Feb 28

Remind Us Who Is Who

Recently a read a scifi novel and couldn’t keep up with the characters throughout the story. Having an interesting and memorable character name is important, but that’s not enough. I just hate it when characters are names things like Bill, Bob, Bert, Bull, Barren, Berry, Bo, Blue, and Brad. It may seem cute to the author but it’s as confusing as hell to the reader.
As I’ve written in other posts, we have a whole alphabet and it’s a good idea to use it. With a simple alphabet, it’s easy to keep track of what characters have been named with the same letter. Skip around and use different letters.
When you intro a character and you thumbnail him or her with a significant charaterization (bugeyed, big ears, beautiful hair, lovely lips, walked with a limp, hide behind large lens sunglasses), keep track of those descriptions. Use this information in later instances when these characters reappear, but DON’T use the same words. Mix it up and find another way refer to those significant or memorable visuals, audible, or other sense cues.
If a character has dark brown eyes, add the fact that there might be flecks of gold in his/her eyes in a later admission. Items of clothing, physical handicaps, even the smell of a character you mentioned earlier are all elements you can enlarge on or weave into your narration.
It is even possible to blend all characterizations from a person’s name to their clothing, the tone of his/her voice as well as actions and ways to acting and reacting to help complete a memorable character. Someone with the name Loud might, for example, choose bright colors to wear and ride a motorcycle with a thundering engine.
While you may have a corkboard with pictures of your characters, your reader does not. Journalists often use the phrase, “…remembered for …” to fill in background without beating the audience over the head with information. It’s this kind of reminding writers need to employ for their characters who have not been mentioned for several pages or even chapters. This is where your creativity comes in. Tell us again who these people are without talking down to your reader.

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