Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #002.

Why was he given his name?

While some characters’ names may be chosen for the reasons listed in last week’s issue of The Writer’s Everything, other characters’ names may actually turn out to be integral to the plot of the story itself. In Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, Ben Solo is so named because of his parents’ relationship with Ben Kenobi. In A Song of Ice and Fire, bastards receive a last name based on where they live. Jon Snow’s name indicates that he was an illegitimate child from a family in the north.

This is even more common in prequels, where we’re already familiar with the characters’ names, and now the story is offering us a moment of fan service to explain how they received those iconic names. In Star Trek, we see that James Tiberius Kirk is named after the fathers of both of his parents. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, we see that Han Solo receives his name because he is alone, without anyone to claim as his family.

Does he like his name?

Most characters have their names chosen for them at a young age, if not at birth. Needless to say, not every character likes his own name. Some even go as far as to make a deliberate effort to convince their friends and acquaintances to call them by different names. In Tangled, the main character chooses to go by Flynn Rider because he thinks that his given name, Eugene, doesn’t sound cool. In the Indiana Jones series, the main character goes by the nickname Indiana because he likes it better than his given name, Henry Walton Jones.

Does he have any aliases?

At times, characters are known by aliases, either in place of, or to a greater extent than, their actual names. In The Lord of the Rings, the innkeeper doesn’t know Aragorn’s actual name, yet he knows that people call him Strider. In the DC universe, both Bruce Wayne and Batman are equally wellknown names, but few people are aware of the fact that Batman is actually Bruce’s crime-fighting alter-ego.

There are usually reasons why characters are known by aliases. In the DC universe, Bruce Wayne goes by Batman in order to hide his identity and to protect the people he loves. In Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi goes by Ben so that he won’t be outed as the infamous Jedi. In The Lego Movie, Wyldstyle changes her name at regular intervals because of her own insecurities.

The Writer’s Everything

This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.

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