A few weeks ago, I took part in a ‘Writing Characters’ workshop. Developing your characters thoroughly is a really interesting way to get stuck into your creative writing, and you can even find that, if you establish your characters well enough, they may start to dictate the story themselves.
A couple of the tasks were particularly thought provoking and I decided to pass one on to you as it provides a simple and interesting way of thinking about characters.
Task – What does your name mean to you?
In this task we went to work on deciding what our names meant. I, for example, didn’t like the name ‘Faye’ when I was younger because I knew no-one else with that name. I wanted to change it to Jess – I knew a few more Jess’ and at the tender age of 11, fitting in was very important. My Mother, being wonderfully understanding, then proceeded – upon my request – to call me Jess for a few days. In fact, the whim might have lasted as little as a day. I quickly decided that I actually didn’t like Jess for myself and that I’d go back to Faye, thank you very much.
Thinking about this in terms of forming a character, you can start to create a little story, bringing it away from yourself and just focussing on the name and what surrounds it. Therefore, ‘Faye,’ could inspire the story of a little girl who wanted to fit in, whose kind Mother did what she saw necessary to encourage Faye’s freedom and confidence, but in the end actually found that being a bit different was no bad thing at all. Later on in life, Faye would come to embrace her name for its slight uncommonness… even if her phone and computer always did try and tell her that ‘Faye’ was not a word and to please correct said misspelling.
Names can be a great way of establishing character and giving your audience a clue as to their personality. Consider Charles Dickens’ use of names. He often exaggerated his names to create caricatures, then, just from hearing an imaginative name, you might know if the character were good or bad, mean or kind. Think of Edward Murdstone, the dark sounding antagonist in David Copperfield, or Mr Bumble, the fat, pompous proprietor of the Poorhouse in Oliver Twist. Names can say a lot, so consider how you might use yours to say more about your character and their personality.