Developing characters recap

I have written numerous posts giving information and hopefully some insight into the realm of novel writing. As it is Spring Break here in Texas, I thought I would take a break from writing something new and recap my posts on developing characters for your novel. If you missed these or just want to re-read them, click on the “read more” link to see the rest of original post.

What’s in a Name? Picking the right name for your characters

If you are a parent, you know how much you labored over the perfect name for your child. Now imagine you need to do the same thing for over a dozen or more characters. Yikes! Read more….

Developing a realistic antagonist

bigstock_Shadow_Man_469091As I mentioned in last week’s post, I have begun working on a new novel. Luckily for me, I began developing the premises for this novel a few years ago. But one area that I didn’t really work on is the antagonist.

The antagonist, the person that will try to thwart your hero and provide conflict for your story, is one of the most important characters to develop. Most authors spend a majority of their time developing the main character. The same amount of time and effort should be devoted to creating a realistic antagonist. Read more…

Reasons your protagonist needs a sidekick

Batman has Robin. Harry Potter has Ronald Weasley. Fred has Barney, while Frodo Baggins has Samwise Gamgee. And who could forget, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Yep, we are talking about sidekicks. Read more…

How much do you need to develop minor characters? 

So you know that you need to fully develop a background and motivation for both your antagonist and protagonist and of course, their supporting cast (sidekicks, best friends, and close confidants). But how much do you need to develop minor characters?

Well, that all depends on how minor they are. Read more…

The importance of character flaws 

No one wants to read about perfect characters that always smile, act polite and eat their vegetables. No one is perfect and readers don’t expect your characters to be perfect. In other words, everyone has flaws and so should your characters. Read more…

Cats as characters in your novel 

ToshRecently, I wrote about dragons in my fantasy writing series. Today, I would like to address using cats as characters. Now, I chose cats because I am a cat-lover. But these same ideas could work just as well if you wanted to use dogs, horses or some other animal. And much of this can be used for other genres besides fantasy. Read more…

The Character Interview: Getting to know your characters

It is important to get to know your characters BEFORE you begin writing your novel. The more familiar you are with them, the better you will be able to bring them to life.

One method of developing your character is to do a character interview. You ask your character questions and answer back as if you are that character. This gives you a chance to explore some of their background from their point of view. Read more…

Now you may notice that I have not written a post about main characters. Well, that one is coming. Next month I am particpating in the A to Z Challenge (where bloggers post daily following the letters of the alphabet). For the letter M, I will be discussing main characters. Until then, I hope you enjoy this recap.

What’s in a Name? Picking the right name for your characters

If you are a parent, you know how much you labored over the perfect name for your child. Now imagine you need to do the same thing for over a dozen or more characters. Yikes!

It can certainly be a daunting task. Of course, the most thought goes into your main character’s name. You want a name that is unique to your character, that your reader will remember, and that fits into your story, whether it be a fantasy, futuristic, historical or modern piece.

Here are some tips when choosing your characters names.

  • Pick a name that is age-appropriate. Don’t pick names that are popular now for an adult character – a name that would have rarely been used around the time of that character’s birth. Decide the age of your character and then calculate the year your character was born. If your character was born in the U.S., browse through the Social Security Name Popularity List for that year.
  • HISTORICAL NOVELS – you will want to look for a name popular or at least in use during the time period you have chosen. Do not pick a modern name (such as Jennifer) for a story set in the 17th century.
  • Remember to take into account your character’s ethnic background and the ethnic background of his or her parents. But be careful about stereotyping ethnic characters with clichéd names. You can be more original than “Bubba” or “Running Bear.”
  • Steer clear of complicated, hard-to-pronounce names. If you do choose one, consider using a nickname to make it easier to the reader and other characters.
  • Don’t overuse unusual names or spellings. If your main character is Barnabus, name his sidekick Sam or Eric, not Hawthorne.
  • You should avoid having characters with similar names. You may also want to stay away from names that start with the same letter or same sound – like Phil and Fred.
    • Avoid nicknames or unusual names that will annoy the reader. For example, calling a man by what is traditionally a woman’s name or vice versa can create unnecessary confusion. So do this only if there is a real need for it in your story.
    • When you pick a name, say it out loud and use it in dialogue to make sure it sounds good.
    • FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS – Avoid the temptation to use a random collection of letters and symbols for a character name. Even though your reader probably won’t be reading your story aloud, they will mentally trip over unpronounceable names. You can of course get around this by using a nickname for the character to make it easier for the reader and the other characters.
    • FUTURISTIC/SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS – It’s hard to predict what names will be popular in the year 3000. But again, you don’t want them to stumble over an odd collection of letters. You might consider combining two common names to make a less common, but pronounceable name. Example: Donica (Donna and Veronica).

I find a baby-naming book to be a great resource for names. I use 20,001 Names for Baby (1992). But to find a name you can try a baby naming website or even your phone book. Of course don’t just pirate someone’s full name. Mix and match first and last names.

The name you choose should reveal something about the character: who they are, where they come from or where they are going. A good character name is distinctive and memorable. A great character name, in addition to being distinctive and memorable, also works to help tell your story.

The name you give your characters is just as important as naming your own child. Take the task seriously and give it some thought (or research) before settling on their moniker.