Character traits are not only reflected in descriptive writing but in the names we choose for our villains and heroines and others who people our stories.
Choosing great names helps avoid stereotypes. When writing tall tales or any other fiction, a name can subconsciously provide a reader with a sense of who the person is and what we can expect from them.
Though this doesn’t and possibly couldn’t hold true for all names in a book, it should surely be considered when choosing names for heroines, heroes, villains and those who share many scenes with them.
You can read more about name planning on the list of names for my novel . There I have explained about choosing names that have meanings similar to a person’s purpose in the story. Also provided on that page as samples of the meanings of the names used and why you should also pay attention to each character’s initials.
Down to the Needle
The Logline: A woman's long search for her abducted daughter leads to a young woman on Death Row facing lethal injection for a crime she didn't commit.
Below are the names of those who people Down to the Needle. Then, if you'll notice, their character traits, or the main ones, are given at the end of their descriptions, after the dashes. (If nothing appears after a dash, they played a small part in the story.)
ABIGAIL FISHER, Protagonist, heroine - has a lifelong obsession to find her daughter
JOE ARNO, Secondary Protagonist, Abi’s love interest - steady and supportive
Preston Fisher, Abi’s long-missing husband - secretive
Edith Armstrong, owns "The Beacon,” meals for the homeless - charitable
Becky Ann Fisher, Abi’s abducted daughter - artist
Megan Winnaker, Inmate - determined, brave, while facing death
Vance Winnaker, Megan’s father - Aryan
Rae Overland, gang member
Quincy Overland, Rae’s father - Aryan
June, homeless woman - confused
Margaret Griffin (Lady Griff), homecoming queen, Joe’s former obsessive love interest - quite the vamp!
Bertrand Thorndyke, III, Margaret's husband - stiff, formal
Velma, Police sketch artist
Lindsay, Abigail's store clerk - supportive, with business savvy
DeWitt, homeless man who protects June - has a sense of right and wrong
Chad Britto, Police Lieutenant - determined to crack the case before retiring
Stan Yates, blind man - egocentric, self-righteous
Hazel Yates, Stan's sister - limited mentality
Dr. Gilda Sayer, Prison Psychiatrist
Emery Kenton, Megan’s attorney - hidden obsession
Jack Pierce, Fireman Captain
Dara Hines, Aryan girl - wild
Sling, Dara's boyfriend - pathetic, fearful
Tess Ulrich, witness to Megan’s crime
Officer John Ryde, hospital guard
Lt. Donald Nater, retired, worked Megan’s case
Gary Croner, Arsonist
Twyla, Becky’s former cellmate
If you peruse the list above, note that seldom are the same alphabetical letters used in more than one name, except in the case of family last names. Try to use any letter only ONCE.
Also, you wouldn't put characters in your story with similar names, like Mary Barnes and Marion Burns. Avoid using not only the same letters more than once if it can be helped, but also avoid names that sound the same or which rhyme.
In my first novel, The Tropics, an adventure/suspense, the list of individuals is short. The Tropics is composed of three entwined novellas, so all the characters do not appear in all three stories.
In River Bones, an award-winning thriller, some of the characters that play major parts just happen to be dogs: two lovable pit bull puppies that grow up in the story, plus a stylish and hoity black standard poodle.
Something else that is vitally important in writing a novel in addition to character traits is where you place your story - the locale. Many fiction novels take place in actual cities and towns and it’s easy to create scenes in various known locations. Your reader may easily identify with scene locales if you’ve described them accurately.
Down to the Needle takes place in a fictitious town along the west coast. It could be California. It could be Oregon, or maybe even Washington. The mind of the reader will automatically choose the state of preference.
In the story, the town is described as having once been known as the Cabot Cove of the West Coast. Now, don't you already get a feel for what kind of town this might be?
Having created a fictitious town and various other locations, it’s vital that they are described well to give readers a sense of being there in the midst of it all. I am told that I’ve done just that.
Here is a taste of what to expect about location and other important points in the story.
SEAPORT - Where story takes place. Larger town on west coast waterfront, similar to but more industrialized than Cabot Cove in Murder, She Wrote.
PT. MEARE - On the north bay in Seaport where Becky used to draw art on the pier.
THE LIGHTHOUSE – On the south bay peninsula, opposite Pt. Meare to the north.
CREIGHTON - Twenty miles inland, smaller artsy town. Undeveloped rural areas hide many notorious gangs.
TONO FOOTHILLS - Behind Creighton toward mountains covered with pine forests and receives annual snow; where Joe has a cabin.
RACHTER VALLEY PRISON - Southeast of Creighton, deeper into the foothills, where Megan Winnaker is confined on death row.
0-5 - Kid’s Stuff - Abigail Fisher's children's clothing store for ages 0 to 5 years.
K.I.N. - A charitable group started by Abigail to collect donated children's clothes for Kids In Need. Donations made at her store earn customers 10% off new purchases.
When developing fictional people, heroes, heroines, villains and others, character traits are vital. Character traits are what move your story people through the plot.
For example, if your heroine plays in a chamber music trio, she may be refined. She would have manicured nails and know about music. You wouldn’t describe her with filthy nails unless she has a secret passion for gardening. But even then, you’d need to show her as being meticulous about cleaning her hands.
This is only one of a million examples of character traits.
Whatever descriptive writing you create for character traits, it must fit the story.
When developing a story in a fictitious locale, descriptive writing and setting a scene is equally as important as character traits.
In writing tall tales, or even little ones, stereotypes must be avoided. This is accomplished by the characters you develop.
It’s my hope that these easy examples of my writing will encourage you to continue your writing career.
You may also study the Descriptive Writing found in Down to the Needle.
Plus, there is more information on the Down to the Needle Media Page, with yet another Book Review page to come.