The Importance of Choosing the Right Name for Your Character

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How much time do you spend choosing your characters’ names? Do you slap on the first name that comes to mind? Do you spend hours poring over name books? What criteria do you use for choosing names?

The right name can make your character; the wrong name can break your character. Everything in your book should be telling a story, helping the readers, conveying something, and names are no exception. They are a key part of unlocking your characters, both for you and for your audience.

Here are some thoughts on choosing names.

First of all, the names should excite you. You are the creator, and you will be the one ultimately spending the most time with them, so make sure you choose names that you like.

What to avoid:

Boring names—don’t settle for  Anna Johnson when Beatrice Kettlewell will bring across your character better.

Confusing Names—avoid strange or foreign spellings, or names that all start with the same letter, and your readers will be less likely to forget which character is which, or get jolted out the story by strange names.

Names with wrong connotations—unless you are looking to use irony with your naming, you may not want to name your strong, practical heroine Arabella, or your skinny man Butch.

Things to Consider:

Origin—if your character is a Frenchman among Englishmen, don’t be afraid to use his name to help bring that out.

Meaning—choose a name with a meaning that has some significance to your character, or hints at what he’s like.

Phonetic Connotations—names like Sharpe, Hawker, and Savage bring to mind very different ideas than say, Pillow, Snow, and Gently.

Things I’ve done:

Collect good names—you can find them anywhere: books, film credits, online resources. Whenever I run across a name I like, I make sure I write it down to remember it.

Experiment with names—don’t be afraid to change around the beginnings and endings of names to find the right sound or impression.

Study other authors—look at the way they use names and learn from them.

Don’t be afraid to change a name if it’s not working—no matter how attached you are to the name, it is always better to have the right one.

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of other people’s opinions. Readers will be able to tell you if the name is distracting, if it gave a certain impression, and so on.

 

How do you choose your characters’ names? What are your favorite names from books you’ve written or read?

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And the Winner Is…

Dani M.!  Congratulations, Dani, on winning the $10 Amazon and $15 Adagio Teas gift cards.  Please email me at theherosinger@gmail.com so I can get your prizes to you.

Thank you to everyone who participated and made this giveaway a success!

Sparks o’ a Story: Writing Prompts

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Hello all! I thought for this post we would do something fun and writerly.  I’ve made seven writing prompts, one for each day of the week. Feel free to do them all, or just pick and choose your favorites.

Write a paragraph:

  1. In first person, from the perspective of an old man
  2. In third person, set in a historical time period
  3. From the perspective of an inanimate object
  4. In first person, from the view of someone who doesn’t understand the actual point of the scene
  5. In a genre you never write in
  6. From the perspective of someone from a country on the opposite side of the world from you
  7. From the perspective of a baby/child

Feel free to share any of your favorites in the comments below this week!

Also, the giveaway ends tonight at midnight, so if you haven’t entered yet, make sure you do!

A Word on Inspiration

Some time ago I came across this quote by John Irving:

“And when you love a book, commit one glorious sentence of it—perhaps your favorite sentence—to memory. That way you won’t forget the language of the story that moved you to tears.”

As I thought about which sentences I would choose, I realized that this could apply to writers as well as to readers. Which of us has not at some point been inspired by a book, and wanted nothing more than to write something equally beautiful? As writers, we should take note of good writing and study what makes it good.

Start a list. Write out your favorite excerpts: the ones that make you cry, or make your heart pound, or fill you with wonder. Examine them; see what makes them beautiful, why they move you. And then commit them to memory, or read the list through every so often. When you study great prose, it will influence your writing.

With that in mind, here are a handful of excerpts that inspire me:

He flung himself out the doorway—and stopped.

Across the street the Roman soldier stood alone under the broiling sun.

Haltingly, Daniel walked, not after Jesus, but across the road, till he stood before the boy. He had to try twice before the words would come. “My sister will get well,” he said, his voice harsh. “The fever has left her.” A quick guttural sound burst from the soldier. Daniel looked away. Who could believe that a Roman—?

“I think she would want to say good-bye to you,” he said.

The soldier waited, not understanding. Daniel looked down the road and caught the white flash of Jesus’ robe. Then he straightened his shoulders.

“Will you come in to our house?” he asked.

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

Someone must have burst the membrane over one of the high windows and there had been no leisure to mend it; a long sunbeam slanted through the hole, straight across the hearth, and where the thread of smoke curled upward through the sunspot it was a blue a wild hyacinths. It seemed to Frytha the most perfect thing she had ever seen; unbelievably perfect; the slow curls and eddies like fern fronds made of jewel-blue air; no, like running water, water eddying among stones, like the Sell Beck above the mill dam. Suddenly she was remembering, across the years, little birch-bark long-ships on the Sell Beck, and Ari Knudson’s voice came to her so clearly that he might have been speaking beside her. ‘That is our Shield Ring, our last stronghold; not the barrier fells and the tottermoss between, but something in the hearts of men.’

Odd, that she should remember so clearly something that she had not truly understood at the time….

The Shield Ring, by Rosemary Sutcliff

At exactly the moment when Maureen turned Phantom over to Paul there was the sound of a ringing neigh in the distance. It speared the morning stillness. It seemed to come, not from the sea, but from the Spanish galleon, back across the ages.

Phantom’s ears pricked. She jerked her head in the direction of Assateague Island. Tremblingly she listened. The bugle came again, strong and clear. It brought Grandpa Beebe bounding over the gate, running toward Phantom.

“It’s the Pied Piper!” he yelled. “He’s coming to git the Phantom.”

Paul and Maureen strained their eyes toward the island of Assateague, but all they could see were the white spumes from the billows, and skeins of mist rising from the sea. Then suddenly one of the whitecaps seemed to be flying free. It was the foaming mane of the Pied Piper, racing in with the billows.

Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry

Are there any sections or particular sentences in books that have inspired you? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

The Herosinger Blog is live + Tag and Giveaway!

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Welcome to the Herosinger Blog!

This is my writing blog, where I will be posting tidbits of writer life, writing tips, snippets, and the occasional book review.

I will be posting on Tuesdays with writer lifestyle, and Saturdays with an article.

In celebration, I have written a tag for you all, (feel free to answer in the comments below if you don’t have a blog) and I am giving away a $10 Amazon gift card and a $15 Adagio Teas gift card as a Books-and-Tea package. Thanks for stopping by!

Here it is!

1. Coffee or tea?

2. Rainy days or sunny days?

3. What is one food you couldn’t live without?

4. Give three words that describe you.

5. What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

6. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaption?

7. If there was one location from a book you could go to, where would it be?

8. If you could meet one character from a book, who would it be?

9. If you could ask one author of the past a question, who would it be? What would you ask?

 10. If you could change one event you didn’t like in a book, what would it be?

Link to the giveaway here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway