This week, I focus on creating a list of potential character names. I begin with the list of characteristics on my Story Vision Board from last week.
Story Vision Board for Novel Number 10: “Snake Medicine”
Because these are historical Anasazi novels, I use a dictionary of the Hopi language, descendants of the Anasazi, to look up the key words I ginned up last week: Hopi Dictionary/Hopiikwa Lavaytutuveni: A Hopi-English Dictionary of the Third Mesa Dialect. It’s a hard copy I bought for about $85 when it was first published. Used editions are now selling for more than $300, and new ones for more than $600. Yikes! Glad I got mine when I did.
I like to work by hand to get me away from the computer, where I spend too much time as it is. Here’s what my notes look like:
Anasazi Novels Character Name Ideas from Hopi Language Dictionary
Here’s what I came up with.
East: Contrary Lizard (Victim)
Hopi words for Lizard
Kitsíipu, kuukutsi, mátsáakwa (horned toad), nahu (plateau whiptail lizard)
Possible name derivations: Kutsi, Nahu
Mashurúuta (mas=corpse, derived from Másaw, the god or spirit of the underworld and death)
Tuumoklawu (tumok=dream), tumokviptsa (viptsa=perceive)
Tookya=sleep and put out fire (man, I didn’t expect that—to sleep means to put out the fire of wakefulness!), tokva (go to sleep)
South: Blue Heron (Seeker)
Kwusu (receive, get, accept); kwusuna (receive, in acceptance), nakwha (agree or acquiesce)
Hu’wani (permission, consent), hu’wa
Postala (able to see, vision); posta (eye), aw maamatsi (to see as in understand)
Names: Posta, Matsee
Naakuk.wuwa (ponder past events), kuk.wuwa, naawuwa, wuuwa (think, ponder)
Names: Nakuk, Nawoo
Naala (by oneself), súnala (to wake up all alone)
Name: Sunala or Soonala
West: Skunk (Warrior)
Kwiivi (egotism), kwivi’nangwa
Tuskyapta (charm as in bewitch)
North: Contrary Black Panther (Victor)
Tohòo, toho, tohow (mountain lion), qömvi (black), qöötsa (white)
Names: Tohow, Qomqoot, Kwamqoot
Tsìikwa (give a decision)
Fear of darkness, death
Qa taala (darkness), mookiwu (death), tsawini (fear), maqasi (fear)
Names: Qatala, Mooki, Sawini, Maki, Sutoki
Sùutoki (become distracted)
Tsuu’a (rattlesnake), taawataho (mythical snake), tuhiknanatuwna (practice medicine), ngámoki (medicine bundle), tuuhikya (medicine man)
Names: Soo, Tsu, Wataho, Nanatoona, Moki
Tuhisa (creative person)
Mongwi (chief), Tsu’mongwi (leader of the Snake Society), layma (direct, guide)
Names: Soomongwi, Soomong
Somatsi (discerning, astute), wuwni’yta (to discern)
Alöngta (change), -niwti, himunwiti (transform into)
Names: Himoonwiti, Himoon
Wukta (assail with words; stepping or stomping in a dance), tiihu (dancing)
Names: Wukta, Teehu
Uuwingw (flame), qööhi (element of fire), qööh (fire root word), tookya (put out fire, be asleep, extinguish), Kookopngyam (Fire clan)
Names: Ku, Koo, Tookya (again), Oowing, Uwing
Qalaptu (to become healthy), tuuhikya (healer, unspecialized; a general practitioner), tuuhik (healer root word)
Names: Tuhik, Toohik
Whew! That’s exhausting. But I like having a large piles of character names to pick from when I begin daydreaming up a story.
Now I go to my storyboard, a big metal monstrosity I mounted on my office wall for using sticky notes and magnets to organize and visualize my Anasazi novels stuff. First, I lay out all the names on little sticky notes under header cards for each step of the Story Vision Board.
Character names laid out on storyboard for “Snake Medicine”
After I stare at it for a while and say the names out loud, I pick my favorites. See the magnetic arrows? Those are the winners. Next, I label them so I know which step of the Story Vision Board they go with (E for East, etc.) and lay them out in a balanced cast of characters. I refined this over the course of writing about three novels, but it’s original inspiration comes from the awfully titled but brilliant book on screenwriting, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Ten Ways to Toughen Up Your Screenplay from Opening Hook to Knockout Punch. Yeah, that’s what I thought. I wouldn’t have ever bought such a horrendous title except that it came highly recommended in a session of the 2013 DFW Writers Conference.
Cast of characters for “Snake Medicine” laid out on storyboard in a symmetrical mirror.
The idea is that both hero and villain have an equal and opposite cast of supporting characters, a Doubter and a Believer in the area of Trustworthiness, a Feeler and Thinker in the area of Logic, and a Deflector and Protector in the area of Morality. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
Time spent: About eight hours.
Next week: Speed-read the first two novels in this series, Soo Potter and The Last Skywatcher, to get my brain back into the storyline (I plan to publish all three at the same time, followed by two more groups of three for nine historical Anasazi novels in the series). Work up character sheets for the main characters using exercises from a couple of Donald Maass’s books on writing: The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. And then write flash scenes (short scenes or scene fragments) for each character. That’ll be a long week. Might spill over into the next. We shall see. I’ll be finished this weekend with my final comb-through read of Novel Number 9, Price on Their Heads, to send to my first reader, so I’ll have more time to devote to Number 10.