A Writer's Objectives

Posts tagged ‘Wild Card Day’

What’s in a Name? Naming Your Characters: Part 2

I did a post back in January about Character Names and promised others. While the first one focused on easy to pronounce (but not too simple) names, this one is going to focus on name meanings.

I know a lot of writers who create a character and give them names based on their personality. For example; Merrick is a very powerful and well known individual among his kind. He is aware of his fame and power, but he doesn’t flaunt it. In fact, he tends to hide away from it as best as he can. Why is all this important? Because the name Merrick derives from words that mean ‘fame’ and ‘power’ and is always associated with very humble individuals. The name goes well with the personality and the character in general.

Sometimes, however, authors don’t take the time to make sure their perception if a names meaning is actually the true meaning. Some people choose names based on what societal belief of the meaning is, not the true meaning. For example; Lucifer is a very dark, mysterious and evil character.* He thrives on causing pain and suffering. No one gets in his way and if they do, they don’t live long to tell the tale. This doesn’t work; societal belief is that name Lucifer is evil. Wrong. Lucifer means ‘Bringing Light’. Thanks to (surprise) Hollywood, the name is forever immortalized as being evil, when in truth Lucifer is simply a fallen angel and not evil in the least.

If you wish to name your characters by meaning, please make sure you actually know what the meaning of the names are. While not all characters are named by meaning (we’ll talk more about that next time), ones that are, should be done correctly. Your strong, warrior heroine who has been surviving on her own for years should be given a name such as Valda or Bree, which mean ‘power’ rather than something like Lamis or Belinda, which mean ‘soft’. Your dark sorcerer who enjoys murdering innocent people and taking many an unwilling county lass to his bed should have  a name like Shyama or Ciar, which mean ‘black’ rather than something like Gil or Ronen, which mean ‘joy’ (unless you’re going for a humorous opposite effect, which we will discuss later).

Personally, one of the ways I use to help match name meanings to my characters (when I feel like doing so) is using baby name books and websites. One of the best that I have found and used many times is Behind the Name. This site has a large array of names and meanings and weeds out all the created names that people often mistake for others. I’ve used it for not only characters in stories, but also for characters in games (Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft, mostly). It is a tool I utilize quite often and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in name meanings.

Now, I mentioned naming a character by meaning using the ‘humorous opposite effect’. There are some authors who, while they enjoy delving into name meanings, prefer to name their characters names that mean the opposite of what they are like. Let’s assume the creator of the character Lucifer (that I mentioned earlier) was going for this effect. It works, now. That tough-guy barbarian character you have could be named something that means ‘soft’, ‘gentle’ or ‘flower’.

Naming a character based on meanings can be taken in several directions, but it is important to make it clear what your intentions are. Simply naming them isn’t always enough. That barbarian named something soft and gentle should be aware what his name means and either hate it or find it hilariously ironic. Lucifer should wonder at his name, perhaps he believes that all the chaos he brings is his ‘light’ and that his name fits him perfectly.

Names are (in my opinion) more important to characters than most people recognize. Not only are they a way to identify a character, but they are also a means of giving them an existence. When naming your characters, no matter what your methods, please take care. You could have the next Harry Potter in the making; what name would you want to be immortalized for?

Repulsed

Writing, for most writers, is a part of the being. A part of the soul. There is no removing writing from a writer’s life because it is part of who they are. Every experience in a day can trigger some of the best stories, poems or novel ideas. We may choose to use them or push them aside into that folder in our mind we have labeled “For later use”.  There is very little that doesn’t remind us of our passion.

But sometimes we want nothing to do with it.

When nothing goes right. When everything we’re working on has slammed the brakes on and refuses to ease up on them even just a little bit. We feel trapped at first, afraid of what that might mean. Then we get angry. ‘How dare that story put the breaks on! I was just getting into the flow of it!’ After the anger subsides, we slowly drift into a numbness; part of our daily life is gone for a little while. What do we do now? Then, by the time a deadline rolls around and we realize we need to get to work on the writing no matter how much it fights… we’re suddenly repulsed by the very thought of working on it.

We will procrastinate at the worst times, we writers. It doesn’t matter that we’ve got a novel to submit to our editor in a week; that trash can is full, that table needs to be washed and suddenly we have a toothbrush we don’t need anymore so let’s start washing the entire house using only that. If someone even mentions writing, we wince and pretend we didn’t hear them because we have absolutely no want to get near the writing. We are repulsed by the thought of work, of writing. Everything else that we’ve been putting off for months gets done in a matter of a week. Then, on the day before and the day of our deadline, we force ourselves to sit down and write. And we feel like it is the worst thing we’ve ever produced. As soon as we finish, we go back to avoiding it. We read books, we clean, we spend time with friends and family we will usually go out of our way to avoid using the excuse that we have writing to do.

Why does this happen?

Lately, I’ve been avoiding all types of writing possible. Homework (I get it done hours before it is due), serial stories (they’re supposed to be posted Monday/Tuesday. Guess when I write/finish them?), blog entries (see those big gaps in the week with no posts??). I don’t really know why, but the very thought of any type of writing is repulsive to me. I’m only writing this entry because I felt bad that I’ve been neglecting this so much. I’ve tried forcing other entries, but they just didn’t want to be written. I’m sure this will pass soon, and when it does I will begin posting daily once again. But please bear with my sporadic posts until I am no longer repulsed by the very thought of writing.

Hard Hit

Sometimes story ideas hit you harder when you are least expecting them.

You know what I mean, right? Let me paint the picture for you:

You’re walking along (or sitting watching television or something else fairly mindless) when BOOM, you have an idea for a story (or poem). And it isn’t just an idea, apparently, because the urge to write it is so strong it overrides every other need in your life. This is like some sort of Super Idea. Eating, sleeping, showering, peeing; they can wait. You’ve got an idea for a story and there’s no stopping it now. You lose control of yourself, surrendering to the writing. Your hands are typing words faster than your eyes can register them and you decide you’ll read them when you have finished. And it takes a lot less time to finish this than your usual writing; you don’t stop to check Facebook or deviantART several times, or to do something around the apartment. No, if you can’t pee, you can’t do anything else until this piece is done.

When you finally finish it, the idea releases you from the throes of writing. You’ve got a cramp in your left hand, your eyes ache from staring at the screen so long and your butt is numb from sitting so still in your chair. You read what you have written, despite sore eyes, and are amazed at the result. While part of your mind recognizes your writing style, you are mostly in shock at what you have produced. It’s some of the best work you’ve ever done, and it’s only a short story (or poem). Small, but far from insignificant.

This, my friends, is what being a writer is about. All the stories and poems you write that take you so very long to get down on paper are worth it, they are. They are still your creation and you love them as much as you can. But the pieces of writing that attack you, slam you into a chair and force you to write are the ones that you end up being most proud of. Maybe it is some sort of Stockholm syndrome, where we feel a deep love and affection for our captor. Whatever it is, this is the writing we long for. When we go weeks, or even months, without having a writing idea attack us we start to panic. We wonder if we’ve lost it, if the ability has left us. And then, just when we’ve given up, we get struck by an idea and willing fall captive once again.

</end rant>

Wild Card Day- Life Update and More

Hey everyone! First of all, sorry for not posting Thursday and Friday! Thursday I couldn’t think of a list of 13 (shocking, I know) and Friday we had a big storm hit where I live and I got snowed in at a friend’s house without internet. I just wanted you to know I wasn’t going to vanish on you again =p

Today is a Wild Card day! Lately I’ve been doing some really intense posts with writing tips. I’m wondering if my readers would like me to continue with these? I have a nice little list of ideas, but I want to make sure they are useful and that everyone is enjoying them before I continue; no sense in doing more if it is just going to bore every one to death =p

I want to promote a dear friend of mine who has started a serial story over at her blog. Jo Ramsey is a Young Adult author who is best known for her Dark Lines series and her Reality Shift series. She’s started the serial story on her blog to give young adults (and anyone else who is interested) a little something extra when they read her blog. So head on over and check out Supernuisance every Saturday.

 

I’ll be posting for Six Sentence Sunday tomorrow with some bits and pieces from Dark Blood, so be sure to come by to check that out. Please leave a comment and let me know what you would like to see on Wild Card days: more writing tips? Or something else you can suggest?

As always, thanks so much for reading! Comments are always welcome, as are suggestions, requests and questions. =)

Ageless Love?

Today’s post is a bit of a rant, but it is book related, at least.

I realized, the other day, that a large percentage of the books I have read, and adore, have a common theme in them. Sure, they all take place in medieval-like times, in strange lands with strange creatures. And sure, there is always a young heroine (most of the time the main protagonist though occasionally just a supporting character), a handsome and brave older man who is legendary for his use of a sword or magic (or other various things…) and a handful of other characters that are easy to love and also easy to drop into a stereotype. But that older, legendary man also seems to turn out to be immortal for some reason or another. Or, at the least, he has an exceptionally longer life because of some spell or skill or something.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, yeah? Remember the heroine I mentioned? She’s usually what, somewhere between 14 years of age and 19 (at the very oldest). And what ALWAYS happens? She falls in love with Mr. Legendary. He, of course, rescued her from some terrible existence  and at first was a strange man she found herself trusting, then became father figure she never had and finally she realizes she loves him. The real kicker is that he seems to ALWAYS come to the same conclusion; he’s in love with the young girl he’s been taking care of/training/protecting.

I know that the age difference never mattered in earlier times. A girl started her period and she was immediately ready to marry and start a family. And I guess I understand the display of this between Legendary and Heroine, since Legendary almost always looks to be ‘about 30’. But the problem is that he only LOOKS that young. Because, remember, he’s got an exceptionally long life. This guy is bordering somewhere between age 150 and 900 (at the least). There’s an age difference and then there’s… well that.

Why does this bother me so much? I have no issue with vampires taking mortal lovers. But a man who has more than outlived at least five wives (and maybe children as well) who takes a 14 y/o girl under his wing, and happens to fall in love with her (did I mention that they usually end up together in these stories?) bothers me so much! Maybe it’s the fact that every single time I have read a situation like this, Legendary is always a father figure for the entire first book of the series. Then, suddenly, he becomes much more than that to the girl and even he is feeling differently about her. She’s becoming a beautiful young woman after a year or so of travel together, and this becomes apparent to Legendary. And interests him more and more as time passes until finally he takes Heroine into his arms and kisses her and they live a long long life together (or Legendary outlives yet another wife…)

Does this bother anyone else?

What’s in a Name? Naming your Characters: Part 1

I intend to a few entries about character names, as there are many aspects to naming a character that I think a lot of writers have difficulty with. Today my post is about simplicity versus creativity.

Every writer wants their characters to be unique, to stand out and to be recognizable. A lot of the time, a creative name paired with an interesting past or personality can do the trick. But how creative is too creative when it comes to a name? You want the name to stand out, but you also want your readers to be able to pronounce the name. If your characters all have names that are difficult for even you to pronounce, it’s probably a good idea to change the names.

I’m reading a book series right now and the characters all have complicated names, along with places and objects. At the front of the book is a little guide on how to pronounce the names, what sounds the different letters make in the language created in the series and how best to say other words that are frequently used. I’ve read this series before, and I love it dearly. The one thing I can’t stand, however, is that I constantly have to flip to the front to check and make sure I am pronouncing a name correctly in my head. That is the one flaw with this series; having to turn back constantly takes away from the important elements of the story itself.

If your characters are all named with a language you created, please make sure that a guide on how to pronounce everything isn’t needed. While the created language and culture adds a whole new aspect to a story, it can become tiresome to have to constantly check the pronunciation guide every time a new character is introduced. This can cause readers to want to avoid reading any other books in the series for lack of wanting to go through so much trouble. Creative is wonderful, but be careful how far you take your creativity when it comes to naming you characters.

On the other hand, you don’t want to make your names too simple. While some characters are so fantastic that a simple, normal name like “Harry” or “Jim” is all they need, that is often a rare occurrence. Especially if one writes fantasy or sci-fi stories that take place in other realms or on other planets. A simple name can be great for either simple characters or fantastic characters who don’t need a ‘cool’ name to enhance them. But what about the other characters? That’s when your judgement has to come in to play; does this character have a name that is unique, to fit the world they live in, or do they have a name that is a play-off from popular, simple names and just looks cool and different (Example: Jennifer could become Genipher)? Sometimes just changing the way a character’s name is spelled can make all the difference. Even it is a simple name, different ways of spelling will help stick the name into your readers’ minds. It’s unique, therefore it is memorable.

Names are one of the most important aspects of your characters. It’s important to make sure that they are not too difficult for your readers to remember or pronounce, but that they are not so simple that they don’t stick in their minds. Once you find a balance, you will find that names come much easier to you.

 

Thanks for reading Part 1 of my “What’s in a Name?” series! I hope you will join me for others in the future.

Character Creation

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of post that is both informative and inquiring. I’ve done posts in the past about things like: The ‘best’ time of day for writing, influences on writing style, procrastination, and weather influenced writing. I’m going to try to do more posts about various things I know many authors have trouble with. My goal is to give ideas on these things, while at the same time (hopefully) getting some ideas myself.

With that said: Today, we’re going to talk about Character Creation.

One of the topics I discuss with a lot of fellow writers is how best to create characters. There really is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about it; every writer is different and therefore, the style varies from person to person. But when it comes to character creation, there are very limited ways to do this. Occasionally, writers don’t have a choice; the characters create themselves and develop as the story goes. That’s all there is to it. Other times, there is a long process that sometimes takes much longer than we writers anticipated.

Personally, my character creation varies. The characters create themselves for the most part, but once they come to life in my mind, I sit down and figure out all the minor details. Age, appearance, important facts from their past, goals, fears, likes/dislikes. Most of the time this is all for my own personal reference; a character who likes the outdoors is going to end up with a job that allows them to work outside, etc. Sometimes the details become important to the story, but for the most part it doesn’t.

I’ve heard of some authors creating something similar to a biography for each of their characters. While this is interesting, it also takes up a large amount of time that could be dedicated to writing the story said characters are in. Other people jot down little bits of info here and there, but really don’t delve too deeply into the characters; they are the writers who pay more attention to detail than anything else. Some start with a name, then work from there. Others write a scene with the character, then figure out all the details that would account for the character’s actions.

One of the most helpful tools for writers who have difficulty with character creation is a Character Outline. There are many type available all over the internet created by and for other writers. Here are some other outlines you can use: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3. I actually have used all four of these in the past and have found them very useful. If you find that none of them seem to work for you, you can create your own or do an internet search for one that better fits.

Characters are some of the most important aspects of any story. Knowing your character better is not only helpful to you, but it is helpful to the story. With more knowledge of your character, you will be able to put them into several different situations and be able to have them react according to their personalities or past experiences that may have influenced the way they live. This also gives the readers a much clearer view of the characters they will be spending hours getting to know.

How do you develop characters? Do you use an outline, or do you just write and hope the character reveals enough through the story? What other ways have you seen/heard of when it comes to developing characters? Leave your responses in the comments! Thanks for reading =D