Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The 114-Name Challenge

          My WIP, Polar Opposites, takes place, mainly, in a small town named “Friette.” Say it with me: FREE-ET.

          (It’s always weird to hear the names of your characters and settings out loud. It makes them seem more real.)
          One of the problems I found with my manuscript was that I did not have very many subordinate characters. You know, characters that don’t play a HUGE role, who are just there for other characters to point out and say “hi” to. Like in Harry Potter—his friends, like Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, etc., are subordinate characters. They don’t play a HUGE role, but they’re there.
          I needed some characters who were there to make the other characters, and also the setting, come alive.
          So, I created the 114-Name challenge.
          The task? (You can probably guess it.)
          Come up with 114 names for the townspeople in Friette.
          114 probably wasn’t necessary. 90 or so probably would have done, but I wanted to write all 114 of them, name all 114 of them.
          The first twenty characters or so were easy: I already had them. They were the main roles in the story, the ones who actually had something of substance to add to the story. I added a couple of family members here and there—I mean, the teenager characters in my story couldn’t just live by themselves—but other than that, it was fairly easy.
          Then I had to start getting creative.
          It was hard.
          On paper, a town with 114 members isn’t very much. When you actually number them, and come up with names, ages, and occupations for all of them, and start to envision them in your mind, 114 names is a lot. A lot.
          And the problem is, Friette is a small town.
          Had Friette been a large town, of several thousand people, I would have easily been able to find occupations for all of them. But since Friette is a town of 114 people, and its economy is so tiny, I had trouble figuring out jobs. There’s a mailman and the typical town-y stuff, but I also had to mentally add in another different, larger town nearby, with more jobs, for the Friettans to commute to. In the process of creating jobs, I also had tried to get into the mindset of these people—why they were in a town of 114, what they were trying to hide from. As a result, I produced a lot of adults who lived at home with their retired parents, couples who just wanted peace and quiet, families who wanted to raise their children in a slower environment. I came up with famous people who needed time apart from the world (former Major League baseball players, millionaires, an actor or two, etc.), and some regular people who dealt with a lot at work (like social workers and doctors).
          Then I created weirdos. Lumberjacks, writers, and artists, all with different views of the world, and who were a bit too detached for their own good.
          It was hard, but it was fun.
          And, as I got deeper and deeper, I realized that there was so much to be written, created for these people. Everyone has a story to be told, shared, expounded on. It overwhelmed me.
          And it’s only 114 people!
          With the challenge of creating 114 characters in Friette—not to mention my main protagonist and antagonist, both of whom are not originally from Friette—I found revamped inspiration to write and think. Because it may just be an MG-YA crossover novel, but to me, it’s a world. A world that I can create, all by myself.

          It’s much better than Minecraft!

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