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What’s In A Name?

November 16th, 2018

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to names over the last couple of weeks. My son and his wife are expecting a little boy in December and they’ve been trying to decide what to call him. At the moment Theo and Archie seem to be the front runners, though I’m not completely sure about either of them. But looking at a list of the 20 most popular boys’ names in 2018, they’re both in there and seem to be moving up the popularity rankings.

Of course, that got me thinking about the names of characters in books, short stories and plays. Choosing the right names for your characters is crucial if the reader is to empathise with them. You can suggest a great deal about a person’s age and background by the name you give (and this is particularly important in a short story where words are at a premium). All names have popular connotations and associations which the reader subconsciously tunes into – they create instant mental pictures of people. Read the rest of this entry »




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Being Sociable Can Make Your Characters More Realistic

September 8th, 2018

Many people think of writing as a lonely business. You work from home, shut away in the spare bedroom or slaving over the kitchen table when the rest of the family are at work or school. But I was interested to read a letter in a well-known writers’ magazine recently where the lady was saying how sociable she found the writing world these days. You can interact with other writers on Facebook and Twitter, in forums and via online courses without leaving your own home. There are writing retreats, writers conferences and literary festivals galore where you can meet other like-minded people, and share experiences.

I do think getting away from this idea of the ‘solitary writer’ is essential. And you shouldn’t just cultivate other writers – you need to be mixing with people from all walks of life (especially if you are writing fiction) so that you understand enough about how disparate groups of people think and behave that you create characters that come across as ‘real’. Read the rest of this entry »




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Picking The Right Name For Your Character

December 8th, 2017

Last week I mentioned the Debut Dagger Competition. I’ve just been on the Crime Writers’ Association website again and discovered that they have a page of excellent crime writing advice by well-known authors plus tips for entrants to the competition. So if you are considering having a go, it’s definitely worth taking a look.

This week I’ve had another great contribution from Writers Bureau tutor, David Kinchin – about naming your characters. So, rather than looking at bits and pieces, I’m going to provide some general advice, followed by what he has to say on the subject.

Choosing the right names for your characters is crucial. You can suggest a great deal about a person’s age and background by the name you give. All names have popular connotations and associations which the reader subconsciously tunes into – they create instant mental pictures. For example, Nikki is a young art student with a way-out dress sense, while Cynthia is a rather staid housewife in her mid-60s with an immaculately clean house in the leafy suburbs. Read the rest of this entry »




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Characterisation Continued…

October 27th, 2017

First, thanks to Colin for last week’s post. I think he provided plenty to think about when you’re getting to know the characters you create. And it really is a case of knowing them thoroughly if you are to make your readers care about what happens to them.

So, I’m going to add six points of my own that I think are important if you are to persuade your readers to get involved in the lives of your characters:

  1. It should be your aim to create individuals who leap off the page, exuding energy and creating dramatic impact. They must be more exciting and more attention grabbing than the ordinary people we meet in our normal workaday existence.

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Thoughts on Character Creation

October 20th, 2017

In real life you’ve probably at some time met someone who has become a friend. Only gradually do you get to know the person and even after months or more you may be surprised by some revelation about them.

A character in fiction will be gradually revealed but as the writer you must know your  characters fully before you start the story.

It’s a good idea to make a detailed profile of your main characters. This helps you to be consistent and to know what they would and wouldn’t do, and not to provide sudden changes in behaviour which would be out of character and unbelievable to the reader. Occasionally a sudden change may be justified, for instance, if the character has suffered some tragedy or trauma, but as the author, you should have prepared for this. Read the rest of this entry »




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