What Makes a Great Character?

character from pixabayWith all the reading I do, I’m very aware of how I feel about different characters in different books. There are times when I’ll go weeks — months, even — and not read a book that knocks me out. I begin to wonder if I’m getting jaded, but then, suddenly, a book comes along that I simply love and the characters are more like dear friends than two-dimensional sketches. These characters really grab me: make me laugh, make me cry, make me bite my nails with worry over their challenges. But they’re rare. Rarer than they should be. So it got me to thinking, what makes a really, really great character? Here’s my list, in no particular order. Continue reading “What Makes a Great Character?”

Names in Books – How Much Do They Matter?

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  That is a classic of course from the Bard, but how true is it?
“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That is a classic of course from the Bard, but how true is it?

From the name of your protagonist, your evil antagonist, your main and subsidiary characters and minions, your chapter titles (if you use them), right through to the title of your masterpiece – do the actual names matter? They obviously matter to the creator – the author – but do they really matter to the reader, to the general public? In my humble opinion: You bet your life they do!

Names have a certain ring to them, and unless you’re writing something that is deliberately farcical, or really tongue in cheek, like the old James bond movies, with Plenty O’Toole or Pussy Galore, you should use names that don’t immediately snap the reader out of their state of suspended disbelief. Continue reading “Names in Books – How Much Do They Matter?”

What’s in a Name? A Rose is a Rose …

Phone Book photo by Melissa Bowersock phonebk2I’ve just started writing a new book. I’ve had the main idea swimming around in my brain for a month or two, but just in the past couple weeks have I put together some research that is vital to the story, plus some ideas of who the main characters are and what the arc of their story will be. So far I’ve got a couple thousand words down, and within that short period of time, I’ve changed several characters names two or three times.

I love this phase of writing. I love naming my characters. At this point, I will happily, almost giddily, watch the news, a golf tournament, any sports channel with a crawler just so I can peruse the names that flow by. I could very literally sit down and read a phone book for a couple hours and be happy as a clam. For a woman who’s never been pregnant, I have an obscene number of baby name books.

Mahan, Riggs, Spieth, Charleston, Wertzel, Howland, Grogan. I love playing with the names. I test out several for each character, some monosyllabic, some polysyllabic. Why does the number of syllables matter? Let’s play a game. What sounds better? Continue reading “What’s in a Name? A Rose is a Rose …”

Playing With Character Interviews

Mastermind-chairYou are unlikely to recall my wail of despair a few months ago regarding making the switch from non-fiction to fiction. Just in case you have been fretting on my behalf however, it’s sort of going ok, thanks. And I’ve had an idea. I don’t actually know yet whether I’m a plotter or a pantser so I have been trying to work with a few ‘rules’, to see where they lead me. If they go nowhere, I will stop trying to plot and begin to just pants. Which is kinda rude if you’re a Brit. Where was I? Oh yes…

I was reading RJ’s brilliant post about story bibles last month and followed her trail back to Arline Chase’s post about character creation. I dutifully set about fleshing out my people in the manner described. I set up a spreadsheet, honestly I did. It had all the stuff on it that you need to know about your people, their motivation, their challenges, their appearance, childhood, food choices, the lot. And I sat and looked at it for ages. I put two characters’ names into the right spots and stared at the empty boxes. It felt like those awful ‘comprehension’ exercises that people in their late 50s who were educated in the UK may recall. You read a passage from a book, which you might have quite enjoyed, but then you had to spoil all that by proving to someone else that you understood what it meant. Continue reading “Playing With Character Interviews”