Tender – But Should We Be?

A response to today’s daily prompt of Tender

I’ve been giving some careful consideration this week to the creation of characters, and the advice I could share on this.

Tender is a lovely word isn’t it. The tender loving care, devotion and gentle hands are conjured by its appearance on a page. It’s a beautiful description for a character and perhaps embodies a characteristic of personality trait we’d like to explore. However, I think it’s also how we tend to treat our characters – with caution. Your characters, once fully fledged start leaving the metaphorical nest and it’s hard to let them go. Harder still to let them crash to rock bottom. I for one, try to protect my characters. That doesn’t mean that I don’t let anything happen to them, but I always write in an escape hatch – a way out. A way to mitigate the dark circumstances. I can’t help but feel that maybe I shouldn’t – that they would be stronger characters with me hovering around with a parachute or eager to pick them up when they fall.

Enough musings for now – onto the serious business.

Character Creation – Names

(Because I’ve just realised how much there is to discuss around this topic – oh my)

I have a feeling that this part of my ‘writing advice’ series is going to take more posts than intended. That can only be a good thing – right?

Let’s start with the basics

Who is this character? Is it your main character, a supporting member of the cast, or a background extra?

If your answer is ‘Main protagonist,’ then carry on reading – if not, then I’m sure one day soon I’ll have information about the other types of character creation. Although, a lot of my advice is going to be very very similar…

Now, I struggle with names for my characters. Always have and probably always will unless I dive into a Tolkien-esq exploration of language and development. The problem with names, is that they mean so much!

Take Bob Brown as a name. What does it make you think of? It makes me think of someone maybe a bit boring, steady. I think of a middle-aged man and Brown – well it’s not an exciting colour is it. Those two simple words, two simple names come packed with associations we already have stuffed into our minds. What’s more, Bob Brown is alliteration, and when I see names like Bob Brown, Matt Murdock, Peter Parker – I think superhero.

Bob Brown – tax accountant by day, crime fighter by night?

Now transplant Bob Brown into a fantasy setting and hang on a minute. Do those two words have different associations in the world I am building? Brown – is it a colour of power? A symbol of status high or low? What if this is a civilisation where castes are allocated a colour. Brown could be the lowest of the low, Bob Brown could be rebelling against the absurdity of having your life mapped out because of your name and perhaps that is why he’s a super hero in this context?!

What if Bob is short for Roberta?  Bob is a woman trying to gain her shield as a knight.

Looking at the history of the name, Bob from Wikipedia- It most likely originated from the hypocorism Rob, short for Robert.

According to Wikipedia – Robert is a Germanic name.

Now if Bob comes from Robert, and Robert is Germanic, and Bob is my main protagonist in this story – then how closely do I centre the rest of the names in the book on Germanic language? If Bob is the only Germanic name, and the rest has a basis in Hebrew or Polynesian culture – then there might be some jarring.

There are some very very useful name finders online. Baby name search tools are wonderful – and I love forming new words and names from a selection of meanings and finding a name that utterly embodies the personality I’m aiming for.

My advice is to investigate current languages and to play with them for your fantasy worlds. Once you get the name of your protagonist clear in mind, you’ll be naming cities, towns, forests, gorges and everything else that they encounter. If Bob is a stranger to those lands, then it makes perfect sense for his name to be of a different sound and origin. If this is where he was born and has lived his entire life – then his name should possibly be more common in the surroundings.

In The Poisoned Well, I have a character called Redston – A baron. Now, this has raised several questions, are the names of my nobility based on geological features, or is Redston a one off? What I’ve developed is Redston’s backstory, which may never feature in the book, but he is a man of the Northern Mountains. Mountains that are rich with Iron deposits which make them (surprisingly) red. His ancestors were born in the mountains and they carry the name of their heritage with pride. He is proud to be Redstone. However, times move and his own Barony is further to the South in Golden Fort. This may be a fairly simplistic way of naming and world building, but I feel that this small snippet of history has given Redston a feeling of Authenticity. There has been a change in his life, an arc of development that he has undergone – off screen or off page as it were.

What does Redston as a name tell you as well? Red – firey, passionate, red-headed? Stone – stubborn, forceful, slow to move? But the Stone is shortnened – meaning that there has been a development in his history, this is an old name because it’s been corrupted over time. Just like places called Little Town might now be Littleton.

What are you thoughts? How do you find names for your characters?

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Our Line Through History

A response to today’s daily prompt: Trace.

I love it when a Daily Prompt ties into something I want to discuss.

Last week I went to see King Arthur. Not going to lie, I’m a little bit in love – with the entire film. Now, I’ve turned into a bit of a King Arthur advocate, but I’m serious – go and watch this movie (even if only so that they can make the entire six part series!) The critics aren’t a fan, and I’m so confused. The pacing is brilliant, the dialogue is fast and witty. It’s an amazing story, well told.

This is not a fantasy film that you can approach, expecting a Lord of the Rings epic. You can’t expect a Game of Thrones straight-faced, unflinching gaze. Think more, A Knights Tale – Heath Ledger, Chaucer, Bowie and Queen.

But darker, grittier…

In the first five minutes of the film, I was sat there with Mr Lovely and I have to admit, I was thinking –oh my. What…what is this? Then it was awesome. We fist-bumped and the film continued to be awesome. So much so, that Mr Lovely and I took my parents and brother to see it over the weekend, and I’m trying to con someone into seeing it with me for a third time. Yes, yes it’s that good. You’ve got to love it for what it is.

How though, how does this have anything to do with the daily prompt? I’ve been sold a lie! I hear you  cry.

Well, I’m glad you mention it.

I was at middle school before Harry Potter. Yes, yes I am that old.

The first I heard about the boy wizard was from my younger brother (mentioned earlier). Now, he being four years younger than I, was prime Potter age when it was first released. About 7 years old? It was the first book he loved and dutifully my mother bought him the first and second books in the series (as nothing else had been released yet.)

Because my little brother thought it was cool, and I was a lofty 11 year old, I was definitely not going to read it – and it definitely wasn’t worthy of my attention. I loved the Worst Witch, Enid Blyton, Agatha Cristie. Then on a trip to my grandparents I got bored in the back of the car, and before the two hour journey came to an end – I’d finished the Philosophers Stone. I spent the rest of the visit and the trek back, devouring pages of the Chamber of Secrets.

I think this episode is important, as for a lot of people Harry Potter is a doorway into a world of magic. Game of Thrones is amazingly popular, and I wonder if its because, in part, it’s being watched by adults who had their appetite for Fantasy whet as children by Rowling?

Growing up, I was always a nerd, and very proud of it. There was the Sword and Sorcery surge of the 1980’s – popularity of Lord of the Rings and love of the Hobbit. There are the Hundred of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books, and there are the Dungeons and Dragon’s games. But admitting to enjoying that world as a teenager in the early 2000’s – well that made you a little weird. Fantasy has been a strange, almost underground adoration. Now though, now it feels ‘cool’. I can openly admit to regular playing of table-top games. I can display my collection of Dragonlance books with pride and for GOT fans, I can offer Fantasy words that my friends might enjoy.

It feels as though there has been a shift. If you admitted to playing a little DnD twenty years ago, people might look at you like you’d grown an extra arm. Warhammer was perhaps a bit more forgiving.

With the success of Harry Potter, millions of children were invited to explore a different landscape. Encouraged to find Narnia, Middle Earth and now as we’re grown up, Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos – not to mention ever popular RPG – World of Warcraft. We’re able to explore fantasy in completely immersive ways, and I think with this, older stories and older lore are returning to the surface as well.

My favourite albums of the last few years have been Monsters and Men: My head is an animal

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMogyzvc_OR333NwjsPy6CfNVTlCoEB1m

Mumford and Sons: Babel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWza_On7ajs

These albums, it could be argued have had a dramatic impact on popular culture. They performed well in the charts and they’re far more ‘Folksy’ than what I would have previously thought as ‘Popular’.

What I’m trying to say – and doing quite badly. Is that I feel that rise of Fantasy is resulting in a rise in ‘Folk’. An encouraged, more narrative lyric in music. Something more reminiscencent of Beowulf. If you watch King Arthur – and you totally should, it marries the two beautifully. The music is excitement and reflects the grit within the film, but it also has its roots in historical sounds. The feeling of a modern folk tale.

There seems to be more of an appetite for those folk-tales though, a rise in interest in dark-ages history. I know that some people have always been fascinated, but it seems more popular, it feels more acceptable.  Fantasy in some ways, feels an extension of folk tale and music. Good fantasy, seems to carry a resonance that is traced back to something primal within us all.

Perhaps that’s why I like King Arthur so much, it seems the culmination of a decade of change. Until the recent years and surging popularity of Game of Thrones, it felt as though the world was trying to cover up the past. Too look forward at Sci-fi, Comic-book heroes and futuristic worlds – but with a determined attempt to ignore the past. It feels as though this is changing, or is has changed like the landscape of a landslide. The past will not be buried, and ancient tales will always surface.

This may warrant further blog-posts…

Now, I may have made a hash of this explanation, but I’d love to know what you think!