In this post, let me share ideas with you to allow your creative juices and imagination to flow, by me naming people, objects, places and incidents in their own terms. Not necessarily to mock them, but to bring out their actual trails. The greatest writer of all, who we knew played around with the names of their characters effectively, was Charles Dickens. Remember his characters Fagin, Uriah heep (yes, later to be an 80’s band), Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Sparsit and so on. Contemporary Scottish writer, Irvine Welsh, also often plays with this form, through his otherwise dark and brooding characters.
So, let us start by playing with names to extend our imaginative faculties a little. Choose a couple of unnamed photographs. After you have a considerable number of them, sit down and makeup you own nicknames for the characters. Closely observe their body language, background, and attire. Now spin write a fun account of the reasons to the origination of their names. Have their caricature play on the group photographs, the result is intoxicating humor. After you have names and explained the origins of the characters, give a name to the entire group and have a fictive reason for them coming together. You can do similar caricatures for the people around you. The next time someone bugs you at the office you can just take a look at your creation and laugh to yourself. From time to time, add and subtract features so your characters reflect reality more.
All this is doing, is loose character sketching, looking at people in a detached way. When we apply a fun name, based on a detached look at the person, we have an understanding over them that our personal, daily interaction allows. This exercise in writing then becomes creative therapy. Writing for fun is indeed the best therapeutic treat that you can give yourself – absolutely free.
For your photograph collection, gather pictures from a range as wide as you can. A group of teenagers, rock bands, a bevy of models, a class group photograph, a bunch of friends….anything & everything goes. Even if you know the people, detach yourself from the knowledge of their popular image as much as you can, and create your own Fagin or Renton (Irvine Welsh’s creation in ‘Trainspotting’).
If this doesn’t work when it comes to your personal group, then try the detachment technique as much as you can; when you choose associates characteristic traits will be so familiar, they will undoubtedly strap around your delineated analysis.
After considerable work on these, you will have your very own notebook of detached and semi-attached characterization, and believe me, there will be enough to keep you going, to create a few short stories or a dramatic monologue if you want.
You will need to do a lot of browsing to arrive at a considerable collection of sketches. Inventing and re-inventing names and profiles for situations that we find ourselves in our daily fix or pleasure; can also give oodles of insight. For example, a particular traffic hazard in the city can be called the “Star Trek Mission to Woodstreet” or a regular problem with the vending machine as “The Jinxed Maniac”. Look at other people, commercial goods, and public places around you. If they were not named what they are, what would they have been named?
This way you can open up a whole new portfolio of your own characters that you can use in your writing. Try it! Its fun!