QUICK FIX: Tune that name
(Writers’ Forum November, 2008)
A name is the most important attribute you can give your character, for it immediately conveys a huge amount of information and puts an instant picture into the mind of the reader.
Everyone has a pre-conceived idea of the person behind the name. Although this can sometimes be due to personal experience, many names are universally viewed in a particular way – strong or gentle, bossy or weak, serious or frivolous - and the character often reflects the name. Use this to your advantage.
• Buy a book of babies’ names. If meanings are given these can also be woven into the story as a sub-plot.
• Find out when certain names were at their most popular. This can help to place your story correctly in time and indicate the age of your character.
• Draw a mind map around a name and see which attributes appear. You will automatically create a character profile.
• Create your own list of names you feel happy working with and which come alive for you, then divide them into age groups and personality types. This will give you instant access to a range of names for your characters rather than using the same old favourites.
• If your character doesn’t feel real, change the name. It works – your character will act differently on the page.
• You could try making your character completely at odds to their name – a tetchy Patience, an unromantic Byron, a tomboy called Rosie. This is also a fun writing exercise.