Write Your Novel Step by Step (Step 16)
Write Your Novel Step by Step (Home Page)

Write Your Novel
Step by Step


By Melanie Anne Phillips
Creator of StoryWeaver

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~ Step 16 ~


What’s in a Name?


In the last step you added some truly outlandish characters to your growing potential cast.  Now in this step, you’ll interview all the folks that showed up to be in your story to learn a bit more about them, to help you decide who to hire.


You’re going to be collecting a lot of information about each of your characters individually, so either make a list, open up a spreadsheet, or just grab a few good ol’ index cards to help you keep everything straight.


(Note: You probably won't end up using all the characters you've created so far.  But we want to keep them all for now so you can scavenge some of their traits later to spice up the other characters you ultimately select as your cast.)


The first step in any interview is to get to get the character’s name.  You probably already have names of many of your potential cast members, but there are likely to be a few whose names you don’t yet know.


For the nameless ones, it’s time to give them a moniker.  Names give us our first impression of a character.  In most stories you’ll want to keep most of your characters’ names normal and simple.  But if they are too normal or if everyone has an ordinary name, you’re just boring your readers.


However, if your story requires typical names, try to pick ones that don’t sound like one another or your readers may become confused as to which one you are talking about.  Personally, I’ve always had trouble remembering which one is Sauron and which is Sarumon, but that’s just me.  Nonetheless, stay away from character combos like Jeanne and Jenny, Sonny and Sammy, Bart And Bret and – well, you get the idea.


If your story might benefit from giving some of your characters more unusual names, consider nicknames.  Nicknames are wonderful dramatic devices because they can work with the character’s apparent nature, against it for humiliating or comedic effect, play into the plot by telegraphing the activities in which the character will engage, create irony, or provide mystery by hinting at information or a backstory for the character that led to its nickname but has not yet been divulged to the readers.


Keep in mind these are just temporary names for identification.  You'll have the chance to change them later.  So for now, just add a name to every character in your potential cast list.