Thursday, June 13, 2013

Throwback Thursday: What's in a name?

Getting To Know Your Characters...

I was reading through my Overdunne blog this morning and I came across THIS post. Yah, the title is lame, and I'm sounding a teensy bit unstable (life in deployment-land is always unstable), but what I LOVE is re-reading my little blurb about my Flower of Stone manuscript. I shelved that manuscript about six months later and haven't even touched it for at least two years. It sounds fun though (did I write that story?)...maybe I should dig through the piles of virtual files and rework it...

...I digress. So. I'm looking at the blurb and I realize Flower's  main character's name is Ellen. Yup, Ellen. Dependent's protagonist is named Ellen. Two Ellen's, two VERY different manuscripts. Why did I do this?

"Zeus"... named after the god of the Sky
Well, because when I'm writing my first draft I'm just getting to know my characters. I'm a pantser--I don't outline other than very basic, sketchy stuff--and generally when I start a new manuscript I haven't a clue who my characters are. I find out about them as I write. I throw a name down (I guess Ellen is a winner in this case) and keep writing. Sometimes I do little writing-course exercises, like writing a few hundred words on what my character is afraid of or what makes my character feel safe. But generally the story shapes them in my mind as it unfolds.

So my character starts as Ellen, and changes as she meets elves or evil military commanders.

What are some other ideas to define your character and find a name?

* Look at your character from another's point of view. Is she annoying? Helpful? Silly? Smart?
* What are your characters favourite activities?
* Does he or she have any quirks? Any bad habits? Odd or different habits bring a character to life.
* Think about the backstory you haven't written. Maybe a childhood nightmare, a favourite toy, a song or a place she lived a long time ago that influenced her personality.
* Is your character named after a relative? Is she happy about it?

Severus Snape
Names are directly linked to how your reader will perceive your character. (Think Severus Snape or Willy Wonka) so choose wisely! As your character comes to life and develops a personality, her name may become more clear. In my two manuscripts the names stuck, but in others I've changed characters names half way through, even during final edits!

Now...where was that Flower manuscript...?



  1. I agree with Severus. It was a perfectly chosen name for that character (actually.. most of the names in that series are pretty spectacular!). My other top "perfect name for the character" is Elizabeth Bennett :) Thanks for the nice diversion.. now back to work!

    1. (sorry.. Bennet)

    2. One of my other favourites is Peeves! Agree with how many of JKR's characters fit their names. And what's not to love about Lizzie Bennet?


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