn’t so bad
She’s starting to compliment me
So how can I stay mad

Now my weight and me,
We’re on better terms
I’m still not too happy with her
And I’ll keep her in my sights
But for now she’s alright
So long as she’s got my back

Image courtesy of dream designs

     You know that feeling you get after a good run, where you struggle to catch your breath?  How about when something scares you so much you feel like your heart is going to beat right out of your chest?  Changes in breathing pattern or heart rate are great ways to convey what your character is experiencing without spelling it out in detail for the reader.  The trouble with vampires, they don’t breath or have a heartbeat.  

     I’ve written before about “writing what you know“.  What I know, is that feeling when you see someone special and it makes your heart flutter.  What I know, is how a kiss or a touch can take your breath away.  What I know, is what it feels like to be so angry you need to take deep, calming breaths to slow down your pounding heart.  When I’m writing, my first instinct is to make my character sigh, gasp, bestill her beating heart, but then I remember, she’s a 200 year old vampire.  Everything I know is completely irrelevant to her.  But does that mean I should scrap everything I’ve worked on so far and stick to writing what I know?  Absolutely not!  After all, what is fiction, if not the imaginings of an author and our imaginations can take us to places we have never been before.

Image courtesy of samuiblue

     Anytime I run into this issue, which is quite often, I need to delve deeper into my memory.  I need to remember beyond the shortness of breath or the increase in heart rate that are so dominant.  I need to think back to the other queues my body offered when I was angry, excited, in love, etc…  Among these queues are the butterflies in my stomach, the stiffening of my muscles, the flushing of my cheeks.  But wait, flushed cheeks are caused by a blood rush and again, not relevant to vampires.  So deeper still, I must dive.

     My hope, is that in doing this exercise, I will find a way to connect with my readers on an even deeper level.  It forces me to go beyond the quick and easy.  I find myself analyzing real life situations as they are happening or directly after so that I can remember every nuance and incorporate it into my writing.  It’s forcing me to remember feelings that I haven’t felt in a while and reminding me that, unlike my main character, I am actually alive.

Image courtesy of Writing Humour

     Everyone has their own reasons for writing.  Some people use writing as a way to purge their minds of all the thoughts constantly running through their heads.  Some do it to fight for a cause.  And some are in it strictly for the money.

     The Ugly Side of Writing offers a look at the six types of writers and the famous authors that fall into these categories.  One person can fall into multiple categories.  I, myself, feel that I fall into “The Weird Recluse” category.  That’s not to say that I think I am a literary genius, but this is the one that I can actually identify with; locking myself away and writing in seclusion is how I work best.

     I envy “The Space Cadet”, the writer that can journey into a fantastical world and transport their readers there along with them.  My own writing is so grounded in reality that I find it difficult to create completely new worlds or languages.    How I would love to create something as wonderfully, magical as The Princess Bride or something out of this world like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I just don’t think I have that in me.

   While it would be nice to be able to make a living doing something that I enjoy, I know that I could never be “The Greasy Palm”.  Despite the fact that I spend my days earning a living by working in finance, it is not something that motivates me to write.  I’m not a networker, people person or schmoozer.

     “The Ray of Sunshine”, seems to me, to be a mix of “The Space Cadet” and “The Greasy Palm”; a perfect balance of creativity and business.  This is the marketable writer, the one that can deliver not only on the writing, but on the business of writing.

     “The Angry Young Man/Woman” is passionate.  They find something they believe in and use the written word to fight for that belief.  Like me, their writing is based in reality.  The reason I don’t believe I fit into this category is that my writing is not trying to create awareness of a cause.  I am not trying to open anyone’s eyes to the world around them.  In fact, I try to do the opposite.  I try to offer a world that the reader can escape to, however non fantastical it may be.

     “The Bitter Failure” can likely start out in any of the other categories.  Writing takes perseverance.  There will be many more no’s than yeses along the way and not everyone that aspires to be an author can handle the rejection that comes with sending their work out into the world.  This kind of rejection can easily break a person’s spirit, causing them to become bitter and angry.

     What type of writer are you?