from Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell
Plants, animals, objects, places, and people all have names. Naming people and things in your story has a practical purpose because it appeals to the reader’s loic and memory. In fiction, we name characters to differentiate them, to suggest their age, social standing, and personality, to make them solid and distinctive, and to signal to readers that the person is worth noting. Generally, the more complicated your character is, the more distinct his or her name should be, keeping in mind that names evoke responses in readers and ignite their imaginations. All fiction writers should collect names in a notebook, starting with the standard method of gathering names by perusing phone books, obituaries, and baby name books.
Take care with creating your characters’ names, especially your villain’s name, and be careful not to choose a name that works against type. Generally, you wouldn’t choose a name for a villain that suggests a softie, nor would you give a good guy a name that has a dark connotation. The best names are suggestive, reflect the genre type, and reflect an era. In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Voldemort’s name is so feared that few people speak it out loud; they instead call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Your villain’s name should reflect menace, coldness, and strength. Use hard consonants and sounds to suggest menace or other frightening characteristics, like Stark, the villain in Stephen King’s The Dark Half. Conversely, good guys will have names that suggest goodness or strength, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
You are also wise to use names that are suggestive; for example, Romeo suggests romance, Holly Golightly suggests a light-hearted nature, and Scarlett O’Hara suggests a flamboyant beauty. In Dean Koontz’s Forever Odd, the villainess is named Datura, which reflects her kinkiness, coldness, and cruelty. However, Koontz cleverly has chosen a name with layers of meaning, something fiction writers are always striving for. Datura is a flowering plant that is also called devil’s trumpet and angel’s trumpet, and there are many myths associated with it in cultures worldwide.
tangosvu asked: I’m writing a story about a set of twins who start with the dominant/submissive generalization (one twin talks, the other doesn’t) and eventually plan to switch the dominance. I’m looking for information on how to write twin speak and other kinds of twin idiosyncrasies. Thanks for the help!
Normally I would advise you to do your own research, but this topic struck my fancy, so I’ve compiled some interesting resources for you. I would, however, like to stress that these links are a starting point for you, not the endpoint of your hunt for information. If you want to know about twins, I think it’s probably best to talk to twins. Hopefully, we will be able to provide you with some volunteers.
At the bottom of the post, I will compile any further resources, including fellow writers who volunteer to answer questions for you about twins.
So, without any further ado…
Twinspeak, also known as cryptophasia, is a type of idioglossia, or a language spoken only by one or a few people. Here’s a bit more about twinspeak.
Here are a few general but interesting article on twins.
And here are a few IAMA Reddits for twins.
If you are a twin and you would like to be a resource for tangosvu, please respond to this post and I will add you to the list.
You can break down each character’s goals into three types: professional, private and personal.
‘Professional’ refers to the job that needs to be done. A monster has to be killed, a treasure has to be found, a wedding has to take place etc. This physical goal drives the main story and gives the hero something to do.
‘Private’ is something that characters want for themselves. It may not be the main focus of the story as it doesn’t necessarily affect other characters, but a character that only acts out of pure altruism and self-sacrifice is both unrealistic and a little annoying.
‘Personal’ is more about the psychological needs of the character. Whatever flaws or hang-ups the character might have (and he should definitely have some), there will have to be a resolution or understanding reached at some point in the story. This aspect is often the most rewarding and satisfying in a novel, but also risks being the most clichéd and obvious.
These three elements are often very closely linked and intertwined, but they can also be very separate. Both approaches have their advantages and their disadvantages.
We are a Romani Arts and Education Organization.Our primary mission is to empower Romani people all over the world to be a voice for themselves about their culture, experiences, history, needs and issues.
We’re aggregating Romani news from all over the world. Special thanks to RomNews and Roma…
HOW TO PLAY A GREAT VILLAIN
With all good roleplays, there is always that one character that has been deemed the villain. However, they may not try to take over the world or kill off a ton of people there is that one character that happens to antagonize the wellbeing of others and the plot itself. It is a role that is typically well thought out and presented by the admins, but most players are too nervous to try being the villain and they think that they won’t be as convincing as they wish.
This shall be one of various other approaches to achieve playing a believable villain.
I’ve finally built up a nice series of essays on writing asexuality and asexual characters in fiction. Here they are, all together in one place. They’re intended to be useful for asexual and non-asexual writers alike. They are also meant to be inclusive of gray-asexual and demisexual characters, although my knowledge is limited there.
These essays assume you already have a basic knowledge of what asexuality means: a general lack of sexual attraction to other people. This is not Asexuality 101; for that, check out the links on my resources page.
- Character Development Questions
- Demisexual Characters and Relationships
- Glossary of Words and Concepts Used in Asexual Communities
- Fetishization of Asexuality
- How to Show That a Character is Asexual
- Negative Responses Asexual Characters May Get When Coming Out
- Plot Ideas
- Potential Sources of Conflict For Asexual Characters
- Sex Scenes with Asexual Characters
- Stereotypes to Avoid
Other potentially relevant topics
- Aromanticism 101
- Aromantic Representation, or Lack Thereof
- Lithromantic Story Prompts
- Relationships That I Want to See More of in Fiction
- Sherlock Holmes as an Asexual Character - May be useful if you need an example or inspiration for how asexuality can influence a character and their relationships.
This post may be updated in the future as I write more stuff on this subject; I’ll link to it from my blog’s homepage so it’s easy to find.
Nobody likes a perfect character. Someone who is super good at everything and gets everything right is annoying.
Even the most suave secret agents of indestructible superheroes need to make mistakes in order to make the story interesting.
There are two parts to using wrongness in a story. There’s the actual mistake (which sometimes isn’t known to be a mistake at the time), and there’s the consequences of the mistake, usually forcing the character to deal with powerful feeling of guilt or regret.
Run by a clinical psychologist, Archetype is the fiction writer’s guide using psychology accurately in fiction. Q&A, resources, creative prompts, and media portrayals!
Worth checking out!
There are a lot of things that go into creating a super powered being, and all of them can be boiled down to two words: back story. You have to decide what power they have, how they got it, when it showed up, and a million other things before actually writing out the good parts. However, developing the super hero (or villain) is a bit more complicated.
The first thing to do with the development of a super is to teach them how to use their power. This can be a lot of fun because it gives you the chance to have your character make a lot of mistakes. The character is brand new to this and has no idea what the limits to this power are, or even if there are limits. So this is your chance to have them turn invisible in the middle of a first date, tear their car door off, or burn down the model airplane they’ve been working on forever. Teaching your character how to use their power can also help develop the super as a character. It helps to show how they handle different situations, or how they think about the world and the people in it.
The important thing to remember about super heroes and villains is that deep down they’re still human. They have the same wants, needs and motives as anyone else: love, greed, sympathy, anger, etc. However, what makes them interesting is the fact that they have power. They have abilities that no one else has, and that’s where writing these characters gets really interesting. Once the character has these powers (and knows how to use them) the logical next step is to make the “big decision.” Are they a hero or a villain. In comic books the decision to be a hero or a villain is almost always made after a major life event. This can be the death of a loved one, being framed for a crime, sometimes even after the character’s own death. What the writer has to think about is how the character deals with the particular event. This is just like any character development, but with the addition of powers. This may not seem like a huge addition, but it is, and this is because it gives a lot of possibilities for a reaction scene.
After any huge life event a person is going to feel a very strong emotion or maybe a bundle of emotions they can’t easily untangle. The trick to this part is figuring out how the power plays into it. When people are sad they cry, then they’re scared they scream and run away, when they’re happy they jump up and down, however, these aren’t just ordinary people. The tricky part (and often the fun one) is to figure out how the power reacts to this emotional cacophony. There’s a ton of different ways to do anything and the best part is it’s all up to you.
Do you have any advice on creating the motivations and wants of a character? I’m afraid all of them for my characters are based around the same kinds of things, so how do you get diversity? And what’s the basis of developing a character’s motivations and wants at all?- anonymous
Your characters’ motivations, needs and goals are going to be what drives the plot. Kurt Vonnegut once said that every character should want something, even if it’s just a glass of water. This is really wise advice, because your characters’ goals are going to be what actually moves the action forward. Your conflict needs to revolve around the needs and goals of your characters, and they should act accordingly to their motivations to keep the story going.
Knowing your characters is really important. Before you start thinking about their goals and motivations, ask yourself who they are, what brought them here, what would be their “happy ending”. These questions should help you recognize the essence of your characters’ goals and motivations, but you need more. You need to go in depth with their needs and their wishes in order to be able to let your readers relate to them.
× Write a small biography of your character. When you’re struggling with something related to your characters, I recommend writing a small biography that helps you getting to know them. It’s important for you to know their back story. Whatever happened in your characters’ past is going to make them want to spark the conflict, so you need to know what that is. Remember that your readers don’t need to know as much as you do, because no one knows your characters as well as you. Allow yourself some time to work on your characters’ lives before your book started, and you should be able to recognize what sparked their will to make something change.
× What is your character’s goal? What do they want to achieve? The interesting thing about this is that your character’s personality will tell you what would be their happy ending. Your Main Character is probably having a bigger goal, such as winning a battle, saving their nation, taking down their enemy… What your Main Character wants to achieve will probably be what your conflict revolves around, but this doesn’t mean the other characters should be neglected. Again, every character needs to want something. If you know your characters well, you’ll know what they can’t help but want. Your shy character might want to become a social butterfly. That character that was sexually abused as a child might want to be able to become physical with someone without letting the memories hurt. It all depends on your character’s personality and back story, hence why it’s crucial that you have a clear idea of who they are and who they were.
× Create a timeline. Biographies are good, but they don’t give you a clear idea of the exact turning points in your character’s lives. So besides writing a quick biography, you should also have a timeline that allows you to understand the whys, whens and whats that strongly influenced your characters’ lives. When you’re able to identify the turning points in their lives, try to understand what changed. What was your character goal before this change, and what are they now? What could happen that would make your characters’ goals more prominent? Invest in that.
× Diversity. Diversity comes naturally when you have rounded characters. Since each character should be their own person, they’ll have unique personality traits and backgrounds that will set them apart. These differences will tell you exactly how their motivations and goals and wants will be different. However, it can also be interesting to explore the concept of people with completely different personalities having the same motivations or goals or wants. It’s okay to have characters that were influenced by the same factors, as long as there is a logical explanation for that fact.
× Your Reader doesn’t need to know everything. You don’t need to make it crystal clear to your reader what the motivations, needs and goals of your characters are. It’s okay to keep them guessing. You have to have a general idea of where your character is trying to go, but the reader doesn’t need to know as much as you do. Don’t worry too much about making these things too prominent, because the readers like to have room to relate to their characters. If your characters have interesting, relatable personality traits, your readers are likely to find a bit of themselves in at least some of your characters and, eventually, develop their own goals for these characters.
There are some lists around tumblr that might give you ideas about personality traits to give your characters. You can try to use this list for inspiration to create rounder characters that give you a better idea of what they want and where they’ve been.
- Positive Personality Traits
- Character Trait Cheat Sheet
- Underused Personalities/Traits
- List of Personality Traits
All in all, never forget that your character’s personality, upbringing and culture will always influence their motivations, wants and goals. Let them tell you what they’re here for, where they’ve been and what they need.