Two Characters Walk Into a Bar: Take 2!

I'm in between summer trips this week, so I'm refreshing an oldie but goodie about what makes for our favorite fictional bars. Grab a stool and mosey on up!

What is it about bars, pubs and taverns that makes them so darn fun to invent? I don’t know about you, but I get a gleeful little kick out of creating the perfect watering holes where my characters can wander in and grab a drink. Last night, I was brainstorming names for a bar in my latest WIP and got to thinking about the ingredients authors need to brew up just the right mix.

The Ambiance
Decide what vibe you want for your bar, and figure out how to convey that through music, lighting and table arrangements. You want a dingy little hole-in-the-wall, or a sleek high-end fa├žade with jazz playing in the background? A cozy Irish feel, complete with dancing, or a wild thumping club with strobe lights and a bass louder than thunder?

The Three Broomsticks is a far cry from the Mos Eisley Cantina. There are literally endless combinations, so have some fun with it!

The Bartender
This is especially important if the bar is going to be a recurring locale in your novel. The bartender’s clothes, personality, physical appearance and dialect tend to be pretty colorful. Sometimes, they stick behind the counter like superglue; othertimes, they’re constantly running back and forth between tables with pitchers of beer and hot meals.

One of my favorite examples of the bartender-as-character is Mac from the Dresden Files. I don’t think the guy says more than two full sentences in the entire series, but he’s irreplaceable!

The Name
I spend far, FAR too much time naming my bars. It’s crazy fun to come up with the perfect moniker that will capture the right flavor. There’s a little open-air bar in Key West that I love called Two Friends. Its motto is: “No greater love than the enduring, tender love of one drunken friend for another.”

Fantastic, right?

The Booze
My first WIP was set on a sailing ship, with open decks, rolling seas and coarse sailors. Flavored martinis and wine coolers were NOT going to fit in with my characters. Choosing your booze is almost as important as choosing the rest of your bar features. It’s fun to create a whole menu of options (okay, not a literal menu). That way, you can pick favorites for each character, decide if certain regions or nations have a “home brew” or just make up an entirely new concoction!

Bottoms up!

Got anything fun going on in YOUR summer so far? I'd love to hear about it.


  1. Neat. My characters hang out a lot in smoky pubs, drinking beer. Not much ambiance, but I do like thinking up fun names for them.

  2. Wine coolers probably don't fit well on a ship like that.
    I haven't used a bar scene yet, but if I ever delve into fantasy, there will be one.

  3. Yeah, I spend far too much time dreaming up names too ;)
    Enjoy your summer. I'm freezing here in sunny Australia. We're have a super cold winter. Brrr....

  4. Great post! I spend too much time on names as well. My fun was baking oatmeal cookies with my son today. :)

  5. It can be fun to think up names for bars. Great list of things to think about!

  6. L.G. - Aw, smoky pubs have tons of ambiance!

    Alex - Yes!! Looking forward to that scene.

    Lynda - Oh no! Cold is no fun. We had a brutal winter here last year as well.

    Christine - Oatmeal cookies = yum!

    Cherie - Thanks.