A Writer's Objectives

Posts tagged ‘Characters’

What’s in a Name? Naming Your Characters: Part 2

I did a post back in January about Character Names and promised others. While the first one focused on easy to pronounce (but not too simple) names, this one is going to focus on name meanings.

I know a lot of writers who create a character and give them names based on their personality. For example; Merrick is a very powerful and well known individual among his kind. He is aware of his fame and power, but he doesn’t flaunt it. In fact, he tends to hide away from it as best as he can. Why is all this important? Because the name Merrick derives from words that mean ‘fame’ and ‘power’ and is always associated with very humble individuals. The name goes well with the personality and the character in general.

Sometimes, however, authors don’t take the time to make sure their perception if a names meaning is actually the true meaning. Some people choose names based on what societal belief of the meaning is, not the true meaning. For example; Lucifer is a very dark, mysterious and evil character.* He thrives on causing pain and suffering. No one gets in his way and if they do, they don’t live long to tell the tale. This doesn’t work; societal belief is that name Lucifer is evil. Wrong. Lucifer means ‘Bringing Light’. Thanks to (surprise) Hollywood, the name is forever immortalized as being evil, when in truth Lucifer is simply a fallen angel and not evil in the least.

If you wish to name your characters by meaning, please make sure you actually know what the meaning of the names are. While not all characters are named by meaning (we’ll talk more about that next time), ones that are, should be done correctly. Your strong, warrior heroine who has been surviving on her own for years should be given a name such as Valda or Bree, which mean ‘power’ rather than something like Lamis or Belinda, which mean ‘soft’. Your dark sorcerer who enjoys murdering innocent people and taking many an unwilling county lass to his bed should have  a name like Shyama or Ciar, which mean ‘black’ rather than something like Gil or Ronen, which mean ‘joy’ (unless you’re going for a humorous opposite effect, which we will discuss later).

Personally, one of the ways I use to help match name meanings to my characters (when I feel like doing so) is using baby name books and websites. One of the best that I have found and used many times is Behind the Name. This site has a large array of names and meanings and weeds out all the created names that people often mistake for others. I’ve used it for not only characters in stories, but also for characters in games (Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft, mostly). It is a tool I utilize quite often and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in name meanings.

Now, I mentioned naming a character by meaning using the ‘humorous opposite effect’. There are some authors who, while they enjoy delving into name meanings, prefer to name their characters names that mean the opposite of what they are like. Let’s assume the creator of the character Lucifer (that I mentioned earlier) was going for this effect. It works, now. That tough-guy barbarian character you have could be named something that means ‘soft’, ‘gentle’ or ‘flower’.

Naming a character based on meanings can be taken in several directions, but it is important to make it clear what your intentions are. Simply naming them isn’t always enough. That barbarian named something soft and gentle should be aware what his name means and either hate it or find it hilariously ironic. Lucifer should wonder at his name, perhaps he believes that all the chaos he brings is his ‘light’ and that his name fits him perfectly.

Names are (in my opinion) more important to characters than most people recognize. Not only are they a way to identify a character, but they are also a means of giving them an existence. When naming your characters, no matter what your methods, please take care. You could have the next Harry Potter in the making; what name would you want to be immortalized for?

Pay Attention to Detail

I recently started reading a book. No surprise there, right? Here’s a big surprise: I stopped reading it after four chapters. The plot was sound, the characters were great and just about everything about it was interesting. The problem? Details. Every new scene had so many details crammed in that it was difficult to recall what was going on. Two pages describing a single building later, and I couldn’t remember why the characters were even at the house in the first place. But, at least I had a very very very clear image of the house in my head, right?

Wrong.

There’s an invisible line drawn in the sand when it comes to details. A lot of authors either cross it (a lot) or don’t even reach the line. There are very few authors capable of standing on the line; how does one stand on something they can’t see, anyway? I’m hoping this entry will help some of you to at least get a little closer to the line.

Because I’m tired of huge blocks of text, which means I am sure you are as well, I’ll do this in bullet form. If you like it better than the past entries I’ve done, I’ll try to stick with bullet form rather than assault you with long blocks of text.

Let’s talk about too much detail, first:

  • If you find yourself describing every outfit your character wears in so much detail that it takes several paragraphs to describe… you’ve got too much detail. Try only describing really important outfits (ball gowns, fancy dress clothes, etc). The readers only need a brief idea of what the character wears day-to-day, not paragraphs of detail about it.
  • Describing a new place can be exciting. Sometimes, however, the reader only wants to know the basics. If your character is breaking into a house, don’t spend two pages describing the house so completely there isn’t a chance you’ve missed a single detail. Touch on what the house is made of, what the windows look like and what the doors look like; that’s what your character will be most concerned about anyway.
  • If you have a character (or a group of characters) that travel fairly often, they will move to various types of environment; towns, forests, mountains, cities, etc. Don’t spend all your time describing the change in scenery. A nice view of what the environment is like spread over the entire time the characters are in the area is better than describing it all in exact detail in a matter of a few pages. Let your character think about the large oak trees that seem to rule the forest, or the cobblestone road they saw that was completely destroyed, but don’t focus only on those details. What else is going on?

Describing too much isn’t always the problem…

  • Opposite of describing your character’s clothes too much, is describing them to little. The readers want to have an idea of what type of style exists in your story; don’t neglect the clothing completely for fear of too much detail! The readers may know that the character wouldn’t be traveling naked, but without some idea of what their clothes are like, that might be where their minds go!
  • It’s tricky knowing how much detail to put in. Just because I said don’t spend forever describing a new place, doesn’t mean you should neglect detail completely. Look at: “The house was brick” versus “The rust and mud colored bricks were cool against her skin as she pressed against the wall of the house.” The second sentence says the same thing as the first, but gives the reader a little more detail.
  • When entering a new place, make sure there are enough details that the reader knows what it looks like. If your character has entered into a large meadow, make that clear. Is the meadow dead grass and skeletal trees? Or is it lush green with a few trees scattered here and there. Don’t spend forever describing it, but at least let the readers know what the character is seeing.

I feel like my bullets were pointless, though they did help keep me from rambling. Anywho! Hopefully this has been helpful to anyone who has difficulty with detail. Too much can be boring and make a great story seem drawn out, while too little detail could cause your readers to picture you characters or landscape completely naked and void of detail. It’s a difficult line to balance on, that invisible line, but getting close to it is better than nothing.

Ageless Love?

Today’s post is a bit of a rant, but it is book related, at least.

I realized, the other day, that a large percentage of the books I have read, and adore, have a common theme in them. Sure, they all take place in medieval-like times, in strange lands with strange creatures. And sure, there is always a young heroine (most of the time the main protagonist though occasionally just a supporting character), a handsome and brave older man who is legendary for his use of a sword or magic (or other various things…) and a handful of other characters that are easy to love and also easy to drop into a stereotype. But that older, legendary man also seems to turn out to be immortal for some reason or another. Or, at the least, he has an exceptionally longer life because of some spell or skill or something.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, yeah? Remember the heroine I mentioned? She’s usually what, somewhere between 14 years of age and 19 (at the very oldest). And what ALWAYS happens? She falls in love with Mr. Legendary. He, of course, rescued her from some terrible existence  and at first was a strange man she found herself trusting, then became father figure she never had and finally she realizes she loves him. The real kicker is that he seems to ALWAYS come to the same conclusion; he’s in love with the young girl he’s been taking care of/training/protecting.

I know that the age difference never mattered in earlier times. A girl started her period and she was immediately ready to marry and start a family. And I guess I understand the display of this between Legendary and Heroine, since Legendary almost always looks to be ‘about 30’. But the problem is that he only LOOKS that young. Because, remember, he’s got an exceptionally long life. This guy is bordering somewhere between age 150 and 900 (at the least). There’s an age difference and then there’s… well that.

Why does this bother me so much? I have no issue with vampires taking mortal lovers. But a man who has more than outlived at least five wives (and maybe children as well) who takes a 14 y/o girl under his wing, and happens to fall in love with her (did I mention that they usually end up together in these stories?) bothers me so much! Maybe it’s the fact that every single time I have read a situation like this, Legendary is always a father figure for the entire first book of the series. Then, suddenly, he becomes much more than that to the girl and even he is feeling differently about her. She’s becoming a beautiful young woman after a year or so of travel together, and this becomes apparent to Legendary. And interests him more and more as time passes until finally he takes Heroine into his arms and kisses her and they live a long long life together (or Legendary outlives yet another wife…)

Does this bother anyone else?

Coffee

Welcome to Writing Prompt Wednesday!

Here’s your prompt:

 

Write a short story or scene about a character who can’t do anything until (s)he’s had a cup of coffee.

 

 

 

I ask that, if anyone chooses to use these prompts, they share them with me. In the comment section, post the link to wherever your piece of writing can be found(deviantART, writing forums, your own blog, etc.) If you do not have anywhere online to post the writing, you are welcome to either use the comment section to place your story, or email me at: FantasieAutor@gmail.com with either an attachment or the story as the body of the email.

What’s in a Name? Naming your Characters: Part 1

I intend to a few entries about character names, as there are many aspects to naming a character that I think a lot of writers have difficulty with. Today my post is about simplicity versus creativity.

Every writer wants their characters to be unique, to stand out and to be recognizable. A lot of the time, a creative name paired with an interesting past or personality can do the trick. But how creative is too creative when it comes to a name? You want the name to stand out, but you also want your readers to be able to pronounce the name. If your characters all have names that are difficult for even you to pronounce, it’s probably a good idea to change the names.

I’m reading a book series right now and the characters all have complicated names, along with places and objects. At the front of the book is a little guide on how to pronounce the names, what sounds the different letters make in the language created in the series and how best to say other words that are frequently used. I’ve read this series before, and I love it dearly. The one thing I can’t stand, however, is that I constantly have to flip to the front to check and make sure I am pronouncing a name correctly in my head. That is the one flaw with this series; having to turn back constantly takes away from the important elements of the story itself.

If your characters are all named with a language you created, please make sure that a guide on how to pronounce everything isn’t needed. While the created language and culture adds a whole new aspect to a story, it can become tiresome to have to constantly check the pronunciation guide every time a new character is introduced. This can cause readers to want to avoid reading any other books in the series for lack of wanting to go through so much trouble. Creative is wonderful, but be careful how far you take your creativity when it comes to naming you characters.

On the other hand, you don’t want to make your names too simple. While some characters are so fantastic that a simple, normal name like “Harry” or “Jim” is all they need, that is often a rare occurrence. Especially if one writes fantasy or sci-fi stories that take place in other realms or on other planets. A simple name can be great for either simple characters or fantastic characters who don’t need a ‘cool’ name to enhance them. But what about the other characters? That’s when your judgement has to come in to play; does this character have a name that is unique, to fit the world they live in, or do they have a name that is a play-off from popular, simple names and just looks cool and different (Example: Jennifer could become Genipher)? Sometimes just changing the way a character’s name is spelled can make all the difference. Even it is a simple name, different ways of spelling will help stick the name into your readers’ minds. It’s unique, therefore it is memorable.

Names are one of the most important aspects of your characters. It’s important to make sure that they are not too difficult for your readers to remember or pronounce, but that they are not so simple that they don’t stick in their minds. Once you find a balance, you will find that names come much easier to you.

 

Thanks for reading Part 1 of my “What’s in a Name?” series! I hope you will join me for others in the future.

Character Creation

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of post that is both informative and inquiring. I’ve done posts in the past about things like: The ‘best’ time of day for writing, influences on writing style, procrastination, and weather influenced writing. I’m going to try to do more posts about various things I know many authors have trouble with. My goal is to give ideas on these things, while at the same time (hopefully) getting some ideas myself.

With that said: Today, we’re going to talk about Character Creation.

One of the topics I discuss with a lot of fellow writers is how best to create characters. There really is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about it; every writer is different and therefore, the style varies from person to person. But when it comes to character creation, there are very limited ways to do this. Occasionally, writers don’t have a choice; the characters create themselves and develop as the story goes. That’s all there is to it. Other times, there is a long process that sometimes takes much longer than we writers anticipated.

Personally, my character creation varies. The characters create themselves for the most part, but once they come to life in my mind, I sit down and figure out all the minor details. Age, appearance, important facts from their past, goals, fears, likes/dislikes. Most of the time this is all for my own personal reference; a character who likes the outdoors is going to end up with a job that allows them to work outside, etc. Sometimes the details become important to the story, but for the most part it doesn’t.

I’ve heard of some authors creating something similar to a biography for each of their characters. While this is interesting, it also takes up a large amount of time that could be dedicated to writing the story said characters are in. Other people jot down little bits of info here and there, but really don’t delve too deeply into the characters; they are the writers who pay more attention to detail than anything else. Some start with a name, then work from there. Others write a scene with the character, then figure out all the details that would account for the character’s actions.

One of the most helpful tools for writers who have difficulty with character creation is a Character Outline. There are many type available all over the internet created by and for other writers. Here are some other outlines you can use: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3. I actually have used all four of these in the past and have found them very useful. If you find that none of them seem to work for you, you can create your own or do an internet search for one that better fits.

Characters are some of the most important aspects of any story. Knowing your character better is not only helpful to you, but it is helpful to the story. With more knowledge of your character, you will be able to put them into several different situations and be able to have them react according to their personalities or past experiences that may have influenced the way they live. This also gives the readers a much clearer view of the characters they will be spending hours getting to know.

How do you develop characters? Do you use an outline, or do you just write and hope the character reveals enough through the story? What other ways have you seen/heard of when it comes to developing characters? Leave your responses in the comments! Thanks for reading =D

Frustrations

I’m very frustrated with my novel, right now. I had the group of characters organized, had everything set in stone and just needed to tweak a few things here and there. Or so I thought.

This morning, while thinking about what I needed to get done on the novel, a new character decided to pop into my mind and say hello. This would be a problem if he planned to make himself part of the story in the chapters I have yet to write, but no. He has decided he wants to become part of the story starting near the beginning of the damn story. I now have to rework everything from his point of entry on so that he fits into things.

It’s really frustrating to think that I have a story mostly figured out and then it throws me for a loop or tosses a wrench in the gears. I’ve had this happen several times in the last few weeks and it is making me very unhappy with the characters. While everything makes sense and makes parts of the story make even more sense, I still hate it. I have to rework everything now… it’s like I’m rewriting it…. AGAIN. I’ve already rewritten this story twice. I guess a third time won’t kill me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed with it all.

In the last few weeks, characters have either decided to show me who they really are, tell me about what terrible things they did/will do or have randomly formed and tossed themselves into the plot. Had I just started this novel, I might be okay with it. But I’ve been working on this novel for 9 years (on and off, writing and rewriting, etc.). You’d think all of this stuff would have come to me before I wrote 29 chapters….

I guess this is the end of my rant. Maybe I will share the introduction to this new character next Monday (excerpt day). We’ll see what happens.