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Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up A Woefully Incomplete Guide by Bob Harris

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Home » Archives » January 2008 » Kitty Was a Light-Weight
[Previous entry: "Suspicious Advice"] [Next entry: "FNLy Enough"]

01/13/2008: Kitty Was a Light-Weight

Reading a spec pilot can be hard work. You have to figure out a lot - What's the tone of this? What's the heart of this story about? What's going on? And who are all these people? As a writer of spec pilots you want -- you NEED -- to make the reader's job as easy as possible. One of the ways you can help is through the way you name your characters.

I hate picking up a script and realizing that I'm going to have to keep Mike, Bill, Jim, Tom and Greg separate and distinct in my mind. It's just so much easier if I'm dealing with Graydon, Javier, Mr. Vargas, Squeaky and Security Guard. Don't you think?

Obviously, that was an exaggerated example. But tagging characters in a variety of ways will help make the names more memorable. If it's done with a light hand, giving them names that help us remember some characteristic of theirs will really help make it easy on your reader. The bad guy host in The Running Man was named Damon Killian. That is debatably a bit too much, but, geez, it sure makes it easy to remember he's a bad guy.

For a much subtler approach, look at Pride and Prejudice. Who's more level-headed? Kitty or Jane? Who's the prude? Georgiana or Mary?

The ironic name can also work, of course, since irony is another grappling hook that memory can seize onto. "Harmony," one of our great Buffy characters, was an ironic name long before we revealed that she literally couldn't carry a tune.

There's a reason that soap opera characters tend to have names like Harper and Ridge and Skye. They have an awful lot of people running around, and they need to be able to hook into them with a memorable name. Take a cue from the soaps. They've been around, what, a hundred years now? They must know something.

And yet, if you're interested in the adventures of two guys named John, check out this. The amazing John Hodgman and John Oliver (you know them both from The Daily Show among other things) are going to be playing Scrabble for charity later this week. You can help them reach their goal!

Lunch: left-over pizza. Onion and double-pineapple. I've started ordering pizza with no cheese and extra sauce. It's actually great.


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UC Berkeley
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January 2008

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