Something Useful for 2014 - Exercise No. 8

What's in a name? Does a person's name inform us of their character in any way? Can it make us perceive them in a certain manner? Can Cyril or Sophie ever be a believable villain? Likewise, can Victor or Goneril be cute or loveable? When  we read a book, does a character's name create an expectation?

In my plays, I always start with a concept/setting and a list of characters. For instance, Dead Fit began like this:

Exercise class at a community centre.

Mature, glamorous aerobics instructor
Elderly couple
Two young men
Two female friends
Middle aged woman and her daughter.

These are the  bones of the play. At this point, the cast are faceless. I have a silhouette of who they will be but that is all. It isn't until I name them, that I begin to discover their personalities and their patterns of speech.

I want the aerobics instructor to be 'mature' and yet glamorous, pretentious even. She's very 'darling'y and dramatic. The name I finally gave her was Priscilla Vincente.

The elderly couple are traditional in their outlook but spirited. They're working class and funny. I named them Zachary and Willa Grimshaw.

For this month's exercise, I want you to choose a setting and create a cast. Either start with the bare bones of the characters as I do and add names to suit, or do it the other way round, find names and add a personality to match. How do the names inform you of your characters? What was it about those names that you felt matched your cast?


  1. Ooh, great choices for names. They really fit the descriptions you gave.


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