“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;” William Shakespeare.
I follow many writers’ blogs, and just today, I was reading the storyfix.com blog, which discussed five more mistakes that reveal a writer as a rookie. The blog referred to, what it calls,“The name game.” How rookies give their characters names that sound too much alike or pick names that it says are “unpronounceable, unfamiliar and difficult to remember.” It made me think about the process that I use to choose the names for my characters and places.
I find the names of characters, places, and things to be one of the most important parts in building a story, so I take it a step further; I heavily research all my names. I have several name books in my library collection, although with the Internet library, there is an even vaster access to names, their meanings, and their origins.
Depending of course what genre I’m writing in, it will determine the flexibility in my choice of names. Regardless of what the genre may be, the name must suit not only the character but also its gender, the time-period of the story, and the location of the story.
Names are terms that distinguish people, places, and things from other people, places, and things. I look at a name as being more of a descriptive label, something that defines a person, place, or thing.
When I go about picking a name for a character, I fly through meanings of names to find one that defines my character. Then I study the name and ask myself these five questions:
Does it suit my character?
This is probably, by far, the most important factor that I take into consideration when picking a name, although the least rational one. For me, names provoke certain feelings and images. Some names sound more masculine or feminine; others more timid or bold, or even good or evil. I pick a name that sounds like the personality of the character.
Is it easy enough to pronounce?
I write predominately fantasy, so I have more flexibility to pick distinctive names, but I still try to pick names that are easier to pronounce so the reader doesn’t struggle with remembering the name and can enjoy the story.
Does it fit the time-period of the story?
A name needs to fit the period that it is being used in. There are newer names and older names. Some names were not around in certain times, so I make sure to date my names and pick them accordingly.
Does it suit the gender of the character?
Is the name suitable for the gender of my character? Although Taffy is a man’s name in Welsh, in most areas, it is a more common feminine name. I would not pick this name for an authoritative masculine-type hero.
Does it suit the character’s heritage?
If I’m writing a story about a Spanish conquistador, it would be unrealistic for me to use a Russian name like Yuri for my Spanish hero.
There are, of course, always exceptions to the rules, which depend on my storyline, but for the most part, the name I choose reflects the total character and his journey.
In all, picking names is a personal preference of the writer, but I feel that following these guidelines helps me to make the chosen names more interesting, suitable, and sensible to the story line.
I am currently working on tightening up one of my manuscripts, a challenging task to say the least but a very necessary one.
*Word count is vital in the publishing industry.
My editor, Pat Lobrutto, always impresses on me how PP&B (Printing, Paper, and Binding) costs affect decisions made at each level of the publishing process from submissions to acquisitions.
My current task is to chop about 20,000 words off my story. Yikes!
As a creator of a story, it is difficult to achieve objectivity in order to make those cuts effectively. After all, everything seems important in one’s own writing.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful:
To distance yourself from the book for a time, a recommendation that came from my editor. Take a week or two and not read or work on the story. You’ll be surprised how differently you view your work after that time. You see mistakes you didn’t see before. You find sections that are too drawn out or redundant. It gives you emotional distance from it, allowing you to be more critical of your work.
Take each sentence and tell yourself that for every word you eliminate from it, you’ll receive a dollar. It’s a shame one doesn’t actually get the money. I had read this tip a while back, but unfortunately, I can’t remember where, sadly not permitting me to give the originator credit for the helpful advice.
Zoom in on your words to at least 200%, allowing you to focus your attention solely on that one sentence, thereby, not being distracted by any other words around it. Enlarging it makes the words clearer, giving you a better perspective of your work. I stumbled across the idea one day when I found myself being distracted with the sentences before and after the one, I was working on.
I have two trusted books–a must for every reference library–called, The Dictionary of Concise Writing that gives you alternatives to wordy phrases, and The Dimwit’s Dictionary that gives you alternatives to overused words and phrases, both by Robert Hartwell Fiske. Redundancy phrases like, ‘for all practical purposes’ can be cut down to the word ‘essentially’, eliminating three words. Addressed are ineffectual phrases, metaphors, infantile phrases, clichés, redundancies, and so on, all which add wordiness to a story and when removed not only decrease word count and tighten up the writing but makes a better written story.
Despite my best attempt with all these good tips at my disposal, I’m sure to need help in the end and that is where my talented editor comes in, thankfully!
Working full-time, being a wife and mom, and still finding enough time to write a book can be a daunting and demanding task.
People have asked me, “How do you fit in the time to write?”
You have to make the time.
You can always scratch together time here or there. And believe me, it is not without sacrifice. You may have to drop fun activities or entertaining social events, and then you wonder, is it worth it? That’s when you need to ask yourself, how dedicated am I to my writing? Do I want it as a hobby or a career? My Path to Writing
My parents used to say to me, “From nothing, comes nothing.”
I allocate as much time as I possibly can to my writing every day.
“But is that enough time?” I’m asked.
First, I’m reminded of the old saying that, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” However, it is the every day part that is vital.
Never miss a day of writing!
You will be surprised how much you can accomplish if you dedicate time to something every day.
Example, if you write 2 hours each day that makes 14 hours a week, 56 hours a month, and a whopping 672 hours a year. Think of all the writing that can be accomplished in that many hours.
Finding that time takes organization, but mostly, it takes discipline. You have to be disciplined enough to push yourself to work every day. And sometimes it’s hard, very hard. Beautiful weather, great shows, even laziness, can all hinder you from writing. I have never fallen short of justifications of why I can’t write that day, and that is where my discipline and dedication come in. They are what keep me from giving in to my justifications.
Is it worth it in the end?
Despite all the sacrifices, sadly, there is never any guarantee of success. That is where my passion for the art helps me, because I know that no matter what the end may bring, the enjoyment from my writing was worth every one of those dedicated hours.
After I create my stories, I begin the mammoth task of researching; making sure that all the content in my story is correct and gaining material to expand on topics where I lacked the knowledge. I find research to be vital, adding authenticity and correctness to a story.
My Thoughtmover series needed an incredible amount of research that I had done on everything from types of landscapes, modes of transportation, suitable weapons, appropriate fashion, and the list goes on. I even researched the names of characters, places, and things in the story, to pick names that were fitting to their role.
For me, research is more than getting information from a book or retrieving it from the Internet–that I learned the hard way is not always correct–but to obtain the information from people who hold personal knowledge and experiences in that area, people who have ‘been there and done that’. Even in fantasy, content must be depicted as real and accurate as possible.
For The Alkahest, an area that required research was tall ships. Lacking personal nautical experience, I met up with a sailor, who was kind enough to share his experiences with me on tall ships, information that is not easily obtainable elsewhere. This type of personal information includes unique feelings and thoughts that arise on board and how the senses are touched by actions or events that occur on these ships.
I use this personal information to create conditions on a ship that allow the reader to feel as if they are riding aboard that ship, experiencing the life and challenges of the characters. I think a writer’s greatest accomplishment is when he or she can take their readers and put them into the world of the story, to travel with the characters on their journey.
Researching for my books is one of my favorite tasks in writing next to the creation of my stories. It has not only given me knowledge in areas where it lacked, but it has allowed me to meet wonderful and skilled people that have made my life richer and my stories better.