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Win the name game in style: eleven smart ways to dream up original, effective character names.

Terrific Character Names Part One: Methods 1 to 3

Have great character names and get a head start on characterization from the firing of the starter’s gun. Your protagonists’ core characteristics will hit people before the first word or action of your stories, before readers even see their faces.

You’ll find myriad ways to achieve this. Let’s review a few of them.

1. Alliteration

Hannah Helene Horvath, Marnie Marie Michaels, Jessamyn “Jessa” Johansson and Shoshanna Shapiro, Girls. In many genres names don’t have to be totally realistic, just memorable.

Alliteration, when both first and last name start with the same letter, produces a strong, easy-to-remember name. People will remember your character longer, and you will have better brand recognition.

Consider:

  • Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey
  • Captain Kirk
  • Selina Suckling, from Emma
  • Mimi Mamoulian and Billy Battuta from The Satanic Verses
  • Tom Tulliver from The Mill on the Floss
  • Clark Kent, Peter Parker and many, many other comic book characters.
  • Binx Bolling, from The Moviegoer
  • Big Brother

Dick Dastardly. What a great name for a bad guy to send up the old melodramas! It is not only alliterative, but evocative, too. See Part Two for that. Dastardly and Mutley is also a great name pairing, as we will see in Part Three.

Alliteration provides your character with a snappy, unforgettable name. Memorable names increase brand recognition, and make your character spring to mind more often. After all, if you cannot remember the name of a character, you will think of that character less easily and less often.

Remember, you want a name that springs to mind. But bear in mind: too many alliterative names in one work can seem humorous or absurd. Another caveat: some genres use this more than other – just examine the list above. This device could set up expectations in people’s minds of what sort of story they are about to read. This effect declines if fewer characters have alliterative names, and if the alliterative character is not the main character.

Note from the above list that the alliterative moniker may not be just a proper name, but a nickname or title.

2. Avoid character names with an unintended negative association

References are great, but you should be aware of them and in control. Think about the implications of you name. Has a story with a similar name recently been published? Has the name been in the news in an unflattering context? For example, in the series The Greatest American Hero, creators named the protagonist Ralph Hinkley. But when a man with a similar name, John Hinckley Jr., shot then-president Ronald Reagan (a great name, by the way!), Producers changed it to Hanley.

Is your name shared by a figure in the news? Or another character from a classic or very recent book? Do you want that association?

Think of super character names and win the race on characterization at the starter’s gate. Your hero’s essential traits will strike readers before he utters a single word.

3. The so-called “meaningful monogram”

Furthermore, a good name can give insight into your character or foreshadow their fate. For example, tried and true (some would say overdone, but the trend lives to this day), giving your character the significant monogram JC invokes Jesus Christ and martyrdom. Sharp readers will expect them to meet a bad end for a greater cause. Examples number too many to list but here are a few. In these cases, the lives of the characters back up the Christ comparison.

Let’s just take a look:

  • Jim Conklin in The Red Badge of Courage
    He sacrifices his life like Christ, but apparently without any noble reason. An ironic Christ figure. One the other hand, his death may teach his friend, Henry, something about life, death, and manhood. The author, Stephen Crane, backs up the Christ comparison with his mention of a “whipping,” a “solemn ceremony,” and “bloody hands,” as well as an injury in his side (where Jesus was stabbed with a spear). Crane even describes the dying man as “a devotee of a mad religion.”
  • Jesse Custer in Preacher
    Appointed by God to take his place.
  • Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio
    His name itself is a euphemistic replacement for the oath “Jesus Christ!” in general parlance. He teaches Pinocchio morals and warns him against temptation. A mini “Christ the Teacher.”
  • John Connor in The Terminator
    Sent on a mission of salvation for the sake of all mankind, and gives up his life for the cause.
  • Computer-game hero JC Denton
    Also out to save the world, and he may actually be descended from Jesus. According to the theory, JC names subliminally get us to connect these characters with another, more famous person who had them..

Proviso:

But bear in mind that some people claim the whole JC thing has grown fusty and flat. Usually, though, critics feel this way, mostly about unpublished manuscripts, rather than readership after the work has seen the bookstore shelves. Regardless, once your work hits the market, no one will question it, just as in the examples above.

JB-JB-JB & JB

Furthermore, you character could have the initial of some other important personage: JFK, MLK, FDR. Or your JC character could be like Julius Caesar. Or resemble Jesus Christ, but be a woman. Joke initials like FU or WTF are always available for comedies or parodies.

Just look around and you will find other famous initials to borrow. The initials needn’t be those of a real person. Think also here of the many “JB” spies and action heroes:

  • Jason Bourne
  • Jack Bauer
  • Jack Bristow

To remind people of James Bond?

Finally, remember that whatever you do  with your names, have fun. Your readers will, too.

For more effective ways to grab attention for your characters with a standout name, please have a look at Character Names: Parts Two and Three

Chanticleer Authors Conference 2017 and 3-day Book Fair

What: Chanticleer Authors Conference and book fair
When: Mar 31 – Apr 2, 2017
Where: Hotel Bellwether, 1 Bellwether Way, Bellingham WA

Why: Get the tools you need to make yourself known, cultivate readership and increase sales. Get the marketing skills you need and sell more books.

Chanticleer Authors Conference Faculty:

Margie Lawson, Robert Dugoni, Shari Stauch, Chris Humphries, Eileen Cook, Kathy L. Murphy, Diane Isaacs, Kiffer Brown, Pamela Beason, Sara Stamey, and others.

Focus:

Organizers claim to focus on a wide variety of categories: Autobiography/Memoir, Children’s, Fiction, Humor, Marketing, Mystery, Non-fiction, Publishing, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Screenwriting, Travel and Young Adult.

Pretty Venue

Program:

Attend sessions on the topics below.

  • Book Marketing Tips & Tools
  • Engaging Readers and Building a Fan-base using Leadership Communication
  • Understanding Distribution and Sales Channel
  • Book Distribution and Trade Show Representation
  • WattPad – Book Discovery and Building a Fan Base
  • Publishing Avenues – the latest options
  • How to Design a Cover that Sells Your Book
  • Promotions Checklist and Promotional Strategies for Your Books
  • How to Access Book Clubs and Reading Groups
  • Secrets to Increasing Your Readership
  • The Best Services for Selling Your E-Pubs
  • Reviews – How to make yours work harder for you
  • Libraries – an insider shares her tips
  • Author Branding & Internet Identity
  • Social Media Strategies & Savvy
  • E-pub Avenues & Tactics
  • Discoverability Tools & Strategic Planning for Heightened Visibility
  • Audio Books – Perfect for Today’s Busy “Readers”
  • The Business of Being a Writer
  • Collaboration & Networking to Expand Web Presence
  • Branding & Platform Building
  • Pricing Strategies

Visit Chanticleer Authors Conference

Kalani TV Writing Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii

What: TV Writing Retreat
When: Apr 1 – 8, 2017
Where:  Kalani Retreat Center, 12-6860 Kalapana-Kapoho Beach Road, Pahoa HI

Why: Join Geoff Harris, former VP of Story & Writer Development at NBC, on this TV writing retreat to create a new TV pilot. Enjoy writers room sessions, story workshops, private consultations, cultural immersion and fresh meals.

 

  • Pitch and begin to write a new TV pilot
  • Build confidence under the guidance of a top TV writing mentor
  • Examine the stories you tell yourself & dissect your own process of story making
  • Identify your source of inspiration
  • Feel supported in a healthy, healing atmosphere
  • Enjoy Hawaii

Group Size:

8-10

Program Focus:

Nature, Screenwriting, Travel

Faculty and Facilitators:

Geoff Harris

Geoff Harris was Vice President of Story & Writer Development at NBC. Geoff has taught TV writing workshops sponsored by ABC and NBC. He judges for several writing contests, including the Warner Bros. Writers Program and the ABC Writing Program.

Stewart Blackburn, Hawaiian Shamanic teacher and practitioner, has studied shamanism for over twenty years, most recently with Serge Kahili King for the last ten years. In 2006, he was ordained as an Alaka’i in Dr. King’s Aloha International, making him a minister and teacher of Huna, the remarkable Hawaiian healing philosophy based on Aloha. He teaches classes and courses in self-empowerment, the Hawaiian Shamanism of Huna and various other classes in self-Love, Healing the Stories We Tell Ourselves, and Psychic Skills. He also counsels and mentors people looking to increase the level of joy and pleasure in their lives from the perspective of self-empowerment and personal responsibility.

Diana Osberg is the owner and founder of Mia Terra Retreats. She produces extraordinary retreats to inspire writers, artists and creative souls. Diana is a screenwriter and has worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years in production, creative development and administration. Traveler and adventurer.

www.miaterraretreats.com/kalani-tv-writing-retreat/

22nd Annual South Coast Writers Conference

Keynote Speaker Jamie Duclos-Yourdon

What: Writers Conference
When: Feb 17 – 18, 2017
Where: Gold Beach Center, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Gold Beach, Oregon

Why:

Meet from top writers of the Northwest and learn about a variety of genres:

  • Children’s
  • Fiction
  • Humor
  • Journalism
  • Marketing
  • Mystery
  • Nature
  • Non-fiction
  • Poetry
  • Publishing
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Screenwriting
  • Young Adult

Organizers of the South Coast Writers Conference recommend the program for both novice and published authors. They promise inspiration, renewal, new insights and new skills. Connect with  fellow writers and resources.

Faculty:

  • C. Lill Ahrens
  • Jennifer Burns Bright
  • Bill Cameron
  • Jamie Duclos-Yourdon
  • Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • Rita Hosking
  • Janet Sumner Johnson
  • Vinnie Kinsella
  • Michael Lamanna
  • Bruce Holland Rogers.

Workshop size limit:

30

Since:

1997

Other local opportunities:

The South Coast Writers Conference takes place on Presidents Day weekend, so you have the opportunity to explore if you decide to stay for an additional day.  Local sites of interest:

  • Wild Rivers Coast
  • Miles of spectacular beaches
  • Many hiking trails
  • Sports on the Rogue River.

Phone: 541.247.2741.
www.socc.edu/scwriters

Ann Wylie Master Classes: Master the Art of the Storyteller

Ann Wylie works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out.

What: Writing workshop
When: Feb 23 – 24, 2017
Where: The Great Room, 100 N. Sepulveda Blvd, El Segundo CA

Why:

Find tips for getting people to pay attention to your messages, understand them faster and remember them longer. Learn to each readers online, write copy that moves people to act, master the art of the corporate storyteller and make your writing easier to read and understand.

Faculty:

Ann Wylie, owner Wylie Communications, is the author of over a dozen learning tools. Previously Ann was editor of Hallmark Cards’ employee magazine, CROWN. She has won more than 60 communication awards, including a WIC Clarion and two IABC Gold Quills.

 

Visit Ann Wylie Master Classes

Feb 05 2017

2017 San Francisco Writers Conference & Classes

What: Well-established conference
When: February 16-19, 2017
Where: Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Fransisco

Why:

Meet over one hundred literary agents, editors, publishers and bestselling authors. Explore the best ways to publish and promote your work. Hear about new trends in the industry. Boost your social media reach. Build your writing career.

Selected presenters:

  • Heather Graham, Flawless
  • John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
  • William Bernhardt, The Game Master
  • Jon Agee, Terrific
  • Rusty Shelton
  • Steven Spatz, president of BookBaby

Activities:

  • “A-Pro session”
  • consult with an editor
  • pitch & open mic sessions
  • one-on-one networking with presenters
  • talk to representatives of both self-publishing and traditional publishing
  • Speed Dating with Agents (extra)

Topics covered:               

  • Autobiography/Memoir
  • Business/Technical
  • Children’s
  • Fiction
  • Humor
  • Journalism
  • Marketing
  • Mystery
  • Nature
  • Non-fiction
  • Poetry
  • Publishing
  • Religion
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Screenwriting
  • Travel
  • Young Adult

SFWC also offers Pre and Post Event classes on February 16th and 20th open to all writers. You will also find free sessions during the conference. See the website for details.

sfwriters.org

Clearwater Writers Weekend Retreat

What: Writers weekend retreat with experienced writer instructor
When: Mar 9 – 12, 2017
Where:  Reflections Inn, 6873 Highway 12, Kooskia ID

Why:

Gain inspiration in beautiful natural surroundings at the Clearwater River. Join a small group to share the insights of an experienced university writing teacher. The Clearwater Writers Weekend serves writers from a wide variety of writing genres.

Faculty:

Paula Coomer holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Univ. of Idaho. She has authored 7 books of poetry and prose, including Summer of Government Cheese, Nurses Who Love English, and two well-received novelsDove Creek and Jagged Edge of the Sky.

Visit their website

The Asheville Christian Writers Conference – Writers Bootcamp

What: 3-day retreat / conference
When: Feb 17 – 19, 2017
Where: The Cove – The Billy Graham Training Center, 1 Porters Cove Rd, Asheville NC

Why: Take part in classes and small discussion groups about editors, agents and publishers. Also explore workshops led by award-winning authors.

Faculty:

  • Best selling and award winning authors Vonda Skelton and Michelle Medlock Adams
  • Author and writing coach – Larry Leech
  • Award winning authors Yvonne Lehman, Cindy Sproles and Edie Melson
  • Christian Communicator and Editor Lin Johnson
  • Linda Gilden, author
  • Denise Loock, author and editor
  • Eddie Jones, Publisher Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, Christian
  • Communicator, Magazine publishers and Radio Host
  • Scott McCausey and worship leader, LaTan Murphy

From the organizers:

The Asheville Christian Writers Conference offers attendees the experience of a large writers conference but on a more personal and intimate level. Consider this your “Writers Bootcamp” and an intense weekend of fun and work.

cindy@christiandevotions.us
ashevillechristianwritersconference.com

31st Annual Southern California Writers’ Conference

What: Writers Conference run by professional writers
Where: Crowne Plaza Hanalei, 2270 Hotel Circle North, San Diego CA 
When: Feb 17-19 2017

Why:

Attend your choice of 11 workshops from a selection of 31 in 4 categories:

  • Read & Critique
  • Rogue Read & Critique(s)
  • Craft & Execution
  • Business & Copywriting

The organizers report that they have “facilitated some $4 million worth of 1st time authors’ deals.”

Manuscript critique & one-on-one consultation also available.

Topics:

Autobiography/Memoir, Children’s, Fiction, Humor, Journalism, Marketing, Mystery, Non-fiction, Playwriting, Poetry, Publishing, Religion, Romance, Screenwriting, Young Adult

Group Size:

175

Year Established:

1986

Tagline: “A writer is a writer before, as well as after, publication”

 



619-303-8185
msg@writersconference.com
www.WritersConference.com

Jan 16 2017

Content Creation Camp

Content Creation Camp - Gina Hogan Edwards

Gina Hogan Edwards

What: Women’s writing retreat
When: January 25 – 29, 2017
Where: St. George Island, Florida

Why:

Get time to escape and achieve clarity about your book idea, finally start writing your blog, or start/finish any other writing project. Attend short workshops limited to ten per group, and learn writing tools and techniques, surrounded by plenty of time to write, in a beautiful and hopefully inspiring environment.

Faculty:

Gina Hogan Edwards, Creativity Coach, Editor, and Founder of Around the Writer’s Table will lead short morning/afternoon workshops.

 

 

AroundTheWritersTable.com

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