Posts Tagged ‘character creation’

Pet Peeves: Writing Stupid Scientists

I am going to get this out of the way first, If you want to read a science fiction book, filled with scientists who explore planets on a survey team who act like *gasp* scientists…and FYI they NEVER put their face in a new species, take off their helmets in questionable atmosphere, or any other such nonsense… then check out Other Systems which is available on AmazonBarnes&Noble and Kobo. Yes I just plugged my own book in the silliest way possible.

Last night, I watched When World’s Collide, 1951. It is an extremely good movie. The scientists are smart. Non-scientists get angry due to the fact that they speak in theories as they work to create a rocket before Zyra and Earth collide. It is fantastic to see them work out the problem. The characters are smart. They are determined and they are survivors.

However, the reason I have been thinking about it is because of the Martlet. I didn’t realize that I would be writing another book about the scientific process, because it is about a group of people making hypothesis and testing those hypothesis with a variety of experiments, in this case, assassins who want to live forever so they play with necromancy on the side. The main plot involves the team losing their liquidator, Eohan. Then Roark and Mira go to the underworld before he resurrects in order to claim his soul.

While that is still the plot of the novel, if I am honest, I found the plot line  lacking. Something was missing. When I reread it, I realized the draft wasn’t a book I wanted to read…so I set it aside and considered what might be missing. That was when I realized, it played out like a movie I would enjoy. The story was good, I enjoyed the characters, but it lacked the depth that I enjoy reading…I believe my readers want that too.

The battle is for knowledge and a friend’s soul. The problem was the lack of science. I admit it is psuedo-biology mixing with what we would consider alchemy and witchcraft. This group was supposed to be the best, they are supposed to be smart. So I am going back and filling in the gaps now. Mira is running all over the Realms in order to gather what she and Roark will need to make a trip into the Underworld. Kian and Roark are running experiments with life and death.  They are all stealing bodies. (Thank you, Knifeman by Wendy Moore for giving me detailed explanations on how that actually worked!) They screw up. I am a bit worried about the pacing because like Other Systems, I ended up adding a few early chapters for context in order to answer the “why” questions.

Why is Eohan important to these people?

More importantly, why do they just assume this trip to the Underworld will work? No, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is not required reading in the Assassin’s Guild.

Anyway, I realized that I hate writing stupid scientists. I also hate reading stupid scientists and seeing them in movies.

So if there is going to be scientists, I make them smart!

Costuming your characters in comics and novels

Ever wondered how artists and authors decide how to costume their characters? Here is how I do it.

#1: what is the character’s job/economic status?

In Faminelands, Lark and Orin are mercenaries so they need armor that is lightweight. They are not rich so they will never be in gleaming plate-mail.

As the point of armor is to protect the body from injury, so I am a true believer of armor on both men and women warriors. I think the idea of a metal bikini is stupid. When I see the metal bikini on women warriors, I get pissed. I will probably never draw a character in skimpy armor.

That being said, Lark is also growing, so her armor more than anyone else’s will change. I tried to make it look piece-meal.

I also don’t think you should always show your characters in armor. Both for comfort and to protect their privacy, they probably would not wear armor to the market.

#2 Purpose of outfit.

Now Lark is a young girl. In the books she has four basic costumes: all appropriate at different times. Plus many of the articles of clothing are mix and match. Orin also has four basic costumes.

She has breeches, boots, green cloak and a white tunic. If she is in armor, we see a light weight leather kidney belt, leather upper chest protection and leather skirt, covered in belting. If she is in town: she also has a heavier pale green tunic. She also has a blue dress, she wears to sing in.

Orin has pants, boots, nearly black/green cloak and a white tunic. He wears a full boiled leather curiass covered by belting. As he is stronger, he also wears metal over his calms and metal bracers on his forearms. For town, he has two tunics, a heavy green one and a sleeveless blue. The blue is his nicest garment. He only wears his for evenings.

In the Daoine, they have a few more options depending whether they are in the great house or staying with their father who is a bowyer. Even still, I try to make it clear, she doesn’t have an unending supply of clothing. They are not supposed to be rich.

#3 Choose a color family and stick with it in order to differentiate as well as group your characters.

Lark’s cloak is a very specific color of green. It was the first color that I decided upon. Not only is it the same green as Lady Aster’s main gown, but we see it mimicked on every person from House T’Ralom (including Orin’s everyday pants.) His cloak is almost black, yet almost gives the appearance of green.

Lark and Orin’s colors are almost always mimic eachother. His darker and more masculine, hers lighter and feminine. Part of it is to reiterate that he is older, yet it also enhances his masculinity.

4) Accessories/armaments

As I said, Lark and Orin are warriors. So no matter what they are wearing they are also minimally armed with small blades. More often then not, you see them armed with more even if they are not in battle.

If on the road, you also see backpacks and bedrolls.

Anyway so that is how I do it, how do other people decide what their characters will wear?

Update on the Martlet

Sketch of Lady Mira

I think I might be freaking Dennis out– I am reading The Knife Man for research for the Martlet. If I have learned one thing throughout this process, it is how much medical science has discovered in the past two centuries. It’s actually amazing.

This is the 4th book about killing or stealing bodies that I have read this year. The crazy thing is, I didn’t have to do nearly this much research for Other Systems. Not even close. Apparently I can imagine what it might be like to be a scientist on a space mission, but imagining I am a surgeon of the assassins guild who plays with necromancy is really hard. For anyone following the project: it’s Kian’s chapters that I am having problems with–maybe I need to watch more CSI or something.

Mira, Eohan and Roark’s chapters have been complete for awhile. I also am still working on a endearment for Roark to whisper to Kian on occasion. The problem is that Kian more than any other character has had a whole bunch of bad things happen to him. There is quite a bit of names that simply won’t work. Also I wanted it to be special between them, something that neither Mira or Eohan would pick up.

And PS I do not really need suggestions. I am just letting people know where I am.

Writing gray character = fun! (Character Development of Lark)

In the second part of Writing gray characters= fun, I am going to introduce you to Lady Meadowlark, Daughter of Lady Nora and Calafas the Bowyer. Younger sister to Oroderthin and older sister to Calthal.

Though Lark is a “good” character, she too falls in the realm of a gray character– primarily because she will do anything to succeed. She believes in the “ends justifies the means” even when she is the one who faces loss by her decisions.

Lark was Nora’s first child to prove her place in House T’Ralom and named beloved granddaughter of Lady Aster. As I said in Orin’s post, Lark came to me very close to fully formed. It was her counterpart which was the question. Even so, there were a few things I needed to work out when I first began to write the stories.

Obviously the first issue was their relationship. The second one was how do I make this young lady on a dangerous quest a little more interesting?

Hypothesis: the most boring stories are wishes that come true without trials. Lark has two spoken goals in bringing Orin back to the Daoine. First of all, she believes this will cure their father’s broken heart and make him well. Secondly it will prove that Nora’s bloodline is strong. She also has one private wish: that Orin will provide kinship that she needs.

So those are her goals, but how did I make Lark herself more interesting?

As I said in the previous post: making Lark and Orin siblings makes it easier for them to be cruel to each other without dire consequences, while Orin is basically a villain softened through the eyes of his little sister, what makes Lark interesting is her hard side mixing with her weakness.

Hardness:

1) She is not an ingenue. Prior to The Carp’s Eye, she fought both the internal and external enemies of the Darien and won a war for the Daoine which has caused her promotion to Lady of the Forest at the tender age of 85. (If she had been a human girl, she would have been about 14).  She knows how to win wars. Throughout the books, the reader sees it is her who sees how to get things done.

2) She doesn’t like hurting people, but she will do what is necessary.  

Lark’s memory of her nights with Galdor from Living Stone

3)  Unlike other young maidens, she is not a virgin. Prior to her journey to find Orin, she had an affair with Galdor– a boy from her village. She is in love with him, but his jealousy of her promotion tore them apart.  Orin knows she made a “little mistake with Galdor” and like many big brothers, he doesn’t particularly want her talking to boys until she is older.  Lark likes talking to boys and will even disobey Orin to do so, but she doesn’t sleep around simply because she understands how babies are made. (Lord Brogan and Healer Nonia made sure of this fact after Galdor.)

Weakness:

1) Lark was abandoned many times in her life, now her need for companionship and love is so great that she accepts abuse.  (As I said in the previous post, physical abuse of children was a learned behavior in their household/society.) As an adult brother of a child normally he would have authority over her, but Lark is not just a kid anymore, she is also a Lady of the Daoine. Inside the village, due to her rank, if she ever tells anyone that Orin hits her, their extended family will kill them, so she keeps quiet.

Another point which is related, but not exactly a weakness is Lark has had such a tough life, that she prefers death to failure. She doesn’t always think of the consequences of her actions and will put her life and her place in the House on the line. The reader sees this during the Goblin Skirmishes when she stood up against the entire counsel, how she stood against Malak in order to protect Orin during the Carp’s Eye and how she disobeyed Orin in Living Stone because she knew of the job (and as you can see from the image below rescued two puppies in the process.)

So that is an introduction to Lark’s character. How do you form your characters?

If you like what you see consider supporting the Print Faminelands: Mareton’s Curse Kickstarter Campaign which is running between Mid- October to Mid November. More information to follow….

Writing Gray Characters = fun! (Character development of Orin)

Fans of my writing tend to love (or hate) the characters. Or dislike them and learn to like them during the adventure. Or hate them but just “have to know what happens next!” so I am going to be writing on how I create these types of characters without being too fluffy over the next few posts.

I will admit why writing gray characters is so much fun is simply they will do things I will never do. No, I am not just talking about using a sword, great battles or reading minds. I mean in the everyday level: they live a life so different than mine. They have different view points, they have different sets of morals.

Note: neither Lark or Orin are helping the man who is literally being eaten alive by the ghost.

Specifically in this post, I am going to introduce you to Orodherthin, Son of the Lady Nora and Master Bowyer Calafas of the House T’Ralom. He is older brother to Lady Meadowlark (Lark) and Calthal. Writing and drawing him has been a blast. Why? Because he is ultimately a villain softened by the eyes of his little sister.

Coming up with the leading male protagonist of Faminelands (depending on your point of view, he also might be considered the antagonist)  was so much fun. While Lark came fully formed in my head, Orin was much more of a cypher. I was playing DnD at the time and what sparked the story was the relationship my friend’s character and my character shared. They worked well together.

The first question I thought about: What was his relationship to Lark? While, I wasn’t sure it would be familial love in the beginning, but I knew that love would be a major component to his redemptive character arc.

While I did not know that they would be brother and sister, oddly, I always knew Orin and Lark were never lovers or romantically inclined towards each other for a few reasons. She was simply too young and romantic, if Orin seduced her, the reader would hate him–and Lord Malak would have killed him!

Originally I tried to write it with them just as friends in the Crua –as I said like the friendship between the two characters in the game–but that didn’t work either. Otherwise, every time it got tough, Orin would just bail.

When they were friends, there was simply no tension. No reason Lark wanted him to be redeemed. I tried writing a back story about how he protected her a few times, but it felt trite. Ultimately  it was two people just skipping along on an adventure. Fine for a DnD game, not okay for a book. Because when it all comes down to it: making them siblings makes it easier for them to be cruel to each other without dire consequences. That was when child abuse slithered its way into the story.

Here is a little backstory for both character: Mom was often gone supporting the family with their adventures, which meant Dad raised them. Then everything else began to click into place. Calafas was a father who had no idea how to control his wild son. Because Lark and Orin are bastards, other relatives could only do so much for the kids. Since this is a fantasy faux middle ages story: the idea “spare the rod spoil the child” was meant literally. Orin becomes sympathetic.

This next image is from page 32 of the Carp’s Eye. Orin’s memories of childhood.

But child abuse is passed on and we also see Orin hit Lark. Mainly he does it, because he is terrified if he doesn’t punish, she will face a worse fate. And (this is key to how I kept him a sympathetic character rather than just an overbearing jerk) he has no idea what else to do! FYI: No matter why he does it, I make it clear, what he is doing is VERY WRONG!

In this scene in Living Stone, Orin just slapped her, she kicked him to get away and now he has her.

Orin is larger than his sister–he is a grown man while she is still an adolescent–this tension rules the first two books. Making what might have been fairly stereotypical characters into what I hope feel realistic ones. Flaws make these characters real. Don’t apologize for writing characters with real problems! Orin gets mad, he gets scared, he makes huge mistakes.  The very best comments I have heard is “They are more human then elves!”

When Carp’s Eye opens, Lark has discovered her brother is in debt to the Crua and he tortures people for a living to pay for that debt. Still what makes Orin specifically a great villain turned protagonist?

1) Orin is not a sadist. If he was, he would not be a very good companion on this adventure. It simply would not be fun to see him derive pleasure from hurting people–if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. Any character arc that follows a road to redemption can not be an easy one. If he was a true sadist, could he be redeemed? Would he want to be?

Perhaps, but not in the eyes of the Daoine or in the eyes of their family. And most importantly, not in the eyes or heart of the reader.

2) His relationship to Lark. Even in his most evil moments, there is never any doubt in the reader’s mind that Orin loves his little sister.

3) The relationship to women. As with many fantasy protagonists, Orin is a lothario. He is roguish, without being cruel. See # 1 above. He tends to pay for sex since this is a fantasy realm where prostitution is looked down upon, but legal trade. Still he ends up being a favorite customer rather than one the girls dread.

So that is an introduction to how I wrote Orin’s character. How do you form your characters?

Also if you like what you see consider investing in the Print Faminelands: Mareton’s Curse Kickstarter Campaign which will be running mid October to November. More information to follow!

Character Development: A guest post by Craig Hallam!


This week I am pleased to host author Craig Hallam as he writes about Character Development. I was first introduced to his work on his short story anthology Not before Bed. His debut novel Greaveburn will be coming out August 20.

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I don’t know about you, but I tend to write the kind of characters that I also like to read. That’s how I get excited about a project. It’s like getting psyched up to see a movie you’ve been waiting for. So, since we’re talking about writing characters, it might be helpful if I tell you what my favourite books are, right? Here goes:

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast

Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club

Nick Horby’s High Fidelity

I hope that helps.  But if not, then basically I like my heroes to not really be heroes at all. And that’s the kind of philosophy I put into my own writing. You can sum it up with the old adage “No-one’s perfect”. When I think about my characters, what they’re going to do, who they’ll meet, I don’t think about how their virtues will carry them through to a positive conclusion. Rather, I think about what makes them tick, what are their character flaws, and how does that effect their drives and desires and so how they act when they come across others. Because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s how the world works. It’s our quirks that drive us. And I reckon that’s how you make an interesting and well-rounded character, too.

Let’s do a case study (I know, I’m all about the fun).

Let’s call this character Boris. Now, Boris is from a working class family, but he’s done pretty good for himself with a little hard work and a whole lot of luck. He has a steady job with decent wages. He’s managed to bag himself a great girlfriend. Boris would like to be a painter.

Sounds fine, right? But it’s boring. And Boris will be boring in everything he does. So let’s give him some flaws.

He’s a dreamer, who sometimes forgets that the real world exists. Sometimes, he’d rather sit and paint the world than take part in it. His sense of humour is dry enough that no one really knows when he’s joking. And his parents splitting up when he was younger and the subsequent fallout has left him with a desire to be always independent, and never get too close to anyone. It’s made him cynical in a lot of ways and his sense of humour feeds on that.

Yowza. Boris is pretty interesting now, right? And it’s the flaws that make him that way. His relationship with his girlfriend could be strained because he doesn’t want to let her too close to him just to leave him alone (like what happened to his parents). He uses that dry sense of humour and vivacious imagination to keep people at arm’s length. His paintings become his world, and he would be almost reclusive of it weren’t for his girlfriend’s influence.

Can you see hoe the character’s flaws are what create the plot. All we have to do is have Boris’ girlfriend leave him, and you’ve got yourself the start of a good novel!

When I was writing the character of Abrasia for Greaveburn, I knew that she would be the heroine (or protagonist if you prefer that), that she would be in dire straits, and that it would be through her that the reader saw the incredibly dark and dangerous world that she was trapped in. But to leave it at that would make her one dimensional; the typical damsel in distress. Who wants to read that? I certainly don’t. She’s a sixteen year old girl in dire peril with no hope of survival. And so, understandably, Abrasia can be a little…spikey sometimes. She can also be ruthless and spiteful. She has to be in order to stay alive. But she also happens to be quite sensitive when she needs to be. That all amounts to a lot of character in the little spitfire.

And so, dear friends, readers and writers alike, that’s the best advice I can give to you today. In order to make your characters truly lifelike, and help your reader to engage with them, make sure they have flaws just like we do. It doesn’t mean they won’t be likeable. No-one’s perfect.

Thanks for reading.

Greaveburn hits the shelves (both virtual and corporeal) in most major book retailers on August 20th from Inspired Quill Publishing.

A hero murdered.

A girl alone.

A city of villains.

From the crumbling Belfry to the Citadel’s stained-glass eye, across acres of cobbled streets and knotted alleyways that never see daylight, Greaveburn is a city with darkness at its core. Gothic spires battle for height, overlapping each other until the skyline is a jagged mass of thorns.

Archduke Choler sits on the throne, his black-sealed letters foretell death for the person named inside. Abrasia, the rightful heir, lives as a recluse in order to stay alive. With her father murdered and her only ally lost, Abrasia is alone in a city where the crooked Palace Guard, a scientist’s assistant that is more beast than man, and a duo of body snatchers are all on her list of enemies.

Under the cobbled streets lurk the Broken Folk, deformed rebels led by the hideously scarred Darrant, a man who once swore to protect the city. And in a darkened laboratory, the devious Professor Loosestrife builds a contraption known only as The Womb.

With Greaveburn being torn apart around her, can Abrasia avenge her father’s murder before the Archduke’s letter spells her doom.

Contact Craig

eMail: craighallam@live.vom

Twitter: @craighallam84

Blog: http://craighallam.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CraigHallamAuthor

Character Creation Part 3: Pets (aka Cats in Space!)

Sometimes having a pet either as window dressing or as a character can enliven the person.  How people treat animals does tell you a lot about them as well as their culture. Now when I am referring to pet, I am specifically referring to a non-sentient life form that lives with and cared for by a sentient life form.

So to write a pet character, you need to figure out: Species? Physical description? How are they treated? Do they have a job? Like any character, they need to serve a purpose in the story.

In Other Systems, there are a few pets mentioned. I will go in detail about Rockford.

Species and Physical Description: Rockford (Rocks) is a massive gray and white spotted domestic house cat. While dogs went extinct on Kipos, cats lived on due to their smaller size and independent nature especially aboard the Fleet.

Life Style: The humans on the Revelation consider him Diane’s cat in the sense that Diane wanted a cat, picked one up, now feeds, waters, cleans up his litter box.

However, Rockford considers The Revelation his domain and the crew his servants. He is benevolent. He gives preference to the Human called Diane who feeds, waters, and cleans up after him. He also gives preference to any Young Human as they tend to play with him. During the day, he wanders around the living quarters of the Revelation and pushes his scent glands on whoever is not working. While he does consider Diane’s bed a favorite resting spot, he also has his own cat-sized billet (Humans refer to it as a closet) with his toys and a scratching/climbing area and his litter box where he can retire until his special skill set is needed.

Employment: (No, they do not have a rodent problem.)

First of all, he is an excellent judge of character.

Secondly, when people are having a bad day and don’t want to deal with the hardship and the blackness of space, or just the annoyance of other human beings, Rockford is willing to cuddle while they watch vids. He also likes to play fetch with his stuffed fish and he likes to bat at pieces of fabric. He knows humans find it soothing when kitties purr.

Now you might not think this is an important job, but then you have never dealt with the black emptiness of space or a contained environment where you are stuck with the same people day after day.

Other ship’s cats in science fiction that make a huge difference in people’s lives…

When Ripley is about to blow up the ship on Alien, she hears Jonesy on the com system and rescues him. Why? She is emotionally distraught (as her crew has been killed or impregnated by the Alien) but rescuing the cat and taking care of him, calms her down and allows her to continue doing what she needed to do to escape.

On Star Trek: TNG Data had a cat named Spot. She is a couple different episodes, but she is finicky in food and friends. He creates a poem in her honor and in the Season 7 episode 19  Genesis, she and her kittens saved the crew.
And on the funny side of things: Red Dwarf, Lister smuggles a pregnant cat, Frankenstein, on board and has to go to stasis for 18 months, but after a radioactive disaster, he comes out 3 million years later. Frankenstein safely hidden in the hull has her kittens and the kitten’s progeny evolves into a somewhat-sentient cat race.
So Rockford goes boldly–okay, okay, he goes with hedonistic laziness– where at least three other cats has gone before…

Jax says: “Petting will not mollify me! I could be a space adventurer if you hu-mans would get your act together and build me a ship!”

Character Creation: Part 2

Like many authors, I do keep a character Bible and I fully admit there are lots of ways to write character descriptions, but this is how I do it. First of all a character description should take no more than an afternoon –maybe two. If you are spending months writing backstories, sorry but you’re wasting time you should spend working on your novel.

Step 1: who is this guy/gal? And what purpose do they serve in the story. If you cannot answer this question: this person is not a character to your novel.  If they are just a waiter or the delivery person, you need to decide if they are important enough to even have a character sheet.

So I am going to show you how I built Harden Alekos in Other Systems. (Note: there are no spoilers here, everything that fact that the description says you discover in the prologue!!!)

So I needed a ship’s captain. While I did consider making it a middle aged female, I ultimately chose to make him a middle-aged male due to the fact, I wanted a lot of tension  between this character and the protagonist who is a young female.

Step 1: Physical Description 

World Facts for Other Systems: Due to gene modification and therapies there is three separate species of human on Kipos. While some people have facial features that might show ancestry, nearly everyone of all three species of human has tan skin, brown or black hair, etc. Eyes in shades of Gold, Hazel, Brown, Black common. Blue eyes extremely rare. Green eyes extinct in Homo kiposi and the Homo garo, recessive gene in Homo khlôrosan.

Now back to Harden who is a Homo khlôrosan.
Species specific description:  Tan skin with embedded microscales. Gold eyes, Nearly no body hair except of heat centers (top of head, genitals, under arms.)

Personal description: Tall, but slender. Wiry. Due to body type and the way he smiles, he reminds people of his mom. Slouches. He has scars. Paternal Ancestry (on Earth): Greece, Maternal: French and English.

Clothing: On ship: coveralls over a t-shirt, on leave: coveralls over a t-shirt. Only times he dresses up is for off-ship dinners. Slacks, and a button down shirt and a jacket. No jewelry or tie. His underwear choices are not applicable for my story, so I don’t worry about it.

Step 2: Naming Once I know what they look like and their ancestry, I begin the naming process which I described last week.

Step 3: Character Description: Introverted. Has trouble relating to new people, doesn’t know how to make small talk. In social situations, he leans heavily on others. Loves puzzles. Social drinker, sometimes likes to have a beer when coming off duty, but never drinks to excess.

Education: Doctorate in Physics and Engineering

Job: Planetary Survey Team. Age when protagonist comes into his life: Early 40’s

Virtues: Loyal, honest. Loves his crew/family.

Vices: nearly constant swearing, can’t quite give up smoking.

Step 4: Relationships: Parents: Cole Alekos and Rosemary Finch. Raised by Mom, but after parents separate, she is a radio transmission. Loving, but slightly cold relationship with Dad

Siblings: Sister, Helen (originally -14 months) also due to the solitary lifestyle of space explorers: she is his closest friend.

Brother Mark (-15 years) He loves his little brother, but they only become close after Mark becomes an adult.

Offspring: Sterilized. Only offspring terminated in the womb.

Romantic Relationships: Primarily Heterosexual (though like most fleet brats he enjoyed bi-sexual experimentation in his late teens and 20’s.)

Okay, now while I think things like favorite music or color is irrelevant (except when it is relevant to the story) there are a few important things you can ask yourself and afterwords you will always know how the character will behave.

Step 5: Important Questions: 

How does he get out of trouble?

Intelligence. never violence.

Relationship Trail with Protagonist:

Since this would give away a subplot for Other Systems, I am not going to answer this, but all writers should think about it. Every single relationship has a trail it follows. Not only will it help with character interactions, it is generally a subplot to the story.

To write a relationship trail consider:
  • First Reactions to  the Protagonist
  • Protagonist’s first reaction to character
  • Major events that turn each character toward or away from each other

An easy romantic example is the “classic boy meets girl”, boy and girl falls in love, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again and they get married and live mostly-happily ever after.

An easy non-romantic example: When I was born, I needed my mother to nourish and protect me. When I became a little girl, my mother still had to nourish and protect me, but now was also the loving authority in my life. She had to teach and make decisions for me too. As I grew older I got more freedom along with more responsibilities. I fought her, but she never stopped being my mom. When I moved out, we became friends. It is possible that someday our roles will revert if I became injured and could no longer take care of my self or reverse as she ages.

So there you have it. An afternoon of work and I have a full fledged character and at least one subplot figured out. Woot!

For the other writers, out there, what other things do you find useful for building your characters?

Character Creation: Part 1 Names

So this week I have begun working on my next novel-writing project. (I am also working on Faminelands #3 in the comics arena.) I have finished my outline and started the naming.

What is in a name? A good character names has meaning. A good name might denote rank and gender. In a pluralistic society, it defines the character in terms of nationality.

Now call me old-fashioned, but since I speak (American) English as my primary language–as do most of my readers–it is important to me to have names for my characters that the reader can easily say. Even in Faminelands where I might have gone into crazy elvish names, my protagonists are referred by their given nicknames: Lark (Meadowlark) and Orin (Orodherthin).

For my first novel, Other Systems the main character is Abigail even though it is set in 1000 years in the future. Why?

First off it’s easy to say.

Secondly it has a long history. Abigail has been around for millinea. From the Bible, Abigail is Nabal’s wife and becomes the third wife of King David. So it stands to reason, the name will be around in another 1000 years. It has fallen in and out of fashion of course and right now is on an upswing.

Thirdly, it fits the character. Abigail is a female born in Seattle which is no longer part of the United States but a city-state. I knew she was going to use her intelligence as her primary means of getting through life. She starts the novel at 17. She is a stargazer.

So how did I pick the name? At first I looked at names with the meaning of intelligence, “Akilah, Lassie, Monisha, and Parmena” came up. Akilah: I am not sure how to say, but phonetically it reads A Killa. Parmena sounds too close to Parmesan cheese, Lassie is the name of a dog, so out of my first list “Monisha” was the only name, but it didn’t fit with how I pictured the girl.

The girl’s father is Caucasian with ancestors from Scotland and her mother is Asian with ancestors from China. We also know that her father believes in a monotheism deity while her mother and maternal grandmother believe in an animal zodiac and ancestor worship. She is the first born out of five and well-loved by both her parents especially her father. She is a bit of a daddy’s girl.  According to Thinkbabynames.com, the meaning of Abigail is “Father’s joy” or “the Father is rejoicing.”  That’s how I picked the given name.

Then I chose the surnames. I wanted to use both maternal and paternal surnames in the naming structure. I decided that during this time period there was two naming systems. Most people who lived in communes have three names: a given name, a paternal family name and a maternal family name.

Once again I looked up specific nationality’s surnames and chose ones that would be easy to say. I decided on a Scottish name “Boyd” and a Chinese name “Lei.”  Thus this character became: Abigail Boyd Lei.

Now how does this character, her family and contemporaries refer to her? Pretty much everyone uses the nicknames: Abby or Ab.

How does her boss on Earth refer to her? Miss Boyd Lei. She refers to him by his surname as well.

Finally now that I have a lead character’s name generally I will not name another character with the same first initial. However, the second two most important characters in the novel are Harden and Helen. I used the double H’s purposefully. Harden’s name was chosen first and then his sister.

So anyway that’s how I pick my names, how does everyone else do it?

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