‘What is an acrostic?’ I hear you ask. An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message. For example Acrostic could be written as;
Simple right? So what does this have to do with creating characters? Well if you take a person’s name, you can write an acrostic from the letters of their name, listing possible personality traits and descriptions. Not only does this make you think about your characters emotions, reactions and personalities, but it can also help you come up with some interesting, unique and conflicting traits.
With this in mind, I decided to take some popular boy and girl names from 2015 and tried to come up with my own acrostics…
The next step is to ask yourself questions about your characters, this is the start of developing their personalities and breathing life into your characters…
Amelia is artistic and messy, these two adjectives are pretty logical together. You can easily imagine Amelia working on an art project, wearing one of those sleeveless aprons with splashes of paint from head to toe. However, what if Amelia is not an artist? How could she be artistic and messy then? Would artistic and messy describe her physical appearance? Or do they describe her general approach to any task she is given? Now you can see where creating an acrostic can add detail and depth to your characters. Amelia is energetic and loyal, she sounds like a good friend and fun to be around. She is also adventurous, this could be both good and bad depending on the situation, and for a slightly negative trait she is impatient. Is Amelia impatient with her friends, or just with herself? Does her impatience lead to a good or bad consequence? How does she deal with situations when they require patience? As you can see, there is lots to think about and many more questions to ask.
Olivia could almost be the complete opposite of Amelia. Observant, Logical, Invisible, you get the feeling that Olivia is a quiet yet intelligent character. Perhaps she is a character who prefers books to people? She is also vague, indecisive and apologetic. Despite being observant and logical, it is quite likely that Olivia isn’t the best at explaining her thoughts and so comes across as vague. Perhaps she is indecisive because her vagueness has led to some unfortunate misunderstandings, and hence she feels responsible for these misunderstandings and feels the need to apologize? Or maybe Olivia apologizes so much that she ends up annoying people?
Isla could be a protagonist or an antagonist. She is insensitive, selfish and ambitious, I immediately picture a spoiled little rich girl who is used to getting her own way. However, despite her ambitions she is also lazy, again this plays to the ‘rich girl’ image as she would probably have servants to do everything for her. Her laziness could be her downfall though if she was ever in a situation where she couldn’t access money. Isla wouldn’t be a very likable character with her insensitive and selfish nature, so again money would be her only way of attracting friends, albeit false friends.
Emily is an interesting character. Energetic, idealistic, lucky and youthful could all be positive traits and I picture a protagonist here with Emily’s character. Her only downfall is the adjective ‘misguided’, here I purposefully selected a trait which would oppose her other traits. However, misguided and idealistic could go well together if Emily is an idealist with regards to her views on the world, it is quite reasonable to assume that she would also be misguided by her idealistic nature. Nonetheless Emily seems like a happy-go-lucky type of character but she also seems to be the type of character who would be ‘used’ by other characters, hence the misguided. Youthful could be both good and bad, is she youthful in how she behaves? Or youthful in appearance? Or youthful because she simply is a youth?
Let’s take a look at the boys….
Oliver is open and lovable, I immediately think of a character who would have girls tripping over themselves. Plus he is intelligent, what isn’t there to like? Oliver seems like he could be the main romantic lead in any romance novel. Then this is where I decided to spice things up a little bit, Oliver is also vulnerable, embarrassed and reckless. Vulnerability could be a swoon-worthy trait for a romantic lead, but this begs the question as to why he would be vulnerable in the first place? Does he have some tragic backstory? Or is he simply unable to stand up for himself? Completely different characters can be born depending on how you answer the last two questions. Embarrassed again, is he embarrassed when it comes to romance, perhaps he is inexperienced? Or is he the type of character who is just easily embarrassed? Reckless adds a different spin on to Oliver’s potential character, is Oliver reckless because he is vulnerable and easily embarrassed? If so, what sort of situation would cause this character to be reckless? Or is Oliver’s recklessness a completely separate personality trait? There are so many different Oliver’s that could be created, it is difficult to choose!
Jack is attractive, confident and kind, again potentially another swoon-worthy, romantic character. However, Jack is also jealous, but why exactly is he jealous? Are Jack and Oliver friends, and is Jack jealous of Oliver? Although Jack is attractive, is he perhaps a little stupid, so therefore jealous of those who are intelligent? Maybe his jealousy is something far more sinister, with roots that stretch back deep into his childhood? Jack could be an important character and his jealous trait may be something that he will have to overcome in order to save the day. Or Jack may be swayed by evil characters and become an antagonist.
Harry could easily be an antagonist, I listed quite a lot of bad traits for this character. Hot-tempered, argumentative, rational and ruthless, Harry would make a great and evil politician with these traits. Has he been brought up in an argumentative household? Is he rational with his arguments, and then ruthless after? Is he hot-tempered when things don’t go his own way? Or is that just a by-product from being argumentative? The interesting trait is ‘yearning’, why is Harry yearning? Could there be a sad backstory here? Or does he just yearn for success in his evil exploits? Harry and Isla could make quite a pair of antagonists.
Jacob could be the opposite of Jack, but like Jack he could be one of those surprisingly important characters. Jovial, optimistic and brave, Jacob seems like the ideal friend and fun to be around like Amelia. However, he is awkward and clumsy, giving the impression that he is a two-left-feet type of character. Being clumsy could be bad or good, it might inadvertently save the day or Jacob’s clumsiness could land all of the characters into deep trouble. My version of Jacob would be fun, happy and always trying to do the best he can but somehow always messing things up. He would annoy and amuse people, yet there would be that special someone who is right for him, maybe Olivia? His clumsiness would be a curse to begin with, but a blessing in the end.
Isn’t it simple? I bet you’re itching to give it a go? ‘But…’ you say, ‘I’m not very good at coming up with character traits, how can I possibly think of different adjectives for letters like X, Y and Z?’ Don’t fear, I’m not very good at thinking up words on the spot either. Thankfully, if you search up ‘list of character traits’ on the internet, you should find thousands of results with lots and lots of adjectives. Have a look and save your favorites, I would even recommend that your print them off for later use.
I’m almost tempted to write a story featuring all eight characters now, writing acrostics for their names has given me several ideas to work with. Do you agree or disagree with my acrostics? I’m sure you can come up with something better! Feel free to use the names I’ve suggested or come up with your own, either way I hope you have as much fun as I did and I hope your brain rewards you with ideas too!
“words have the power to change us…” – The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare