Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Creating Compelling Characters: Tags and Titles

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Welcome back to my series on creating compelling characters. I'm your host Jill "The Randomizer" Williamson. We are working our way through my new Character Worksheet, which you can download by clicking here. I am using as an example character, Prince Trevyn from the book I'm currently writing.

Today we are going to talk about tags and titles for your characters.

Tags are descriptive ways authors can create memorable characters. Such tags are unique to each character and sets them apart from other characters in a way that makes it easy for the reader to remember who is who. J. K. Rowling does this very well in her Harry Potter books. For example:

Harry Potter: lightning-shaped scar, broken glasses, messy hair, clothes that are too big (because they're Dudley's hand-me-downs), looks just like his father but for his mother's green eyes.
Ron Weasley: red hair, freckles, poor, uses a hand-me-down wand, wears shabby clothing, has a shabby pet rat... everything he owns is shabby.
Hermione Granger: buck teeth, bushy hair, clever, often carries a book or seven, has a pet cat.
Rubeus Hagrid: half-giant, eyes like black beetles, has a wild beard and hair, loves animals, probably has some animal food or an actual animal in his pocket at all times. Is a terrible cook.
Draco Malfoy: blond, pale and pointed face, wealthy, arrogant pure-blood, has two minion-like friends who follow him everywhere.

Each of the above tags aid the reader's physical description of the character that they're picturing in their mind as they read. But they also match who the character is. Because of Harry's backstory, he wouldn't be arrogant like Malfoy because the Dursely's treated him so badly. He wouldn't be as clever as Hermione since he didn't have the opportunity to read so many books. Who he is comes from the life he has lived. That is what makes all his tags possible. If he had died when Voldemort had tried to kill him, he wouldn't have a lightning-shaped scar on his head, he wouldn't be famous, and Dumbedore wouldn't have had to hide him with the Dursleys, who treated him so badly and made him wear Dudley's old clothing.

Here are some tags for Prince Trevyn: tall and skinny, dimpled smile, long neck, wrinkled clothing, charcoal-smudged fingers, rolls of maps under his arm, often seen scaling walls or running through the palace and yelling out, “Sorry!” after he has knocked people over. (I'll explain more about these behaviors in the coming weeks as we talk backstory, motivations, and hobbies.)

Titles are roles that each character fills. If I were to describe myself in titles, some of them might be: wife (my husband sometimes calls me "wifey"), mother (my kids still call me mama), author, friend, daughter, big sister, mentor, artist, blogger, entrepreneur, librarian, and The Randomizer (this is my superhero identity).

For my characters, I like to divide titles into two camps: names and roles.

Some example names that people call Prince Treyn are: prince, His Royal Highness / Your Highness, that boy (by his mother), firebrand (by many), Your Magnanimousness (by Hinck, his friend), Trev (occasionally by Hinck).

And here are some roles that Trevyn fills in his life: prince, son, brother, friend, student, map-maker, explorer, celebrity, potential husband (his mom is trying to marry him off), investigator, truth-finder.

See how that works? Choose one of your characters and post some tags and titles for that person in the comments.


  1. Amity Leston Tags- introvert, scar on arm, ice blue eyes, long brown hair

    TItles- Amity, daughter, sister, Lauren, Two-headed squirrel (uh....long story. ;))

    Is that what you meant?

    1. Another tag for her is clumsy.

    2. Yes, that's what I meant, Emily. :-)
      And... two-headed squirrel!?! I'm intrigued! LOL

    3. Yep. She's the two-headed squirrel, another one of my characters is Percy the Person, and the other main one is the dancing llama :) (I have too much fun with my characters)

  2. Kriana-- hazel eyes that tend towards green, long brown hair, dislikes adventure, wants a normal happy life with a routine but also wants to do whatever she wants.

    Titles for her-- Kri, princess, your highness.

  3. This is a cool idea.
    Ivy Jade:
    Tags- Ridiculously long hair, looks like she's 12 even though she's 15, bright green eyes, quiet rebellion, Irish dancing
    Titles- sister, bearer of the jade-ivy pendant

    Tags- shy, quiet, curly hair, small, voices in her head, "cracked"
    Titles- Miss Pansy, Lady Pansy, sister, "my lady" (said in a very creepy and mocking voice by Faros)

    Tags- Serious, quiet, writing in notebook, dark, royal
    Titles- your highness, Prince Hayden, highness (said mockingly by Jason),

    Tags- Mocking, one blue eye and one green, "manly stubble", arrogant, hiding secrets, dangerous, annoying
    Titles: Jason, Master Silver, Leaguesman,

  4. Xenia:
    Tags- White streak in otherwise black hair, a mark on her arm going from her wrist to her elbow, bright blue eyes that are always laughing to hide her sadness.
    Titles- That girl (Said dismissively by the people of her village) Young one (By her teacher) Xenia (By her teammates)

    Tags- floppy blonde hair that's always in his eyes, thoughtful green eyes, tall for his age, prefers the company of his pet tiger cub to most people.
    Titles- Kid with the tiger, son, Isaiah (By an exasperated mother after he has tracked mud into the house for the tenth time.) Friend (By Xenia)

    Tags- Serious brown eyes, spiky brown hair, rebellious, a little full of himself, Always carries a tattered old book that he doesn't let anyone touch.
    Titles- Brother, Friend, Boy (By his teacher)

  5. Roxanne - brunette, grey eyes, almost always in something plaid that matches something else plaid, glasses somewhere on her person, bossy-motherly tone of voice, control freak
    Title: Student, Daughter, Horseback Rider, Witch, Friend, the smart one

    Artemis - Redhead, short, wolfish features, argumentative personality, skater/punk rock style, bronze nose ring, curly hair, music loving
    Titles: Arty (in both nickname and personality), Daughter, Werewolf, the wild one, Friend

    Delta - tall, blonde, blue highlights in her hair, hippie like, boys adore her at just the sight of her, always barefoot or in sandels, timid but curious about human things
    Titles: Del, the pretty one, Cheerleader, Daughter, Sister, Water Nymph, ocean lover, Friend

    Wow this is a little harder than I thought it would be. Lol

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  7. Francesca:
    Tags-small, childlike face, black hair, blue eyes, scars on both her arms, swift, sneaky, the one that secretly cares, aggressive sometimes, and intriguing
    Titles: Princess, sister, daughter, Lady Demon (by the people of Avalon), child (by Aubrey only), and Black Eyes (by Kian/Blue Eyes)

    Tags: tall, black hair, brown eyes, adventurous, responsible person, mind-reader, gentle, and was once cursed into a wolf
    Titles: Prince, brother, son, boyfriend, Hugo (by his wolf family), and Shadow Wolf (by the witches)

    Tags: red head, light skin, brown eyes, sweet, friendly, hidden inner strength, used to be a handmaid, and a witch
    Titles: Princess of Witches, daughter, friend, and girlfriend

  8. Just wanted to say thank you for the amazing character chart! My friend and I are co-authoring, and we spent a lot of time on the chart developing our characters.

    1. You're welcome, Katie! I'm glad it's been useful. :-)

  9. Great job on these tags and titles, everyone! I am loving reading them all!

  10. Ariel Johnson:
    Tags: Shoulder length red hair, light blue eyes, wears nerdy looking glasses half the time and contacts the other half, constantly telling herself she's not good enough
    Titles: Little Mermaid (by people who make fun of her), El (by her friend Tiffany), Ariela (by her grandparents), and Ariel

  11. Meredith: Short, green eyes, excessively mannerly, naive, apologetic
    Titles: Princess, sister, daughter, pretend maid, dragon rider, aspiring diplomat

  12. I actually just had this click in my head recently, and I've been really working on giving my character distinctive traits. ^ ^

    Bryce: cheetah tail, cheetah spots, doesn't have a very wide vocabulary and uses mostly grafting (his race's), slang, blonde hair, golden eyes like a cat, hates norms (regular humans), has a will of iron.
    Titles: Brother (to his little brother Matt), test subject, leader (or Dominant as his race calls him), weapon, grafting, subsapien, MK (by graftings who fear him), The Good MK (by graftings who have heard of him), kitty boy (by one of his worse enemies), Specimen A.J.1.236 (by scientists).

    This is very fun by the way. XD

  13. Charlotte (or Charlie) [Tags] -
    Chocolate eyes, has awesome hair, struggles with patience, has freckles beneath her eyes, wears hand-me-downs mostly, has a pointed chin.

    [Titles] Names: Charlotte, Charlie.
    [Titles] Roles: Sister, daughter, friend, peacemaker (when she is not one within the brawl).

    Hm, this was great! :) This has really prompted me to make characters with something about them that makes them different to all others. Something that makes them unique. :) Thanks Mrs Williamson!

    -Koko :)

  14. Great post! Really got me thinking about my characters!
    Leiah: tags: Curly dark hair, deep medium-brown eyes, soft face, slightly naive, but fiercely loyal. Very dependent on Jesse.
    titles: daughter, friend, member of the Green, cousin, student, soul-searcher, rebel.
    Jesse: tags: Thick black hair, tan skin, slightly cowardly, and sarcastic. As fierce and fiery passionate as Leiah -- when he dares to be. Title: Supernatural, subject, prisoner, friend.
    This was fun!

    Alexa Skrywer

  15. Ruby Fehu
    Tags:- Wavy ginger hair, blood red eyes, inhuman beauty (nymph blood), silk dresses, riding gear, intelligent, has a pet lion, graceful, thoughtful, kind, determined, leader
    Titles:- Princess, Queen, Little red (by Ezekiel), daughter, sister, my lady, ward (Tiwaz's father), murderer (by antagonist), traitor (by antagonist), your highness, your majesty, beloved (Tiwaz), gem (Tiwaz)

    Tiwaz Tennebris
    Tags:- dirty blonde hair, green eyes, muscular, amour, riding gear, fine clothing, thoughtful, sarcastic, fighter, strong, wise, caring, shape shifter
    Titles:- Prince, King, nuisance (affectionately by his brother), son, brother, my lord (widely by servants, intimately by Ruby), sire, your majesty, your highness, arrogant prick (by Ruby's brother), darling (Ruby)

    Ezekiel Fehu
    Tags:- messy brunette hair, blue eyes, muscular, lean, tall, armour, riding gear, protective, rash, sensible (he switches between them), warrior, leader, elongated canines (lycan)
    Titles:- Knight, Prince, brother, son, sir, Zeke, jerk (Ruby), big brother (Ruby), dolt (Tiwaz), traitor (by antagonist)