"Raymond’s eye for telling detail is very fine, as one expects of an accomplished writer, but to this she adds the informing eye of a natural historian of place.”
— John Keeble, author of Nocturnal America
Midge Raymond
Midge's blog about writing . . . reading . . . and everything in between

Category — Writing prompts

What’s in a name? How to name your characters…

For Shakespeare’s Juliet, “that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” — but for a writer creating characters, a name can be a wonderful opportunity for enhancing character development.

Some writers must have a good character name before writing a the first word of a fictional story; for others, names are a bit of an afterthought. (Or, if you’re like my writer husband, you use the same three character names for every piece until your editor reminds you that some recycling isn’t actually for the best.)

Character names are more important than you might think…for one, having just the right name can offer a sense of context, history, culture, and personality — whereas having an ill-fitting or too-strange name can distract readers.

Here are a few tips for choosing the perfect names for your fictional characters…

  • look for names that aren’t too simple or too weird, unless this is for a very good reason
  • research the origin of the name; give it meaning
  • think about how it sounds in your ear and how it looks on the page
  • consider how the character feels about his/her name
  • use names consistently throughout (first name, or last name) to avoid distracting or confusing readers
  • if you’re writing about someone resembling a real-life person, change the name (as well as other identifying characteristics) to something really, really different

For inspiration and a plethora of name ideas, check out baby-name books, visit the Social Security Web site (where you can search name popularity by year), and search baby-name websites. You could also research the old-fashioned way: Dorothy Parker got her characters’ names from the telephone book and from the obituary columns.

Here are a few writing prompts to get you in the naming mood …

  • Write for 10 minutes about how you feel about your own name. Do you like it? Have you always liked it? Why/why not? What would you prefer your name to be if not the one you have? Has your name changed over the years due to losing or acquiring nicknames, marriage, etc.?
  • Write a list of your favorite names, both male and female. Next, write down characteristics you associate with these names, physical and otherwise.
  • Write down the names of all of your family members and/or close friends. How do their names help define who they are (or not)?

 

September 3, 2014   3 Comments

Weekly Writing: Cheating

Write about the last time you cheated, whether it was on a partner, in a game, etc.

underwood

September 1, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Film School

Take a scene from something you’re working on, and put on a film-school hat. As director, screenwriter, cinematographer, musical producer, whatever — rewrite the scene as it would appear in a film, paying close attention to (you guessed it) the actions of the characters, the dialogue, the setting, the sounds. Then take note of what you’ve discovered about this new scene, and incorporate these elements into your project.

underwood

August 25, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Trees

Imagine passing a logging truck on the road. What does the image bring to mind: a new home, an empty forest? Write a scene that captures the image and your emotional reaction with as much detail as possible.

August 18, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Fog

Write about fog, whether it’s a marine layer at the coast or a cloud hovering between mountain peaks or a mist you’re driving through at night. Describe all the sensations and emotions that fog brings to mind.

August 11, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Color

Write about the color green and all its possible meanings and connotations. Next, write about the color blue. Then orange. Then purple.

August 4, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Vacation

I recently read about a study that revealed that people enjoy anticipating vacations even more than they enjoy taking vacations — apparently, the joy is in the looking forward rather than the being away.

With this in mind, write about a vacation you looked forward to that actually disappointed you. Next, write about a trip that was even better than you expected.

July 28, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Stops

Write about a rest stop.

July 14, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: It’s all about you

Write the jacket copy for your memoir. (Remember: a memoir isn’t a summary of your life; it’s a story. What story would you tell if you could write only one book about your life?)

July 7, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Coveting

Write about something you stole, or wanted to steal. And why.

June 30, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: History

Write about your favorite moment in history — and why. Then, write about a moment in history that makes you cringe, and why.

June 23, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Home

Write about a home you wish you still lived in.

June 16, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Strangers

Write about a stranger you met who had a surprising effect on your life — someone who met only briefly but have always remembered.

June 9, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Celebrate

Write about a recent celebration.

June 2, 2014   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Buyer’s remorse

Write about something you bought for the wrong reasons.

May 26, 2014   Comments Off