Creating Strong Characters

Last week, we discussed the importance of having strong and complex characters. We now understand the characters act as the medium between you as the author and creator and your readers. Without strong characters, your well thought out and executed story will simply fall flat to your reader. It takes strong characters to make your story memorable. This week, we will explore just where to start.

What’s In A Name?

There is a quote from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet where Juliet asks this very question. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Does the same understanding translate to character creation when writing a story? In truth, it depends on the writer. Does the character’s name have a deeper meaning? Take my name James, for example. James means origin and popularity. That meaning has little or anything to do with who I am. Let us say however, you are creating a character of great and powerful leadership. The name Richard fits perfectly, as the meaning of the name is “powerful leader.”

When creating a character’s name, it is important to remember two things. First, no matter what the name will be, your readers have not met the character yet. In not yet knowing the character, the name to begin with is of little importance. Your reader will come to know your character no matter the name. With that in mind, the name you decide to name a character, unless it has a particular fondness to the author, is of little importance.

So, how does one go about deciding on a name for a character? Some writers have a profound ability to come up with names off the top of their head. For others, myself included, coming up with names is a more difficult task. Luckily, there are tools all over the internet for aiding in the process. A simple Google search of “random name generator” will display a long list of such tools. Depending on the genre I am writing, there are several generators that I use. Here is a list of several of them: – This is a wonderful tool when it comes to names for just about anything that you need. From fantasy names for elves and dwarves, to fictional cities, armies and everything in between. – If you already have an idea for backgrounds and histories and just need some random names, these are your tools. – This is a must if you want some names as well as a collection of random information on main or supporting characters. If you need fake addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or even credit card information, it is all there.

Some Things To Keep In Mind

Once you have decided on a name, there are some things to keep in mind. Most of us have a story to go along with why we are named what we are. Maybe we share the name of a favorite uncle, or perhaps the middle name of our grandmother. No matter what name we were given, there is typically a reason we were given the name. The same is true for your character.

As part of character development, knowing why a character was named has the ability to play at least a small part in your overall story. Perhaps a long lost family member will show up at some point and knowing how a character was named will be a test as to the truthfulness of the claim. It is such trivial details such as this in your prewriting process that can contribute in a big way to your overall story.

Another consideration could be given the name of a dead relative or loved one. How did the person die? Was it from particular mission or cause? If so, perhaps the character feels obligated to pursue the same cause. Take a fantasy setting for example. A man named Hewald was killed while searching for a mystical sword before your story takes place. Your main character is also named Hewald and as a sense of honor takes up the mission. The possibilities are endless.

*Side Note* While preparing for my first novel Ashes Will Fall, I had put together such an extensive collection of character background information that I was able to write my short story series Rudy’s Rangers. In fact, I have several other projects in the work from the background from the character creation from just a single book.

When it comes to naming characters, do not be afraid to utilize the tools available to you. Random name generators are there to aid in the task. If you feel generators are not the correct tool for you, do not hesitate to search name lists or even the phone book. Now that we explored naming characters, next week we will take a look at Part One of character histories. In the meantime, keep your pens, pencils and computer keys going and write your heart out.