Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Stories and character names

Normally, I will allow a story to simmer in my mind before I start writing it. I want to give the characters "space" to grow and fully develop. I want to get a "feel" for the story before I'll start turning it into an ACTUAL story.

Recently, though, that was a pretty tough thing for me to do.

I had this story dream that I totally wanted to write down. I woke up from the dream thinking, 'Wow, that was awesome! I wanna write it!' But I was also scared because the story was...scary. LOL EEK! Especially since it had zombies in it. And one of them was coming after me! Yikes!

I don't really like reading zombie stories. I'm really not into them. My husband, however, goes nuts over zombie movies and zombie stuff. (Oh, no. He's starting to influence me!) But all the same, I liked the story and I wanted to start writing it.

I REALLY wanted to start writing it!

But the problem was, I couldn't just yet. I knew what characters were going to be in the story and I had pieces of information about them. But I didn't have any names. And that was holding things up.

Sure I could've taken the easy way out. Just give 'em the first name I see and change it later! But I wasn't willing to do that. When I don't have the character's name, I don't have a "grasp" of them. I don't know who they are, what they look like, where they come from. A name says a lot about people, and a lot about characters. If I don't have the name of my characters, then they might as well be in the shadows. Unreachable, unknowable.

I don't just give a character any old name. Most of the time, they "come" to the story with their names. They appear with a name, a face, a history. This is the way I prefer it. I prefer my characters to "tell" me their names. Just let me know what they are called. And if I give it some time, just "shut down" in order to receive that information, it will be there.

Today was a perfect example of this. Today, I was fed up with not getting any character names for this story, because I REALLY wanted to start writing it. The story was "alive" and burning within me. Just yearning to get out onto paper. I was mad because I couldn't get it written. I wanted some character names, darn it! That was the only thing holding me back.

I had some free time today, right before my oldest got out of school. My husband practically "threw" me out of the house earlier than I usually leave because he was convinced I wasn't going to find something I was looking for and only wasting my time TRYING to find it, so I was at my daughter's school, in the parking lot, with a notebook and 20 minutes to kill.


I grabbed that opportunity and tried to "tune in" to my story. Just try to connect with the characters. There was one main character I really wanted to know, because it IS his story. So I tried to focus on him. Just try to know this teenager and what his name was. I know his name started with a "G" and it had an "oh" sound. And there was an "r" in there somewhere. But I didn't get the name just yet. As I tried out every name I could think of, I tried to get a better idea of my character. What he looked like, what his room looked like, what his voice "sounded" like.

Finally, the name came to me. Grogan. His name is Grogan.

I know, weird name!

But with this information, it's like his world opened up to me. I started to see where he lived, what his father looked like, what kind of clothes he wore. Everything just came together and I started writing it all down.

I couldn't write the whole story, though. Sometimes, it'll take me hours to write a short story. (One short story took me 9 hours to write! With pen and paper.) And some of my handwriting was a little...hard to read. LOL But I at least got the first scene of this story out of my head and onto paper.

I'm looking forward to writing the rest of the story. Now that I have all of the information, including character names, it'll be easier to get the story written.



  • At 10:58 PM , Blogger Ruth Cooke said...

    I know what you mean, Dawn. I've had a story idea that's been simmering some time about a were-dolphin named "Willow." How the heck did she come to have that name? But I'll need to figure it out, because it's part of the story...

  • At 11:11 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Ruth, I love that! I hope you get that story written so that I can read it! Thanks for the feedback.


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