We are going to shift gears a little bit for a new set of writing challenges. Building off our study of Point of View over at Frankie’s Wining Room, it is time to look at character creation, specifically naming characters. This will be a three week challenge, with a new assignment each week.
Without characters, our stories wouldn’t exist. Characters are who we, the readers, connect to and remember. We all know who Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins are. Their names are synonymous with the stories they embody. It could be argued that the story would exist the same way, even if the characters were named differently, though these characters have become a part of our literary culture as much as Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.
I have always felt that a name can make or break a story. However, that fact really depends on the individual reader. Where I have a hard time seeing Julia as an evil queen, the next reader might like the juxtaposition of a soft, melodic name against the evil persona they take on. The typical sound of a villain’s name is sharp, tense, or abbreviated. The name origins often relate to darkness and death. Take for example, Voldemort. In French, Vol-de-mort translates to “flight from death.” The name has a rolling sharpness to it, but also a built in meaning. The suffix “mort” means death. There are a lot of layers to the name Voldemort above and beyond the French translation and the Latin root, but we will save that concept for later.
Now, if we take the idea of Julia as a villain, we are fighting against the perceived evil villain name trope. Who do you immediately think of when you hear the name Julia? For me, I think of Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles and Julia Child. Julia Roberts and Julia Stiles are both actresses. I picture Vivian from Pretty Woman, Tinkerbell from Hook, and Julianne from My Best Friend’s Wedding. Then we have Kat Straford from Ten Things Hate About You and Sara Johnson from Save the Last Dance. Julia Child makes me think of food – and Meryl Streep. Maybe my problem is that I am a very visual person who watches a lot of movies. None of these images draw up EVIL VILLAIN…… to me. As a reader, if you name a villain Julia, you have to make me believe that this person can be evil. Other people might just accept it, or they may like it because it goes against the norm.
Every person is going to have a reaction to a written name. There will be a connotation to it based on the reader’s own experiences and interests. We all see the world in a different light. For our first exercise, we are going to look at our own perceptions of a name through two pieces of flash fiction, due by next Sunday, January 8th.
From the list below, chose two character names:
- Caesar Frayne
- Jane Anderson
- Ron Evans
- Garron Amos
- Victor Reyes
- Lillian Cross
- Poliquin Vane
- Sarah Francis
- Paul Marcus
- Davion Meadows
- Wilmer Kaine
- Emmaline Cooper
- Andrea Sullivan
- Charles Hall
Now, choose the setting that you think best fits each character you have chosen above (based on your perception of the name):
- An orchard
- A lighthouse
- A castle tower or castle dungeon
- A slaughterhouse
- An attic
- An underground storm shelter or apocalypse bunker
- A high school prom
- A hair salon
- A used car dealership
- A fishing boat
- A hotel room
- A condemned apartment building
- A Vegas stage show
- A cemetery
Using your character names and settings, sketch a scene for each character that gives the reader an insight to who this person is and why they are in this place. Be sure to use what you have learned from writing different POV’s to help draw the reader into the setting based on the character’s viewpoint and description of the location. When writing the character for this exercise, it is important to go with your gut intuition. We aren’t trying to break any rules or challenge a trope. This is purely about your perception of a name and the character that it draws to your mind.
As the week progresses, be sure to check out everyone’s posts and take the following questions into consideration as you comment on their pieces:
- Based on your own perception of the name, did it seem fit the story being told?
- Which setting did the author chose?
- What personality traits did you pick up on from the character?
- Could you relate to/commiserate with this character?