Posts Tagged With: Character Creation

Death in the Pages

There’s been a death in my family.

Death always comes as a shock, even when the individual sits at his door for a long time. When it’s obvious someone is going to die–whether it be illness, age, or an injury that can only be repaired so much–you try to prepare yourself for what’s coming. You think that knowing it’s coming will make things easier. That you’ll be able to move on sooner. That it will be less difficult.

But the moment of death still always comes as a shock.

Death is more than a theme or inevitability in fiction. Sometimes, Death is a character all together. But I’ve always had a fondness for a specific portrayal of Death. I’ve always liked the kind Death.

I think Terry Pratchett’s Discworld was my first experience with Death being written in such a way. Although I know he didn’t start out that way, Death–despite bearing the classic appearance of a skeleton in black robes, wielding a massive scythe–was a kind and personable being who cared for the souls he collected. His later iterations never showed him cutting someone’s life short, but rather guiding their souls after they had already died.

During his life, Sir Terry received many letters about his portrayal of Death. Some of those letters were from the terminally ill, thanking him for this version and hoping that Death was truly as the author imagined him.

I don’t care for the cruel Death. The Reaper. The Horseman of the Apocalypse. Any iterations where Death harvests souls like a heartless machine.

Give me the kind Death.

Give me the Death who doesn’t seek out souls to reap, but merely comes to collect them, to sever them from their mortal coils and guide them to wherever they need to go. The Death that cares for humanity and wants them to feel secure in what comes next.

Give me the Death that makes you feel there’s justice in the world when it all ends. The Death that doesn’t take from us, but ensures those we love are brought to a place they can be eternally happy…and those who make the world so harsh are punished justly.

Life is hard enough. Life can be cruel.

So, in fiction? I am glad Death has the option not to be.

Categories: musings, On Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

My Favourite Place for Names

A while back I wrote about names. I offered some stories and strategies I use for coming up with names. What I didn’t talk about, however, was how sometimes names just won’t come. Everything you try doesn’t sound right. Or you aren’t sure where to start looking when it comes to names for people from different cultures. Or maybe it’s not a person you need to name, it’s a place. What do you do then?

Find yourself a name generator.

I have a personal favourite for this task that I wish to share. Fantasy Name Generators was a website I came across while bored browsing the web. The Fantasy Name Generator is an endless source of naming delight. Their random generators touch all corners of your writing needs, from fictional people in a modern setting, to fantasy worlds, and the realm of fanfiction.

Under the ‘Real Names’ section, seekers will find three columns listing generators by ethnicity. The names range from modern to archaic to ancient in some cultures. Within, you can select whether you want a male or female name, as the family names generated are the same for both, you can easily go through dozens of names before finding one that you think fits.

Some warning here though. As some cultures use different writing systems from us and have different naming conventions, it is always best to do some follow-up research on a name. Make sure you have the western spelling right, and maybe ask someone from that culture if the name looks right.

Under the Fantasy Names tab, you get a strange and assorted list. Anything from Amazons to serial killers to vampires to wizards can have their name generated here. You get goblin names like Plyz or Slivak. Detective names like Norah Sharpe or Dan Maxwell. Superhero names like Venombite, or Doctor Smooth Vulture.

Okay, that last one was a bit silly. Some of them are.

The Pop Culture section is a fanfiction writer’s dream. While it’s not as extensive, it does focus on the bigger names: Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Star Wars and such. Great if you’re trying to name that minor original character from your Avatar: The Last Airbender story. Or if you just can’t decide what to name your next World of Warcraft character.

But for some, naming a character is easy. It’s the places around them—the cityies and cafes the parks and mountains—that stump the writer-to-be. Your protagonist could have a date at The Royal Junction or buy their morning brew from Big Boulder Coffee or spend their nights with friends at Club Embassy. Information is exchanged during a foggy night at Sunnyside Memorial Park. The possibilities here are endless.

But that’s not where it ends. Need a title for that catchy tune the bard is always singing? They have a Song Name generator. They’ve got Guild Names and Spell Names and Afterlife Names and Currency Names. Within their “Other” section, you’ll find all sorts of miscellaneous names you never knew you needed!

But this site offers more than just names. Stuck on an idea for your next short story? It offers plot descriptions and prompts. Need an actual idea for a city? It won’t only give you a name, it will give you some history and attractions for you to use as a springboard when you develop your world. The descriptions can be tweaked of course, to better fit your story.

The Fantasy Name Generator is easily one of my favourite resources for names. Here’s hoping it may become one of yours.

Categories: On Writing, research findings, stuff i like | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basil: A Discussion of Character Growth Through the Drafts

Let me tell you about how interesting the process of character creation is using an example from my novel-in-progress.

Taken with a phone. I offer many apologies.

Taken with a phone. I offer many apologies.

His name is Basil, and he’s a Homunculus.

In my book, Homunculi (at least in Europe) are an all-male species of artificial humans created by Alchemists. They function mostly as lab assistants and labour, having no actual human rights. While they are human in every regard, they are seen as property by law. As my first book focuses around a young alchemist named Amelia Knox, I felt I needed a Homunculus character to show off some workings of alchemical society.

Without much thought in mind to who he would be, I cobbled together a basic appearance (different from the one you see above). I’m terrible at naming, so I as I was thinking of a name for this guy, I asked myself, “What is the most British name you can think of?”

The first thing to come to mind was Sherlock Holmes.

This was followed closely by Basil Rathbone.

Thus, I named him Basil.

In my very terrible, early draft of the book, Basil was meant to Disanimate—a process which renders Homunculi feral monsters—and attempt to kill Amelia, only to be stopped by a bullet to the head.

This being a terrible first draft, Basil got absolutely no development beyond being obedient and nice before I killed him off. When I did the re-write, my intentions were the same: I would have him Disanimate half-way through the book and get shot. This time, however, the audience would weep.

But then I actually started writing it. I decided Basil needed to interact with Amelia more. I made him sweet and witty and a little sarcastic. I put them in a scene together and sparks just flew.

They were in love.

I could work with this. Nothing’s more tragic than losing someone you loved. Besides, he wasn’t the guy she’d end up with anyway. I had another man in mind for her. A man who would appear as a villain and be reformed.

Yet, the more I wrote and the more I explored my characters and their world, the more a little nagging voice in the back of my head told me, “Maybe don’t kill this guy off.”

“No, he has to die,” I told the voice. “That has been the plan since the beginning.”

“But he’s fun to write. And look at how he interacts with other characters. He offers a perspective of your world that’s not human and unique. Plus he’s really cute.”

“He is so cute.”

Needless to say, when I submitted my re-write of the first chapter for a work shopping class, Basil got some good reactions, many of which came from his “cool” visual appearance. By the time I submitted chapter 3, people seemed genuinely fond of him, even though he hadn’t appeared much.

In the end, the little voice won out. I found a logistical loophole in my characters to keep Basil alive. He’s since been promoted to the position of Love Interest and co-protagonist.

It’s a far cry up from “Minor Character who was Doomed from the Start.”

Really, I have quite a bit to work on with this book. So much has changed since the first drafts. Better ideas always come along. Keeping Basil around was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my writing.

Now, if you’re wondering about the art, it’s not mine. It was drawn by my friend Kaylee Gautier. She’s a really good artist, and you should check out her cool stuff at http://xenoworks.tumblr.com/.

Categories: musings, On Writing, This is my life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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