Tag Archive | write

How to Name Your Character

Let’s be honest…we’ve all been there.

Whether it’s being stuck on a character creation screen or agonizing over what your new book hero is going to be called, naming a character is one of the hardest things about creation. Do you go for something simple, or elaborate? What if the name you want doesn’t sound right or no one likes it? Just how many baby naming websites do you have to look up before you know you’ve found the perfect name?

Naming characters is hard, but it doesn’t have to stress you out. If you ever find yourself in a naming pickle, try some of these strategies to see if it makes things easier:

  1. Match your character’s name with his/her personality. When I was looking to name my main character, Edward, from The Ripple Affair, I sought out a name that would reflect the type of person he was. Edward is a guardian of the people he cares about, doing anything for them, and the meaning of his name (guardian or protector) fits that.
  2. Match your character’s name to his/her destiny or surroundings. Jacob Ichabod in The Ripple Affair is a knight destined to be ignored for his talents by the monarchy, which leads him to eventually betray his king. The meaning of his surname is “no glory”, and this reflects the struggles he’s going to have in the story.
  3. Match your character’s name to his/her culture or background. When developing the Recu people in The Ripple Affair, I knew I wanted their culture to be based on a Slavic naming system, so their names (such as Bohden, or Bohdan, as the original spelling is) reflects that.
  4. Match your character’s name to his/her time period. The 18th century popularized character traits and virtues for girls’ names. Being a woman of 18th century America, Charity from Captain Patty and the Boston Buccaneer needed to have a name that reflected the time period she was a part of.
  5. Go with your gut. Sometimes a character name just pops in your head and you know it’s the right fit. It might happen quickly or it might happen years down the road. When I was working on Captain Patty and the Nameless Navigator, I had no idea that Bateau was going to be a character until around 7 years after beginning the story. Before then, he didn’t exist. When I decided to add him, I had no clue what his name was, but in the back of my mind, the word “Bateau” kept repeating itself, like it sounded right. Keep in mind I spoke hardly any French at the time. After a few weeks, I decided to look up what Bateau meant. Sure enough, after looking up the meaning, I knew it was the right pick.

Whether you’re creating a game character or writing a story, naming a character can be tricky! What are some ways you come up with character names?

Weekly Update – NaNoWriMo Is Almost Here!

It’s that time of year again!

Late nights writing.  Endless supply of tea (or coffee, depending on your preference).  Sticky notes with plot changes stuck all over the walls.  A perfectly crisp outline suddenly becoming a scribbled and crumpled heap as characters do their own thing.  Becoming a hermit as you attempt to write a novel.

Oh, and this all happens in a month’s time.

Yep, folks!  It’s NaNoWriMo!  

I’m coming in as a veteran of about four years, and I’ve yet to finish a novel in a month.  (Edits are too tempting for me.). But despite the lack of finishing, I will say that attempting to write a novel in a month is not only fun, but also a good way to build a habit of consistently writing.  It’s not easy to take time out of your day to write, especially when you work other jobs and have other commitments.

So as we inch closer to November 1, I’d like to wish all my fellow writers good luck at NaNoWriMo this year!  There’s going to be lots of great stories being told, and even if you don’t finish by the end of November, don’t be discouraged!  Telling a story doesn’t have to be limited by time.

Have a wonderful week!

Weekly Update: The Power of Words

I had an interesting conversation regarding a short story that was read by myself and two other people this week.

The story, in a nutshell, was about a student getting sent to the principal’s office at school.  As we were discussing the story, however, things took an interesting turn, not so much in what the story was about or what happened, but because of a few simple words: he mumbled

Now grant it, most discussions aren’t often so focused on the wording of a story, but in this case, the word “mumbled” changed the personality of the character, depending on who you were talking to.  For one, the fact that he mumbled meant that he was apathetic to being sent to the principal’s office.  To the other, the fact that he mumbled signaled that he was angry.  It led to an interesting discussion, and we came to the conclusion that we all saw the character in a completely different light.

It got me thinking about how powerful words…even simple ones…can be.  To most, a mumble is a mumble.  It doesn’t really change the characters or their personalities.  But in this case, since the story was so short, it made the difference between an apathetic person and an angry one, and once the character was changed, the plot of the story started to be looked at in a different light, too.

If anything, it taught me that clarity in writing is something we all need to strive for.  Do the words we use make sense to our readers?  Do they fit the character we’re describing?  Are they adding to the plot or are they taking away?  These are all questions we must take into account when writing, because if a reader thinks our words aren’t making sense, chances are they might not be reading our work much longer.

Have you ever come across a word (or set of words) that confused you?  How do you think it could have been written better?

Weekly Update – Crafting a Villain

In the midst of editing this week, I decided to work a little more on Heir of Vengeance, Book Five of The Ripple Affair Series.  It’s about 80 pages in, and so far…so good…but I can tell that this one is going to be a fun one to write!

Because in this story, one of the biggest villains in the series is about to take center stage.

Now, keep in mind that there’s some spoilers ahead.  Okay, maybe they’re big spoilers.  So you have been warned!  Stop reading now unless you want to be spoiled (or you’ve already read the ending to Book Four, Heart of Deceit)…

Remember, spoilers ahead…

Keep going…

Almost there…

Okay.  If you’ve scrolled down this far, you’ve decided to enter spoiler territory.  In Heart of Deceit, we learned that Malum (the leader of the Velori) is none other than Edward’s older brother, Stephen!  No, he’s not a ghost.  He’s very much alive.  And after years of being amongst the Velori, I can tell you right now…he’s out for vengeance (hence the title).

What’s been interesting about writing Stephen’s character, though, is just how different he is from Malina, the series’ original villainess.  I’ve always imagined her as the kind of classical villain-type.  Egotistical, powerful, no moral code, and occasionally snickering, “mwa ha ha ha ha!” when no one is looking.  Malum (or Stephen, as he will eventually be known), is far from her type.  He’s more centered, grounded, clever…and he still has some good in him (even if it’s buried really deep).

One of the things I’ve been working on this week is some backstory for Stephen.  Just how did he go from the quiet and shy little boy to the ruthless people-puppeteer bent on destroying everything his brother touched?  What is his agenda?  Why was he gone for so long and why is he just now coming back?  Are he and Edward really so different, and if they aren’t…just how are they the same?

As I work on Stephen’s story and how it fits in The Ripple Affair, I can’t help but think back on all of the changes that’s happened just within the last year or so while writing.  Originally, Malum was meant to be a separate character (and Stephen was really, truly gone).  But as anyone who has ever written a story knows, characters often don’t listen to their authors and tend to go their own way.  Stephen is such a character, and once I decided for him and Malum to be the same person, everything seemed to flow a little easier.  Of course, once I started writing him, he was similar to Malina – a classical villain type.  But now that I have to write his backstory, and now that he has a bigger role to play in the overall series, he’s once again changing.  No longer is he the typical villain.  Now, he’s got more conflict, and that conflict may make him more similar to his brother than he realizes.

All in all, I’m super excited to get this written and published so you can read the next installment of The Ripple Affair!  And I’m even more excited about showing you the cover for Captain Patty and Veronica’s Vengeance!  Stay tuned to the blog as I’ll be premiering the cover soon!

The Story of Family

Have you ever learned your family history?

Where you come from, who you’re descended from, what stories lie hidden in the mysteries of the past?  It’s an interesting topic, often full of surprises, and it was an adventure I took part in during one summer in my senior year of college.

Being a student of history, I suppose it was only natural to want to know what happened that made my family, well…my family.  And as I started to dig through old records and genealogy trees, I found a whole bunch of interesting information…

  • My family was very fond of building churches.
  • Many of the men were soldiers.
  • My family came from as far north as Sweden and as far east as Mongolia.
  • My family was really, really fond of sailing (I guess that explains why I wrote Captain Patty).
  • Hardly anyone in my family farmed (which also explains why I tend to be really terrible at keeping plants alive).

These are just a few of the stories from my own family history, and I’m sure if you’ve studied your family’s past, there would be many more stories to tell!  But what’s interesting about genealogy is the stories are all unique.  Some are dramas, some are adventures, some are romances, and some are tragedies.  But each of these stories come together to tell the story of one family throughout the ages, a story that every one of us can tell.

When I first started writing The Adventures of Captain Patty, I originally didn’t have Patty’s last name as Peterson.  But after careful thought, I decided to connect Captain Patty to my first series, The Ripple Affair.  Why?  Because with all my writings, I wanted to tell not just the story of an adulterous prince or an on-the-run navigator.  I wanted to connect the individual stories to tell one, giant great one: the story of the Peterson family.

(SPOILERS)  If you read Captain Patty and the Boston Buccaneer, you’ll learn from Reuben that he’s a direct descendant of Marcus Peterson, the famous bowman from The Ripple Affair.  And later on, through more eventual stories, you’ll learn that there are other members of the Peterson family with their own stories to tell.  But like my own family genealogy, the fictional Peterson family is full of different stories and personalities with a single story to tell, and my hope is that that story, the story of family, is one you can connect with as well.


Signs You May Be A Writer (Part 2)

  • When I first started my blog, I wrote a post listing 10 signs that show you may be a writer.  That was a long time ago, back when publishing and the world of being an author was a relatively new and exciting adventure.  Now that I’ve been at it for nearly two years, I’ve noticed a few more signs that may show we’re writers.

So here, for 2016, is the sequel to “Signs You May Be A Writer”:

  1. You feel a sense of accomplishment when you find grammar errors in professionally published books.  Because you’ve edited your own story so many times, you know commas and pronouns like the back of your hand.
  2. You have a soundtrack full of favorite scores and songs that you write to so you can feel like you’re in the moment.  Because nothing says “I’m sailing the seas!!!!!” like the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean.
  3. Your characters have a mind of their own because they always take your outline and throw it in the trash.  Yeah, I’m looking at you, book characters.  You never do what the writer tells you to do.  Never!
  4. You could earn a Ph.D. from all the research you’ve done.  Who knew one book could make you an expert on astrophysics, neurobiology, networking, and the personality traits of a poodle?
  5. You frequently mix up past, present, and future tense.  The struggle was real.  Or it is real.  Or it will be real.  Ah!
  6. You get excited over office supplies.  Nothing says bliss like the smell of a crisp, fresh notebook right out of the wrapping.
  7. You never leave home without a notepad or note-taking device.  Because you never know when inspiration may strike, like when you’re in a bathroom or meeting your grandparents for lunch (both have happened to me, by the way.)
  8. You critique every.  single.  story  you come across.  You can’t help it.  You really just can’t.  You try to be nice and understanding, but it’s so obvious that plot line just screams predictability!
  9. You learn that writing happens at all days and times.  Holidays?  Weekends?  When you’re supposed to sleep?  Writing has no regards for personal enjoyment sometimes.
  10. You are inspired.  Who knew that old dish rag and toothbrush would give you the idea for the greatest story ever?

What are some signs you notice in writers?