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, thehost of CASSIE's creative catalysts. This is the second episode and my character creationminiseries. Last week I talked about how to create a character by creating theirpersonality first. This week I'm going to explain the benefits of starting with thecharacter's name first. It always happened you're looking through baby name sites for theperfect name and you finally find one. Then you realize you don't have acharacter to use it on, or it doesn't sound right with the other namesyou've chosen. There are a few ways you can address this problem. Ifyou are set on giving a character a certain first name that doesn't sound rightwith the rest of the names in the family, have no fear, youcan definitely still make that work. There are a lot of common reasons forpeople 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 familiescome to blend and have different last names. It is important to understand why acharacter has a different last name, though. It shouldn't just be somethingthat 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 theirliving situation like? These questions help us build a character and they let usexplore their family dynamic. When you have a blended family, that blend isgoing 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 havea character who didn't fit well with his own family, no matter how hardI reworked his personality. It just didn't...

...feel right. He was a criticalcharacter 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, uncleand cousins while his parents had travel heavy jobs. This worked out really wellfor me because his cousins were already critical characters, his aunt and uncle werecritical characters and his parents were kind of unnecessary, and I realized that bymoving my character and with his cousins, I removed to clunky main characters inreduced them to secondary characters that only came in periodically and when it was absolutelynecessary. This was also a good moment to explore how the characters reacted tochange, why they thought the change was necessary and how important the other charactersreally are to the story. Another reason... of might choose to develop acharacter with the name first is because that character is meant to honor a personin real life, when you honor someone with a character, either by usingtheir name or a name they choose, it is important to do it welland with purpose. Give the character traits that make you think of the personyou're honoring, give them a reason to be in the story and make theirappearance matter. Don't say you're honoring a person with a character and then doa name drop and move on. They do not have to be a maincharacter 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 highschool friend. I had been looking at the names on the spines of booksfor 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 bythe way she worded it as an option and not a demand. Lifemoved 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 thatshe had switched her major and she was going into a Meta cool fieldand I remembered that promise I had made all those years ago. I reachedout and asked if she was still okay with me using that name to honorher and the role she played in my life. She agreed and when Iwrote the first draft of my book, I used her name for a medicthat played a crucial role in saving the other characters. It was not alarge 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 importantin the world. If you have an...

...important family that is a center pointto how the area functions, you cannot put off naming them. It willbe extremely difficult to talk about the influence that name has on an area ifyou do not name them. Naming the character first can help you determine whatkind of influence they will have on an area. If someone is angry atthe character, is their name going to be yelled in the streets or isit going to be whispered about behind closed doors? Is the name going toturn into a running joke? These can be answered by how the name soundsand what the meaning of the name is. If you find a name that meansdiligent and truthful, you can have a character that takes pride and howhard they work and is always up front about his abilities and when he can'tcomplete a task, or you can make a play on the irony and createsa 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 wasstill trying to figure out how I was going to structure the importance of familiesin my story. The name helped me decide that each family had one rulingmember and that there would be a lot of other roles in the family thatwould help guide the ruler. This hoped me with world building and the charactercreation, because his name gave him a purpose. The last reason to createa character by naming them first is so that you can have names with atheme or family tradition. We all know a family where everyone's first name beginswith the same sound or letter. If you decide to make a family thisway, it is important to listen to how the name sounds together. Thiswill help avoid clunky conversations any time you try to refer to multiple members ofthe family. You can also ask yourself if there are family traditions and thiscase it is important to name the character first so that you can see howfeasible it is to implement the tradition.

Or maybe you just like nature inspirednames 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 whenI decided to create a tradition where the son's middle name was the grandfather's firstname. 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 afirst name, while paying respect to the family in the Middle Name. Weall know someone who has lived in the shadow of their namesake. For onereason or another, I personally find it difficult to replicate this shadow, andthis tradition allows me to keep something of family importance without creating an in depthbackground for a secondary character that I may never use. With all of thissaid, 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 inan impossible position, the character you are using to honor a friend mayfollow 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 beafraid to tweak all of those little things until they truly fit there, oryou 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 anyquestions, comments or suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. You cancontact me on instagram at cassie's underscore creative underscore catalyst, or by email atcassie's creative catalyst at gmailcom.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (4)