A very sound piece of advice to writers is ‘write what you know‘ – this doesn’t mean you can’t imagine or invent or research and investigate… but thinking about this aspect of writing is for another time.

‘Write who you know’  – writing about people! Characters have to be real (within the fiction) and believable and consistent even if they are extraordinary! Your models can be people you actually know – names and details changed of course (changing ages, gender, ethnicity, as well as appearance and name), your models can be people, strangers you observe – on the bus, in the street, in a coffee-house, behind the bar in your local pub; they can be characters you see on TV or in films or read about in books; they can be real personalities you see on the news with imagined back stories, families and relationships.

Inspiration for characters can be found in family history too; our own lives as children in a world very different from today, or the stories our parents and grandparents told us of their childhoods. Family history, myths and legends, unexpected stories revealed by genealogical research, unusual names and unfamiliar occupations… these can be written factually (but imaginatively) or they can be used as a skeleton for a work of fiction – you can play with time and have a nineteenth century story retold in 2017. Old photographs, old albums, even old photograph albums of strangers found in junk shops or car boot sales can give endless ideas.

The descriptions of characters you create can just be single pieces of writing or they can be woven together to create something else, but it will be believable and have an authentic feel to the reader if your characters are rounded, realistic and three-dimensional.

… and if you are seeking names, some genealogical sites can give you real but unusual names:

  • Wallace A Brett
  • John W Granes
  • Cecil E Jorris
  • Reginald Shinar
  • Walter B Holk
  • Esabella Sanderson
  • Ellenor Holk
  • Henry Addinall
  • Betsey Bleak
  • Augustus Grape
  • Letitia Harp
  • Zilpah Harp

… and as for occupations, here is just a selection from the list of occupations beginning with V and Z:

  • Vellum Binder
  • Vellum Sewer
  • Venator
  • Vendor of Sweets
  • Venur
  • Verderer
  • Verge Maker
  • Verger
  • Verrier
  • Vestment Maker
  • Veterinery Surgeon
  • Viewer
  • Zinc Worker
  • Zincographer
  • Zitherist
  • Zoetrope Maker
  • Zoographer



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