Coming up with names for your characters is so important. You want these namesakes to stand out and embody the very essence of your characters. Of course, there are some genres that tend to use common everyday names, but a lot of writers seize the opportunity to use more flamboyant names like Phillius McFlinn – because why not? You want your characters to be memorable!
At the moment, I’m writing a fantasy novel, so I’ve been running wild with names for the places, characters and creatures that inhabit my world. Coming up with names can be a challenge, especially when you think about it too hard. The best names usually come to me quite instinctively through some sort of divine eureka moment.
If you’re having trouble naming your creations, then don’t worry. The beauty of naming things is that names are interchangeable and altering the names of your characters can be literally the last thing you do when redrafting. So if you’re struggling to find a name for Sergeant Grim-face, then just call him Sergeant Grim-face while writing – or Bob – until you find a name that fits.
There are thousands of name generators out there, whether it be for fantasy, sci-fi or any other genre. There are also baby name websites that have an untold amount of name options for you to peruse, which is probably why kids nowadays are called names like Neveah and Atticus. Let’s not even mention Khaleesi..
What I also do is keep a list of any interesting names I come across, as well as those that I ‘invent’, because one of them might end up being the perfect name for Sergeant Grim-face! Having a stockpile of awesome names on standby can save you a lot of pondering when it comes to naming things.
So have fun with naming your babies! You don’t have to worry about your literary children getting bullied for their outlandish name (unless that’s part of the plot) – name them whatever you bloody well like! Seize your creative liberty and revel in playing God!
Today, I mortally wounded one of my characters, which was difficult for me to do because I have grown quite attached to him. But unfortunately, he was always meant to die… in fact, the whole reason I invented him was so that his death could illustrate an important plot point.
Like a lamb to the slaughter, I nurtured his character precisely because I knew he would be sacrificed. But as the story unfolded, I grew to love his character and found him difficult to let go. He came to life on the page much more vibrantly than I had expected.
I even considered keeping him alive and sacrificing someone else, as it would have been interesting to explore his potential further. But surely the fact that he will sorely be missed is testament to the character I have created? After all, don’t we all have unexplored potential when we die? If he leaves behind a noticeable hole and his absence causes heartache for the reader, then surely that is a job well done writing-wise!
During the writing process, a story can change direction and alter. Characters who were doomed to die can be spared, while others might be bumped off instead. In this particular case, I followed through with my original plan.
For me, writing is a linear process. I cannot jump ahead and write future scenes if I’m stuck because the unfolding of a story is so organic that unexpected things happen along the way. New characters can come into the fold, the plot may take a different direction or some scenes may no longer feel necessary. None of this may happen if you begin to time-travel.
Of course, writers are the creators of their own worlds and ultimately can time-travel if they want to (indeed, it may be part of the plot). But from experience, I have found that I never fully stick to my plan as my story comes to life on the page.
I tend to stay true to the main essence of the plot, but often the best parts of my prose come from nowhere. So travelling from A to B, from beginning to end, is the way that I operate. No chopping or changing, no jumping ahead to future scenes, just staying there with my characters from the first page to the very last.
When people rave about a book, it’s usually about the characters.
The characters are the most important element of the story, so it’s important to get them right. The plot is important too, but it’s the characters who drive the plot. If you don’t have realistic three-dimensional characters, then the plot feels contrived and forced. Good characters help to create the illusion that the narrative is unfolding naturally. But how do you create these vibrant characters?
What I personally do is take elements from people I have encountered – either in the real world or other works of fiction – and mold them into an interesting character. If you’re already familiar with the type of people that you’re writing about, then it’s easier to breathe life into them. Authors are encouraged to write what they know, and I would definitely encourage you to do that with your characters. There are many different types of people in this world, both good and bad, so take inspiration from everyone that you meet. Your characters will ring true if they are drawn from your own personal experience, even if your story is set in a different world.
There are many things to consider when coming up with characters. What’s their name and what do they look like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Their motivations and goals? While it’s good to consider all of these things, I try to let my characters form organically before I start putting them into boxes.
And before you begin to write, I recommend that you at least know the basics about your characters. Know enough information so that you can proceed with the story without having to stop every five minutes to ponder over what a character might say or do. As I like to map out my narrative in advance, I always have a basic framework of how the story is going to pan out, which means that I usually know my characters quite well before I get started. But regardless of whether you like to plan or simply go with the flow, you will definitely get to know your characters better as you go along.