Thursday, 18 August 2011

Name Salad - How to name your character and make a mess while you're at it!

So often, in fantasy books especially, we meet characters whose names sound like they were just made up. While some of them are probably derived from mythology, literature, or are in fact, clever anagrams of people the author knows and dislikes, you can bet your beetles that some of t hem are made up and used because they sound pretty

Names like Frodo, Bilbo, Sabriel, Katsa, Ged, Kest, Elphaba .... (I could go on) might mean something to the author. For example, "dumbledore," is old English for bumble bee, and thence became the name of the humming, benevolent wizard Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. And whether you're writing fantasy or not, if the names work for your character, it doesn't really matter where they come from.

So with this in mind, here's a way of coming up with original character names. (Well maybe not that original, there are only so many syllables in the world and whilst trying this recently, I proved that by pulling out my own name. What are the odds?)

Write your name on a piece of paper. Now cut it up into the syllables that make up your name. For example;


You get the idea.

Use any name you can think of. Make up some syllables for good measure. I find that EL, ESS, KA, DO, GO, IG and SAL make for good combinations. You can even use words and don't forget to use all the vowels!

Toss the pieces together to give them a good shuffle and then start picking out the pieces of paper as if you were playing Scrabble. You don't HAVE to take them at random.

Some good names I came up with include: Elpha, Rhymael, Esmira, Malukai, Kimru and Thora.

If it doesn't work first-time, keep adding syllables and letters. You're bound to come up with something epic eventually. Write them down in your journal, or save them in a file labeled "Character Names" on your computer. Nevermore shall you christen your characters "X", "BOY", "HORSE" or "insert evil-sounding name here."

Sunday, 7 August 2011

When the Lightbulb Strikes

My imagination is pregnant again... and with one screaming-to-be-written-book toddler and another half-edited ink-and-paper teenager... I don't know how I'm going to handle this.

I got the third idea while I was in the shower, now I'm sitting here, dripping wet, (but decent, you'll be glad to know) having typed up the bones of a possible new novel.

If there's one thing I've learned this week, it's that when you get an idea, write it down immediately. No matter where you are or what you're doing, WRITE IT DOWN. (maybe with the exception of driving)  You may tick off a lot of people, but you'll be glad you did it when you finally get to sit down with it and start planning. Ideas are fragile and become hazy, just like dreams. After even an hour, the quality just isn't the same.

A friend of mine recently gave me the tip of writing ideas on the back of till receipts while at work. I usually go home now with a back pocket full of illegible notes on scraps of till paper.

If I really can't stop to jot something down, (because I'm scaling the wall of a ruined castle, and to falter would meant plummeting to my death, no joke) even speaking it aloud (at the risk of being committed) can help you internalise the finer details.

Now to dry my hair! If anyone else would care to share their ideas on this, I would love to hear from you.