Tag Archives: Characters

Characters: What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet Act II, Scene II

 

Introduction

Sometimes one of the more difficult challenges for a writer is naming their characters. They want something that will define who they are, as a person, but also to make them stand apart from everyday people in real life. This week we’ll look at advice on naming your characters and where to look for ideas.

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Life Imitates Art

Regardless of how careful you are in selecting your character’s name, there is also a slight chance that someone in the real world has that very same name. One of the best examples I can think of is the American version of the 1954 movie, Godzilla, King of the Monsters. They brought in Raymond Burr to play news reporter, Steve Martin. Twenty plus years later, a young actor/comedian came onto the scene named, Steve Martin.

Naturally this is a coincidence and, just for the record, Steve Martin was born in 1945. I’m sure this never caused problems in general for Mr. Martin until, maybe, Godzilla 1985 arrived which was to be a direct sequel to the ’54 movie. Raymond Burr, once again, reprises his role as Steve Martin. By this time the comedian has gotten a foothold in Hollywood and perhaps some found it confusing to hear that the bearded Mr. Burr was playing, “Steve Martin”.

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Cast of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” TV series. Courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Names

Of course if you’re writing the Fantasy genre or even Science Fiction, there’s a slim to no chance that your characters will be the names of real people. People might name their children after your characters, which isn’t new, but it could be very flattering. On the other hand, no one would want to go to school with a classmate named Voldemort.

To use the TV series, Firefly as an example, there is always a possibility that there might be someone named Malcolm Reynolds or Kaylee Frye, but a slimmer chance with the names Hoban Washburne and Inara Serra. As we head further into our own future, some of these names will be as common as Joe Smith and Bob Jones.

 

How original should I be?

Speaking of Joe Smith and Bob Jones, some writers might ask, “How do I create original character names without being obvious?” The answer to this question varies based on the decisions of the author. If you’re writing a fictional story that takes place in our world and our time, you’re going to run into plain names such as Joe and Bob. To make them unique you can always add a middle name, a numeral; to show his name is passed down from generation to generation, or give him a nickname.

Character names are can be based on a region that he is born. For example, you won’t find many people in America named ‘Colin’ or ‘Basil’ but in Great Britain, the names are as common as George or Fred.

The same works in Fantasy settings; a character’s name might have more vowels in it, like natives of Hawaii, if they live in the Northern Territory; or they might have a similar prefix or suffix to their name to denote that they are slaves from The Wasteland.

My overall advice is to keep the names easy to pronounce and easy to remember. I read where one Fantasy author provided a pronunciation guide to go along with the book so you can properly pronounce the characters names. If you have to do this, I would recommend renaming the characters. The last thing I want to do is refer to another book just to know how to pronounce their names. I’ll give up the book long before chapter 2 in that instance.

In my own writings I have two characters whose names seem long and difficult but they’re pronounced the way they are written. One is a dwarf named, Pendergrass Snickersnee; and the other is a gnome-like character named, Finnbiddle Pilwicket.

Both look difficult at the first appearance but they are pronounced as they are written. So you see you can have Fantasy or Sci-Fi names that appear complicated but are easy to pronounce. If that’s not enough, you can always shorten a name to give him a nickname. I refer to Finnbiddle simply as Finn.

 

How do I choose names?

There are a variety of ways to choose names for your characters. Here’s an article from fellow author, Chris Andrews, and how he chooses names.

Name generators found on the internet are a great way to create names for Fantasy and/or Sci-Fi characters. I’ll post the links at the bottom of this article.

If you’re looking to name a character based on a certain meaning or a certain word, you can use 20,000 Names website. They have ethnic names from different parts of the world; both male and female, and the meanings of each name.

For example my character Ravenkeep in book 3 of The Askinar Towers trilogy has a pirate ship named, The Malandra. I found the word at this website and here is the meaning…

MALANDRA: Modern English compound name composed of Mal- (“dark, black”) from Malinda, and Sandra “defender of mankind.”

As you can see the word is a form of the color, Black which is also the color of the ship.

If you work a day job in addition to being a writer, sometimes they will put out a company magazine every month. Usually they’ll list names of employees how have been with the company for a number of years based on the state they work in. This is a great way to take someone’s first name and combine it with someone’s last name to create a new name for a character. In book 3, The Reverend Edward Hardwick was named after two employees of the company. I keep a stack of magazines on hand when I need to name a character and don’t always have access to the internet.

Conclusion

Try and be as original with your character’s names but not too original that it seems obvious or difficult that you have to put out a pronunciation guide. Try not to make it a huge chore either. As you’re working on your first draft, if you can’t come up with a name simply insert something (anything) as a marker then you can come back and replace it at a later time once you’ve had the chance to think about it.

How do you come up with names for your characters? Do you use generators? Names of friends? Or do they come to you in dreams? Share your experience in the comments below.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Here are some of my favorite name generator sites:

Seventh Sanctum: Characters Seventh Sanctum has a wide variety of name generators.

The Real Mormon Name Generator (Rum and Monkey) No disrespect but this puts out some great names that would be perfect for Fantasy stories.

Fake Name Generator This is for mainstream fiction. This not only gives you a random name but a street address, city, state, zip, birthdate, Mother’s maiden name, etc.

The Askinar Towers: Flash Fiction No. 5

Once again I am sharing some flash fiction that I wrote featuring a new character and taking place in book 2, “Sibling Rivalry”. If this were an actual part of the story it would take place towards the end of chapter 9. Enjoy and, as always, comments are welcomed!

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Edna’s Day Out

Edna Carlisle gathered up her things as she prepared to go down to the Askinar Towers Postal Service on Floor 10 in the Tower of Air. Her husband, Lester, was watering the plants in the apartment and then he was headed up to the Floor 68 Public Park to play checkers with his friend.

“Lester, are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” she asked him.

“Stand in line for an hour just to deliver two letters? No thank you,” he replied.

“The service is getting better. I was only in line for forty-five minutes last time.”

“A whole fifteen minutes less? I’ll call the radio station and have them broadcast it.”

“You don’t need to be snippy with me. I’d rather have someone to talk to while I’m waiting.”

“And I was your first choice? I’m flattered!” said Lester.

“Actually none of the ladies were available; I’ve already asked. You’re my last resort.”

“Isn’t that what you said on our wedding day?” he mumbled as he entered the kitchen.

“I didn’t hear what you said,” said Edna.

“Have a great day, my love!” he called out.

She left the apartment, walked down the hallway, and pressed the down button at the elevator. She only had to wait a couple of minutes before the doors open. She heard a door slam further down the hall as she got on board and a voice called out,

“Hold the elevator, please!”

Edna held the doors opened as a man in a white doctor’s coat appeared and entered the car.

“Thank you,” he said as he pushed the button for ‘16’. “What floor please?”

“Floor 10, the Askinar Tower Postal Service,” she replied looking at the young man. He pushed a button, the doors closed and the elevator descended.

“Are you by chance a doctor?” Edna asked.

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“Yes. Dr. Medulla at your service,” he said with a graceful bow. “I was making a house call on one Petunia Mayfair. She’s been suffering great headaches.”

“Poor little thing,” said Edna. “She’s tried everything to get rid of the pain. What did you prescribe?”

“Nothing. I simply removed the Altairian Brain Eater from the back of her head. She couldn’t see it because it was half burrowed into her skull. Its skin matched the color of her hair.”

“Brain eater? Oh, doctor your putting me on!”

Dr. Medulla appeared as if he going to correct her but decided it would be simpler not to tell her the truth.

“You’re right,” he said, “just a little doctor humor. I simply gave her a neck adjustment and the pain went away.”

The elevator arrived at Floor 16 and the doctor hurried off. The doors closed and resumed its travel to Floor 8.

“A brain eater? Land sakes, what these quack doctors will say to get more money out of you.” Edna was unaware that she was going to the wrong floor.

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At Floor 8 the doors opened to the Celestial Post Office on Space Station Minerva. Edna slowly stepped off the elevator assuming she was on the right floor. ‘They must have redecorated recently,’ she thought.

She stood in line behind a couple of people waiting to talk to a large creature covered in blue fur. For some reason she could smell pine cones but didn’t know why. To the left she noticed a young couple at the complaints window talking to a man in a three-piece suit. Everything seemed normal to her except for the blue creature.

“Next,” called the creature.

She looked over to her right and saw a bar called the Cosmic Parlor.

“Next,” called the creature.

Edna shook her head in disapproval. ‘Drawing the younger crowd to the post office with the allure of drink. I’ll have a word with the manager about this!’

“NEXT!” the creature bellowed.

Edna looked and saw no one in front of her. She walked briskly up to the blue creature behind the counter. She was about to protest when she realized the pine cone smell was coming off him, her, it. Edna placed the two letters on the counter. The creature snatched them into his paws and looked them over.

“These need to be processed through the Askinar Towers Postal Service,” he said. “Next!” The smell of pine cones became stronger.

“Just a minute, young man or whatever you are. I am in the Askinar Towers Postal Service and I want to you take care of these for me.”

“This is the Celestial Post Office on Floor 8 and although we process letters for the Askinar Towers, we can’t process these. You’ll have to take them up to Floor 10. Next!”

“What do you mean this is Floor 8? I asked the doctor to push Floor 10, that is what he did, and this is supposed to be the Askinar Towers Postal Service,” said Edna.

“Floor 8 is where you are. I don’t know any doctor who would push the wrong floor for you. You have to go up to Floor 10.”

“All of this is giving me a headache,” said Edna as she became lightheaded.

“You must have an Altairian Brain Eater attached. Come here!” He reached for her but Edna screamed, grabbed her letters, and then ran to the elevator.

Once inside she pushed the button for Floor 10, the doors closed, and the car ascended. She pulled out a small paper fan and frantically waved it in front of her.

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At Floor 10 the doors opened and she carefully entered the Askinar Towers Postal Service. A woman attired in pants suit walked up to her. “Good afternoon, do you need those letters processed?”

“What? Oh, yes!” Edna unclutched her hand and gave them to the woman. “Sorry about their condition, I just had a horrible experience.”

“You went to Floor 8 by mistake?” asked the woman.

“Yes, but how did you know?” asked Edna.

“You smell like pine cones. My husband, Larry, wears that cologne.”

“Your…husband?”

The doors behind her opened and the blue creature lumbered off towards Edna and the woman.

“Hi Honey, ready for lunch?’ He bent down and gave her a kiss as Edna crumpled to the floor in a faint.

 

            I hope you enjoyed today’s bit of flash fiction. Don’t forget to check out my trilogy, The Askinar Towers where stories like this take place.

 Until next time,

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Fictional Elevator

Today’s post is an exercise from a book of Daily Writing Prompts. I posted the picture of the woman you see to a group on Facebook and had them name the woman, describe her occupation, and give a reason as to why she was in an office building. I want to thank everyone who participated! The woman’s information that I selected comes from Caroline Van Hateren. 

Fictional elevator

(May 23rd post idea)

You’re stuck in an elevator with an intriguing stranger. Write this scene.

The Editors, WordPress.com. 365 Days of Writing Prompts

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It was Friday afternoon and I had just finished talking with my attorney. I left his office, located on the 9th floor, and walked to the elevators. Fortunately, most everyone else had already left for the day and so I was able to get a car quickly. The doors opened and no one was aboard. I got on, pressed “First Floor”, and then checked my watch as the doors closed. I had an hour to get home, make dinner, and then head on to the movie theater. Finally, I was going to see Guardians of the Galaxy!

At the 7th floor, the elevator stopped and the doors opened. There stood this most attractive woman! She flashed me a smile as she walked on.

Toni

“What floor?” I asked.

“First Floor,” she replied.

“What a coincidence! That’s where I’m headed.”

“Small world.” She said it with a lack of enthusiasm and I felt like an idiot.

Where else would she be headed? I thought as I looked over at her. The lobby is the only way out of the building.

She looked over and just gave me a half smile, the polite kind as if to say, ‘The pleasantries are over, now leave me alone!’ She was studying a Day planner and pulled out her cell phone.

The elevator car gave a sudden lurch, throwing me off balance and into the side, the woman was thrown towards me. I managed to catch her in my arms to prevent her from falling when we both realized that the elevator had stopped.

“Why aren’t we moving?” she asked, her voice a little fearful.

“I think the car is stuck,” I replied. I was still holding her but she didn’t seem to mind.

“Drat! My cell phone is dead.”

“You can use mine.” I handed it to her as she stood back up, smiled, and made her call. I looked over the elevator panel and found the emergency phone. I managed to get a maintenance man and he said it would be about twenty minutes or so to get it working again.

“Look, I’m sorry that I’m going to be late,” said the woman to the person on the other end. “No, it’s just a little traffic delay…Yes, I took interstate 75…yes, I know it’s rush hour on a Friday…no, I wasn’t thinking, it’s been a long day.”

As she continued her conversation, I assumed she was talking to either a husband or her mother. Though she’s old enough, naturally, to live on her own, perhaps she took her mother in to care for her. I pulled out my iPad and called up one of my books I was reading to pass the time.

“We can still go out, I just can’t cook dinner for us tonight,” she said.

Husband, I concluded.

“I’ll just pick something up on the way home…okay, I love you too…right, goodbye.” She hung up the phone and was about to throw it when she realized it wasn’t hers. “Here’s your phone back, thanks for letting me use it.”

“Sure! I called building maintenance, should be another fifteen minutes or so.”

“That’s a relief, I’d hate to be in here for longer.” She then looked over at me and smiled. “Not that I find the company distasteful, just not keen on being in a stuck elevator.”

“Especially on a Friday afternoon with all of this rush hour traffic.”

She put her hand to her eyes. “Oh, you heard that?”

“I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but given that you are only a couple a feet away from me.” I paused, then asked the question. “Husband?”

“What? No! I’m single. That was my sister, we’re roommates. I’ve been taking care of her since our parents died two years ago. She’s been wheelchair bound since the accident in ’08. And I—” She stopped suddenly. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to bare my soul like that.”

“It’s quite all right,” I said. “I was here to see my attorney as I’m being sued by a woman for harassment on the job. It’ll be the third time this year and by the same woman. Guess that’s what I get for telling her to ‘have a great weekend’.”

“That’s all you said?”

I nodded in response. “She thought I was implying that she had some sexual escapade planned. I’ve move her to different departments but it doesn’t seem to improve the problem. I’m Jeff, by-the-way.”

“Toni Richardson,” she replied. “I run a new charity organization called ‘Miracles on Wheels’. We raise money for the disabled and their families to be able to afford walkers, wheelchairs, and specially designed cars and vans for transportation. I just finished talking to Ralph Kleiner who has generously donated a large sum on money plus is helping set up our first charity ball at the Hilton at the end of the month.”

“That is fascinating,” I said. “Look, I don’t mean to be forward here, but I might be able to help you out. Why don’t we go pick up your sister and I’ll take you both to dinner. We can talk about it some more.”

“I’d like that,” she said with a smile. “I’m sure Connie wouldn’t mind either. Except, we were also going to take in a movie as well.”

“Not a problem. What were you going to see?”

“Guardians of the Galaxy. We’re both fans of Karen Gillan.”

“Perfect! I was going to see that myself. Give me your phone number and we and meet up at a restaurant.”

“I already gave you my number.”

I looked at her dumbfounded a moment when she pointed to my cell phone.

“Of course.”

The elevator car lurched and started up again.

I hope you enjoyed this little scene of mine. Feel free to post comments, questions or suggestions. Thanks to everyone!!

Until next week,

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

The Writer’s Review~Vol. II

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It’s been six months since I posted my first collection of articles, way back in February! I decided it was time to do another one given that ideas for new articles are not coming to me, at the moment, and I’m striving to get ready for the release of book 3 AND prepare myself for NaNoWriMo in November.

Here’s a small collection of articles I’ve done and it’ll give new readers a chance to catch up!

Did I Write That? This question can be viewed as both positive and negative. Sometimes when we read what we have written, we’re amazed that it came from our own minds.

The Writer and the Public Appearance Getting ready to do a book signing? Here’s some tips to help you get ready.

The Writer and the God Complex When characters start to take on a life of their own, you sometimes feel like a god. But does that mean you have full control?

The Writer and Twitter Followers Here’s my two cents on the subject of who to Follow and who Follows you.

Writers are Peculiar People Nobody sees things the same way a writer does. Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Depending on your research material.

And They Lived…Ever After How important are endings to stories? Should they end the way your readers expect?

The Writer’s Review Vol. 1 In case you missed my first collection, here’s a handy link to read other articles of mine.

Chris Small

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Announcement:

I’m currently working with my artist on the cover for book 3. It looks amazing so far. I hope to have the book completed by the end of October.

 

Aside

 Hello everyone! I have returned once again and, hopefully, I’ll be back to a weekly status with my blog posts. A major change has occurred in my life last month which is why I have been absent for the last … Continue reading

Hey Hollywood, We’re Over Here!

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In this week’s article, we are going to look at movie sequels, movie remakes, and ask Hollywood one very important question. If you are an indie author, the answer just might involve you. Grab your slippers and your favorite beverage and let’s begin!

Return of the Attacking Author 4: Revenge of the Pen!

film-reel-147631_150Last week Disney announced that would be making sequels for both The Incredibles and Cars. While I enjoyed both of the first films, the sequel to Cars was a disappointment. But that doesn’t stop them from making more movies. If it’s a box office success, then more are usually in the works. This will be the second movie, or first sequel to The Incredibles and given the way the first one ended, you can hope that it will be a good story to follow.

My question to fans of the movies, how many sequels should a series go before the ideas get stale? At one point, the sequels appear to be the same plot but with different characters and a different setting? The perfect example of this is, the Friday the 13th movie franchise. How many slasher movies set at Camp Crystal Lake can you do before it’s just the same movie? The only ones I’ve personally seen is 7 and 8. The New Blood, gave Jason a worthy opponent in a girl with telekinesis. Movie 8, Jason Takes Manhattan put the slasher in downtown New York. To me, though, having seen just those two, I feel like I’ve seen all of the others as well.

Now don’t get me wrong, in regards to both Harry Potter and Twilight, I understand that book series will have multiple movies because of the number of books. And yet, both franchises divided their last book into two films which is more towards making money then telling the whole story. Hollywood doesn’t seem all that concerned about the fact that the price of going to movies, including snacks, is almost the same as a down payment on a car. They figure as long as they are putting out the films, people will go to see them.

The Attacking Author: The Remake

clapper-board-152088_150The flip side to the Hollywood coin is movie remakes. In addition to Disney’s announcement last week, I also heard that a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, was in the works. My question is, “Why?” Wasn’t the original scary enough? Plus, I’ve noticed over the last fifteen years that mostly horror movies are getting the “facelift” compared to other genres. Naturally, people like to be frightened which is why they do remake a lot of horror movies. The problem I see with a lot of the remakes is they lean more towards gore than scare. Perhaps scaring people with blood and guts is easier than just having someone jump out and say, “Boo!”

The task of the remake, in my opinion, is to take the tradition of the original film and expand on the story or look at it from a different angle. I once read a review of Psycho starring Vince Vaughn and they said if you ran that movie side by side with the original, there would be little difference in the two. So why bother with a remake?

 Has the Creative Well run dry?

Movie series like Charlie Chan, The Thin Man and James Bond can get away with numerous movies because each film is separate and complete from the rest of the movies. The only constant is the characters themselves. But when you have films like Rocky 4, Star Trek 6, and so on, you know that the movies are sequels and you have to watch them in order, more or less, to see the continuation of the story.

Which brings me to my question: Has Hollywood run out of original ideas? The answer is yes and no. First the answer is yes because, as we’ve seen, movies get a flock of sequels or classic films get an updated remake. Secondly, the answer is no because, Hollywood doesn’t want to gamble on new and different ideas for they’re not sure if they’ll make any money.

Take book to movie ideas. Hollywood will only touch a book or, rather, series of books if they are very popular and sold a lot of copies. But that isn’t entirely true either. Has anyone heard of author David Eddings and his Belgariad series? His fantasy novels were on the New York Times Bestsellers list for a number of weeks, in the top five no less, but no mention of a movie to come out. Maybe Mr. Eddings didn’t sell the movie rights, who knows?

My point is this, Hollywood won’t gamble on unknown authors and their works for fear of losing money at the box office. I understand that is the point of making movies is making money, showing your work on the silver screen, bringing books to life. But there is no guarantee that even the most popular books will be a successful film.

Calling All Indie Authors

Just once I’d like to see Hollywood go through the indie author world of books and select a couple of them to become movies. I’m not talking independent films either. I’m talking the full fledged movie production from one of the big filming companies, featuring an A list cast and fully budgeted scenery, special effects, music scores, costuming, etc. You get the idea.

From the few books that I’ve read from fellow indie authors, I would love to see them up on the big screen and maybe, just maybe, it would show Hollywood that those of us who aren’t household names can produce stories worthy of a box office success!

So, what do you think in regards to Hollywood? Has the well run dry? Do you think we’ll ever see new and original films NOT tied to a book? Share you comments with us. Also, let me know what indie authors you’d like to see get the full movie treatment.

As always,

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

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The Writer and Character Alignments

When writing about a hero are they the type to stay within the bounds of the law or do they do whatever it takes to get the job done? And just how evil is your villain? Not sure then keep reading!

Over the last week or so I’ve been reading articles by fellow writers, namely Victoria Grefer, and the discussion of Heroes, Villains, Anti-types and Arch-types. But what makes characters Heroes or Villains? Usually it’s the decisions they make when posed with certain situations or encounters. From that an alignment is created.

What Alignment Means

David Noonan of Wizards of the Coast tells us what alignment means:

Alignment is central to a D&D character’s personality. D&D uses two measures to determine a specific character’s ethical and moral attitudes and behavior.

The moral axis has three positions: good, neutral and evil. Good characters generally care about the welfare of others. Neutral people generally care about their own welfare. Evil people generally seek to harm the others’ welfare.

The ethical axis has three positions as well: lawful, neutral, and chaotic. Lawful people generally follow the social rules as they understand them. Neutral people follow those rules find convenient or obviously necessary. And chaotic people seek to upset the social order and either institute change, or simply create anarchy.

Choosing Alignments

You don’t have to be knowledgeable in role-playing to understand the benefits of know what alignment your character is. But it helps to serve your story better if you knew whether your hero was Sir Lancelot or Robin Hood.

To figure out what alignment is right for your character click on this link here. You will answer a series of basic questions as how your character would react and the results will be given at the end. Hope fully this will give you a better understanding of your character.

 What Would Your Character Do?

Another great source is the book What Would Your Character Do? written by Eric Maisel, Ph.D. and Ann Maisel. In this book they provide a series of scenarios and options as to how your character would react. It goes a step further and shares the psychological outcome based on the selected response. In the back of the book is a section of recommended reading of short stories in which some of the scenarios are played out to give you a better of idea of the responses.

Further Reading

A of couple other books that I would recommend are written by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. They are: 45 Master Characters and Writer’s Guide to Characterization. Victoria explores the characters of Greek Mythology and applies it to characters today.

So what kind of alignment are your characters? Take the test and let me know the results by posting in the comments below. Good luck and Happy Adventuring!