Characters and Enough of a Plot

Some characters dropped by two weeks ago with a bit of snappy dialogue and a dim idea for a story, and I thought, “Yes! I’m on my way!”  Then they took a hiatus while schoolwork and life got attended to. In that time, they lost a lot of their lustre and I wondered if they weren’t just a cute premise and not a real story.  Today, I invited them back for a visit and did my best to find out more about them and to see if I could find a way to brighten up that “dim idea.” I mean, in order to meet my NaNoWriMo goal, I need to complicate their lives sufficiently to sustain me and the story through 50,000 words of  beginning, middle and end.

I can honestly say now that these characters and their story have possibilities. I only have a name for one of them right now, and of course, that may change as I learn more about her and see her in action. But I have something to work with right now. My next step is to get names for all the other main characters, so I can listen to them talk and see what they have to tell me between now and November 1st. If people are going to be carrying on conversations in my brain for several weeks, they definitely need names. I’m going online to check out baby name sites and see what I can find.

And I’m going to practise typing the name a few dozen times, too, before I settle on it. I had a character named Philip in a romance novel, and I got extremely tired of typing that particular combination of letters. I guess because they mostly used only three fingers of my right hand and typing Philip seemed just plain awkward. He was the villain in the first novel I wrote, and I decided to reform him and make him a hero in a second book. I changed his name to Simon–still mostly a “right-hand” name, but my little finger was out of the action and I was much happier. Hence the typing practice.

Do your characters  just introduce themselves–first, middle, last name complete? Or are they X and Y until you find just the right name for them? Have you ever changed a character’s name part way through or after you’ve written a story or novel? Do you have a favourite name that you’re just waiting to find a story for? Have people left such strong negative impressions with you that you would never use their name in a story–unless, of course, they were perfectly horrible characters?  How do you find the names for your characters?

1 thought on “Characters and Enough of a Plot

  1. I like to have names before I get into the story too deeply. I also go to online sources, as well as a book of baby names. Last names I find difficult, I’ll admit to that. I usually check the phone directory or sometimes I glean unusual names from the obituary column.

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