What This Quick(ish) Course Will Cover.

This course will cover the following topics:

  • Why it is essential to have an in-depth character?
  • The challenge of picking a good name.
  • How to design your character –Looks.
    • Using character creation tools.
    • Using Deviant Art.
  • How to design your character –Personality.
    • Mood Boards.
    • D&D Sheets.
    • Humanization.
  • Creating a unique voice.
  • At the writers’ table.

Why Is It Essential To Have An In-Depth Character?

Imagine how different LOTR would have been if Tolkien didn’t have any kind of backstory for Gandalf. Would you have still loved him if all the book told you was that he was a wizard?

It is important to have a fully developed character, for you to know everything about them, even if all that information does not go into the story. Why? You never know what you are going to use, what information you are going to need. The more you know about your character the easier it is going to be to write them and make them believable, relatable even lovable.

Think about badly written characters with shallow backstories, really think about them from books, not cartoons or movies, books. How many can you list? You won’t find a lot, because a badly written character in a book will have trouble going to print. If it gets self published, it will have trouble selling.

Look at Worksheet 1. This will help to get you thinking in the right direction.

Knowing all of the ins and outs of your characters will give you the best shot at selling them really well, of making people fall in love with them, or making people really hate them for the right reasons.

The Challenge Of Picking a Good Name

Are you familiar with the struggle to think of the perfect name?

Gamers of all types will get this. You’ve sat and created a great character, perfect in every way, even the flaws are amazingly well done, you’ve reached that critical point. Name.

You stare at it. Name? What am I going to call him/her? Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into years, your body begins to decompose as your brain slowly descends into madness. Name? What name suits my character? It has to be a good one, It can’t be generic. Before you know it, there’s naught left of you but bones and your still sat there thinking, name? Name? Name?

High five if you know exactly what I am talking about. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you are probably not a big gamer. So, imagine the prospect of naming your children, or your pet. It’s a big responsibility.

Why Is The name Important?

Character names are the secret ingredient to your story. Memorable names have a bigger effect on a reader’s mind and pull the characters closer to your heart.

Think of your favourite characters from your favourite books. What were their names? How many generic names mixed in that list? Was your favourite character just called Luke? Alice? Jane? Joe? What do you think of with those names? How about Hermione? Legolas?

After reading one amazing series I love the name Aislinn, that’s a kick ass name to me now. A caring name, I think of Peyton from another series, she was a kind soul.

Don’t distract your readers with terrible character names, if they can’t pronounce it, they’ll keep skipping it and will refer to your character as ‘that guy’. You don’t want that to happen.

So How Do I Choose?

For ideas for names visit name generator sites, baby names sites, names and their meanings. I will include a list of sites at the end of this page.

Note on naming bad guys. Bloodwake sounds like a cool name, but would his loving mother have called him that? Maybe he took a nickname, when, why? It’s cool to find a name that literally means Jerk, for example Google Translate says Rantas is Hungarian for Jerk, but why would his mother call him a jerk when born, except as a joke. 

Wu was a scary name. But his real name, William Underson was not.

Be careful, think through your names. I have a character called Wu, because it sounded scary he took it as a nickname, but I did mention that his name is William Underson, a name that isn’t at all scary, and a name you can see a mother giving her sweet little baby.

What if the parents are also bad guys? If you can explain it, go with it. 

Your turn. Worksheet number 2. The next page will give you some tips to keep in mind as you work through it.

Things To Watch Out For

Check your era. If your story is based in medieval times, names like Tony are probably too modern. Make sure your name suits the era (unless the story demands otherwise) so it doesn’t jar.

Say the name out loud. If your story ever goes to audio you are going to want a name you can pronounce. Giglemiatia may look like a pretty name, but try saying it in conversation, or get others unfamiliar with the character to say it (it may be too familiar to you for you to see the problem).

Similar names in a story. Also,  characters with same initials, you want to lessen the risk of people mixing these characters up. If your reader gets confused they won’t enjoy it as much. Note, if your names are similar it is also possible for you, the writer, to get confused and that’s just embarrassing. 

Be careful when basing characters on people you know.

Naming after someone you know. There’s nothing wrong with this, so long as you have their permission, just be careful. If you make your school bully the evilest of people in the book they can sue, or murder you in your sleep. Don’t offend anyone, don’t make them blatantly obvious as based on someone, and seek permission.

Overused names. You don’t want people mixing up your character’s personality with that of someone else in another book that had the same name.

Roots of character. If your character was born Irish, from Irish parents, probably not a good idea to give him a Russian name.

Match name with the theme. Here’s a neat trick if you get really stuck: if your character had a theme what would it be? Bravery? Honesty? Trust? Find a name with meaning, you don’t even need to mention it in the story. Those who are well-read may pick up on it adding another layer to your character. You could also get ironic, a character who isn’t very trusting, or you wouldn’t trust, call him Gilbert (meaning trusted) and watch the learned ones giggle at the irony.

Some useful sites:

This Continues in Part 2. Click Here.

Does this help? Share your cool name choices down below. Tell me why you’ve chosen that name!

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