Cassie's Creative Catalyst
Cassie's Creative Catalyst

Season 1, Episode 2 · 1 year ago

Character Creation - Name First


In this podcast, I explain how to create a character by creating their name first. A few examples are given along with why each element should be considered.

Note: Creative Writing Podcast 

Hey guys, I'm Cassie, the host of CASSIE's creative catalysts. This is the second episode and my character creation miniseries. Last week I talked about how to create a character by creating their personality first. This week I'm going to explain the benefits of starting with the character's name first. It always happened you're looking through baby name sites for the perfect name and you finally find one. Then you realize you don't have a character to use it on, or it doesn't sound right with the other names you've chosen. There are a few ways you can address this problem. If you are set on giving a character a certain first name that doesn't sound right with the rest of the names in the family, have no fear, you can definitely still make that work. There are a lot of common reasons for people to get name changes. People get married divorced, there are half siblings, people change their last name due to a poor relationship with a parent, and people get adopted. These are just...

...a few of the reasons that families come to blend and have different last names. It is important to understand why a character has a different last name, though. It shouldn't just be something that people sit there and except, because they're going to want to know why. If the last name was changed because of a bad relationship with a parent, you should ask yourself which parent and what the bad relationship was like. If the last name is different because of half sibling links, what is their living situation like? These questions help us build a character and they let us explore their family dynamic. When you have a blended family, that blend is going to affect your characters living situations, how they interact with each other, and it's really important to bolster your characters based on these facts. I have a character who didn't fit well with his own family, no matter how hard I reworked his personality. It just didn't...

...feel right. He was a critical character and his full name and his relationship with other characters had already been solidified. I finally decided to have him live full time with his aunts, uncle and cousins while his parents had travel heavy jobs. This worked out really well for me because his cousins were already critical characters, his aunt and uncle were critical characters and his parents were kind of unnecessary, and I realized that by moving my character and with his cousins, I removed to clunky main characters in reduced them to secondary characters that only came in periodically and when it was absolutely necessary. This was also a good moment to explore how the characters reacted to change, why they thought the change was necessary and how important the other characters really are to the story. Another reason... of might choose to develop a character with the name first is because that character is meant to honor a person in real life, when you honor someone with a character, either by using their name or a name they choose, it is important to do it well and with purpose. Give the character traits that make you think of the person you're honoring, give them a reason to be in the story and make their appearance matter. Don't say you're honoring a person with a character and then do a name drop and move on. They do not have to be a main character or reoccurring character, but they should have a purpose in the story. A good example of this is a character I made an honor of a high school friend. I had been looking at the names on the spines of books for inspiration and we had been talking about some of the stuff I was writing. My friend looked at me and said,...

...if you ever basic character on me, can you give her this name? I agreed because I was touched by the way she worded it as an option and not a demand. Life moved on and while I had used her name in a few unfinished short stories, I had mostly forgotten about the promise. Then one day I found out that she had switched her major and she was going into a Meta cool field and I remembered that promise I had made all those years ago. I reached out and asked if she was still okay with me using that name to honor her and the role she played in my life. She agreed and when I wrote the first draft of my book, I used her name for a medic that played a crucial role in saving the other characters. It was not a large scene, but it was an important scene and it was written with purpose. The next reason to name a character first is because their name is important in the world. If you have an...

...important family that is a center point to how the area functions, you cannot put off naming them. It will be extremely difficult to talk about the influence that name has on an area if you do not name them. Naming the character first can help you determine what kind of influence they will have on an area. If someone is angry at the character, is their name going to be yelled in the streets or is it going to be whispered about behind closed doors? Is the name going to turn into a running joke? These can be answered by how the name sounds and what the meaning of the name is. If you find a name that means diligent and truthful, you can have a character that takes pride and how hard they work and is always up front about his abilities and when he can't complete a task, or you can make a play on the irony and creates a lazy and sleezy character that should never be trusted. I use this method. When I discovered that a name meant...

...ruler of the home, I was still trying to figure out how I was going to structure the importance of families in my story. The name helped me decide that each family had one ruling member and that there would be a lot of other roles in the family that would help guide the ruler. This hoped me with world building and the character creation, because his name gave him a purpose. The last reason to create a character by naming them first is so that you can have names with a theme or family tradition. We all know a family where everyone's first name begins with the same sound or letter. If you decide to make a family this way, it is important to listen to how the name sounds together. This will help avoid clunky conversations any time you try to refer to multiple members of the family. You can also ask yourself if there are family traditions and this case it is important to name the character first so that you can see how feasible it is to implement the tradition.

Or maybe you just like nature inspired names or space theme names. Once you name your characters with this theme, you can use a theme to inspire the storyline. I've used this a lot, both intentionally and unintentionally. I think my favorite instance of this is when I decided to create a tradition where the son's middle name was the grandfather's first name. It's just a little store ray element that adds depth to the characters. I particularly like this tradition because it gives the characters their individuality and a first name, while paying respect to the family in the Middle Name. We all know someone who has lived in the shadow of their namesake. For one reason or another, I personally find it difficult to replicate this shadow, and this tradition allows me to keep something of family importance without creating an in depth background for a secondary character that I may never use. With all of this said, it is important to note that...

...your characters will change along the way. Families will grow and blend even further. Your truthful character will be put in an impossible position, the character you are using to honor a friend may follow a different path than originally intended, and the family might break tradition, and that's all okay, especially because, with a little bit of time, they will eventually find your place in the story, and you should not be afraid to tweak all of those little things until they truly fit there, or you can pull them out and put them into a future story. All right, guys, thanks for listening. If you've enjoyed this podcast and have any questions, comments or suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. You can contact me on instagram at cassie's underscore creative underscore catalyst, or by email at cassie's creative catalyst at gmailcom.

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