Posts Tagged With: characters

Do you have control over your characters?

I had a very interesting conversation a few weeks ago at my writers society meeting. The topic of discussion was “Why do you write?”, and … well, here’s basically what I said (in bullet points for your convenience!):

  • I first really got into writing when I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and was absolutely devastated that Sirius Black died
  • This prompted me to pen a 300k word fanfiction in which Sirius and James come back to life and get up to all sorts of shenanigans with Harry
  • This prompted me to try my hand at writing original fiction, since I discovered that writing was actually something I really enjoyed doing

The writers society president summed this up as “You like to have control over your characters and their fates”, which is true. Of course, I have other reasons for why I write — I love to entertain people, I love the act of writing itself, stories pile up in my head and take up way too much brain space if I don’t get them down on paper, etc. But the fanfiction anecdote was what I went with for the meeting.

Anyway, after the president’s “you like control” statement, another lady at the meeting spoke up. Her speech essentially boiled down to:

  • You can try to control your characters all you want, but they’re going to do whatever they want, regardless of what you try to make them do

It’s an interesting suggestion, but … I’m not sure I agree with her. I mean, yes, sometimes my characters do things I don’t want them to as I write a scene, but it’s not because they’ve magically taken control of my fingers and are forcing me to change the direction of the scene. Usually it’s because I imagined the scene playing out one way in my mind, but when I actually get down to writing the scene, events just flow in a different direction. But that’s writing — what you see in your head and what you put down on paper rarely match up perfectly.

Then again, I’ve spoken to writers who feel that stories are living things — or, sometimes, even supernatural messages from the beyond — and that the writer is just the conduit to get that story down onto paper. They make it sound like writing is an almost spiritual experience. For me, though, stories are just … you know, stories. I love writing them, sure, but it’s not like I’m going to suffer some sort of psychological or emotional torture if I don’t get them out of my head. Well, as my mother likes to say, different people are different. I kind of envy the people who are so driven to write that they feel possessed … but at the same time, I can’t help but feel that would be a terrifying way to live, not being in control of your own mind. I don’t know.

What do you guys think? Does the story control you, or do you control the story? Who determines the fate of your characters — you, or them?


Unrelated media of the day:

Two guys play one cello and it’s sort of awesome. No, they’re not gay. But the seated guy’s expression is nevertheless fabulous.


Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

How do you name your characters?

I ask this because I’ve always had trouble naming my characters — let alone remembering their names once I’ve come up with them! If you watched one of my recent vlogs, you’ll recall me admitting that one of the characters in Imminent Danger started off named Vallin, and then changed halfway through to Varrin because I forgot his name. Eek. Obviously that has been corrected, but still … eek.

I have several naming methods for my characters, some of which are more or less ridiculous than the others. Are you prepared to bathe in the gentle hurricane that is my wisdom? Awesome. Here are my naming methods, in no particular order:

Drawing inspiration from surrounding signage

My favourite example of this is a character from one of my WIPs. I knew her name was Caroline, because I love that name, but I couldn’t figure out what her last name was. I was sitting in Starbucks one day, looked up, and saw a McDonald’s Drive Through sign. I stood from my chair, shrieked “EUREKA!”, and Caroline Drive was born.

Basing names off of a character’s species

This one mainly applies to all my crazy aliens in Imminent Danger. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know there’s a race of six-armed, blue scaled lizard men called the Ssrisk. How did I name them? Easy. What sound do reptiles and snakes make? Hsssssss. Hssssssss … Sssssssssssrisk … EUREKA!

Naming after friends / family

Not main characters, obviously, but I’ve definitely done this with locations. The Barlow Collegiate Institute, for example, in Imminent Danger, is named after my best friend. Anyone who’s followed the adventures of “Immin Dang” (my ill-fated book cover) will also be happy to know that there is now an Imindang district in a new alien city they visit in the sequel.

Classical allusions / Pop culture references

This one is obviously my main character, Eris — aka the Greek goddess of Discord. I actually first fell in love with that name when my brother introduced me to Final Fantasy VII (you know, that iconic game where Aeris is famously stabbed by Sephiroth and dies despite the fact that resurrection spells are very common in that universe?). So I combined the two and came up with Eris, abductee extraordinaire. Woo!

Making up names that sound cool

I love names with Vs and Rs in them. Oooh, and Zs! I’m a sucker for a good Z. Hence my awesomely-named emperor of Rakor, Ka’zarel. Booya. Note how I included a totally unnecessary apostrophe in his name for style.


How do you name your characters? What’s your favourite name that you’ve ever come up with?


Unrelated media of the day:


Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 120 Comments

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