Building Character

Names are important. Names give clues about us, where we live, who we are. In some cases they can even tell what we do! There is a certain ring about George W. Bush, you just know he's American! You can almost feel the Texan, and taste the oil

When selecting names try and make them suit the person and place, you might not think it but the name tells a lot about a character - think of Scrooge, of Judas - call someone by those names and people will just know what you mean. Location. Location. Location.

If you are writing a story set in the 1950's then check what names were been used then. A useful tip rent an old film and watch carefully the names in the credits at the end. Listen to what people are called in the film.

I like American gangster movies and get some of my names from popular movies of the day. I'll rent a Humphrey Bogart film and watch the credits. It's surprising the names you can come up with!

Pick names that ring true to the place you're writing about e.g. you would hardly have a Padrig in Spain - it's an Irish name. Tarquin Fortesque-Smythe could be from an American working class background, but you wouldn't think so from the name you'd probably say he belongs to the London G&T set.

Is your character 6, 16, 26, 36, or 76? Remember that people of different ages have different outlooks on life and different values. At 6 you're more interested in a new toy, at sixteen you're thinking of a living toy! At 36 you're worrying about the bills and at 76 - well I haven't got there yet! How would a 6 year old react on a day trip to Disneyworld, would a 76 year old go on it?

It is sometimes true that an author can write better about the opposite sex than they can about their own sex. You might want to give it a try.

Physical attributes and characteristics ? a good exercise is to sit down and describe in detail what your character looks like: the colour of their hair, their eyes, what sort of build they are, what type of clothes they wear, what kind of footwear. Have they any obvious marks, scars etc. We have a habit of judging people by how they look.

Get to know your character as well as you know yourself. You may never use it but why not interview him/her. Ask them questions: questions about their life, what they like to eat, favorite films, favourite drinks, where they were on holidays last year, where are they going next year. Does he vote? Who does he vote for?

© Kevin Hart MA BA(hons) ABC Writers Network 2005

Kevin Hart
[email protected]
http://www.abcwritersnetwork.co.uk
ABC Writers Network: an indispensable resource for creative writers with competitions, suggestions, reviews and general market advice.

In The News:

Mori wins 2 top sports-writing awards  Elko Daily Free Press
Opinion | Why I Write  The New York Times
What Is Political Writing For?  Columbia Journalism Review
Ten for Quramo writers’ prize  The Nation Newspaper
Loan write-offs pick up  The Daily Star
Should you write your own will?  Houston Chronicle

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