Friday, June 1, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 6

Special note: Christian Writers Guild is offering a webinar on June 28 presented by Liz Curtis Higgs on creating characters for your novel. Find out more here:

A Name Is Not a Name
Did you know the name Dobby, a character from the Harry Potter series, was a real word? I discovered quite by accident one day playing Scrabble that the word is a British dialect meaning fool. No doubt J.K. Rowling’s British readers knew the importance of the word. To me it was just a strange name to match a strange little creature, until I learned its meaning.

Like a computer organizes files, a person's brain begins to classify people by certain qualities the instant one meets, and that includes a person's name. Let me offer an example: "I just met Sean O'Malley." If you know nothing else about this person, what possible clues have I given you about the character?

You want to be as particular about the name you give your character as you are about his or her physical build and personality. Names carry meaning and speak of the culture of origin. If your character is from Ireland wouldn't it seem rather odd if she had a Chinese name? Of course it would, but when we learn she has one parent who visited China as a child and fell in love with the country, then it makes sense.  

Every reader may not catch the importance of a character’s name, as I did with Dobby, but the point I want to make is that in writing you need to make every word work for its space on the page.

Visit here to discover more about the meaning of names:

Make your characters' names work for you.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

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