Friday, December 11, 2009

Test Drive: 10 Steps: Introduction

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Start-up Questions

Alright, if we are going to build memorable characters, where do we start?  First with the answers to some questions you might have.  Such as, to use 10 Steps, do you have to start with a character and build the plot from there?  Or can you start with plot and plug in character?  Can you use this one novel you already started, or does it have to be a brand new idea?  I believe you can adapt this any of the above, although if you are going to use this on a novel already started, I suggest using it on one whose first draft hasn't been completed.  You will benefit more that way.

Start-up Elements

The book gives us the following basics as a guideline to start developing our story and characters: 
  • Genre
  • Character Name
  • POV Technique
  • Plot concept
I am assuming you are not new to writing, so you already have strong preferences on genre, pov, and plot concept generation (for those creating a new story).  So, let's focus on character name instead.

Character Name

If you are starting a new story, you need to name your character.  There are a lot of baby name resources out there (check out the resources listed below).  They can show culture or origin behind the name, meaning, popularity, nicknames, etc.  It is also worthwhile to pick up a baby name book.  If you are a yardsaler, you can find these cheap.  That is how I got mine, and I never had to pay more than a dollar for one.

Once you have a baby name reference, pick a name.  10 Steps points out the importance of sound in the name choice.  Their example is, if the character is arrogant, use a hard sound like D or hard G, like Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  Other useful tips 10 Steps gives that you may already know, but are worth mentioning, are to vary the characters' names.  Don't start them with the same letter and try to vary them in other ways, like length or sound.  Also, minor characters don't really need names and may serve the story best by being described by their occupation.  The reason?  Because names add importance to characters and readers try to memorize names of characters.  Don't add more work onto your readers. 

Baby Name Online Resources:

Tips, Tricks, and Exercises:

10 Steps
has a neat idea on names.  Take a deeper look into the meaning of the baby names you are looking at and use the meaning of the name to spark an idea for a plot, especially if you are creating your plot from your character.  For example, take the name Emily.  It means rival or emulating.  Emily could be the antagonist.  Or perhaps she is the contender for a job. 

Another trick, not found in the book, involves the question:  What if you are writing something not set in our world or any of our time periods?  If you are like me and don't have time to develop an entire language for your culture, tweaking "real world" names may serve you best.  Decide on the real world culture type that is basis or influence behind the culture your character is from.  Find a baby name to fit it and your character.  Now, find other baby names from the same culture and start analyzing the endings and other patterns within the names. 

For example, I am chosing Italian-based culture.  There are several Italian names with the "-ia" or "-io" ending, such as Marzia or Eugenio.  Maybe make this "-a" or "-iso" instead. 

Once you have a list, take those patterns and change them to something you like the sound of.  You'll want to do the same for place names and the like. And that's it--a simple method developing cultural names that have a cohesive, consistent sound and feel.

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