Tag Archive | writer

Captain Patty Review…As Told by the Characters

Reviews…every author loves them.  Whether good or bad or mediocre, reviews show that a book is being read by an audience, and more readers equals more exposure (and let’s be honest…more sales…) for the writer wanting to make a living.

Getting reviews is all fine and dandy coming from real people, but what if the characters themselves got a hold of the book?  Would they leave a good review, bad review, or spam?  I decided to give the characters of “Captain Patty and the Nameless Navigator” a copy of the book they’re in, and here’s what they submitted:

  • From Samantha: “Captain Patty is the adventurous story of a young girl and her father braving the Seven Seas with the silliest pirate around!  There’s chocolate, hamsters, a big sea monster, and singing and dancing!  You’ll never want to go back on land after reading this fun and exciting story!”
  • From Reuben: “So…there’s this guy.  A guy named Reuben.  He’s a mighty fine chap.  I think he’ll go far in life.  He’s brave, handsome, strong…did I mention handsome?  If they make a movie version, I think they should cast him as himself.  He’d win an award for sure.”
  • From Charles: “It is in my most humbled opinion that ‘Captain Patty and the Nameless Navigator’ is one of the greatest stories of our time.  It is a moral tale of bravery, compassion, loyalty, and love, and anyone who gets their hands on this book will have no trouble putting it down.”
  • From Louis: “LOOKING FOR A NEW SOFA?  LINENS?  PET CANARY?  THEN LOOK NO FURTHER!  SHOP AT LOUIS’ TRADING POST FOR THE BEST SELECTION IN ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING YOU COULD WANT!  WE HAVE THE BEST PRICES THIS SOUTH OF THE MAINLAND.  SHOP AT LOUIS’ TODAY!”
  • From Moderator: “@Louis – the post above has been marked as SPAM.  Please do not solicit customers towards businesses that exist in a literary world.
  • From Bartleby: “This book is trash.  It makes that pompous frilly girl Patty look intelligent when she clearly isn’t and makes that CLEARLY VILLAINOUS FIEND Charles look heroic.  I’ve never read such a one-sided piece of filth.  IGNORE THIS BOOK.
  • From Patty: “I received this book for an honest review in exchange for thirty pounds of chocolate.  From beginning to end, this story captivated me.  I felt as if I were on the ship itself!  Oh wait…I was…
  • From Franky the Hamster: “Squeaky squeak  squeak squeak.  Squeaker squeaky squeak squeak squeaken squeak! 😀

Well, there you have it!   Honest reviews from the characters themselves!  If you’d like to read more about “Captain Patty and the Nameless Navigator”, visit the Books page for more information!

The Pirate, the Pie, and the Closet: Finding Inspiration

One of the questions I hear often between writers is where inspiration comes from.  Some create stories after going through a life event.  Some come up with a brilliant character that is based off of their own personality.  Some develop their own worlds and people through a vivid imagination, playing with plots based on what they want to create.

And then there’s people like me who just plain have wacky dreams and it somehow turns into a story.

Don’t ask me how it happens.  I’m still trying to figure it out.  I think it may have something to do with eating potato chips before bed, but I’ve yet to prove my theory.  But somehow, someway, that’s what my biggest inspiration for stories is.

A decade ago, I was content with just one story to work on.  “The Ripple Affair” was a fun project that served as a break from my college studies, and I was planning on finishing it and then moving on with my life in a separate career.  And then, one fateful night, I had a dream.

In the dream, I was on a pirate ship.  The room was gently rocking with the sea and I was in the captain’s cabin, sitting as a guest with some other pirates at a table.  The captain was a rather fancy-looking man who was funny and friendly, and throughout the dream we all just sat and chatted the night away.  But in the middle of our conversation, the captain suddenly stood to his feet and headed to a closet near his desk.  He opened it, everyone stopping and staring at the contents within, and showed off a row of chocolate pies that he had stashed away.  Apparently the captain really loved chocolate pies and, feeling hungry, decided to pull one out to eat while we continued to chat.

I woke wondering why on earth I had dreamed such a weird dream, but then it hit me: I never heard of a pie-addicted pirate.  I wonder what it would be like if such a pirate were real?  After spending the morning thinking, I decided to write my new ideas on paper for some notes.  Days passed, and I continued to think on the idea, until eventually I decided to write a small story about the silly pirate just for fun.  Long story short, the small story turned into a novel, which then turned into a series…and “The Adventures of Captain Patty” was born.

Inspiration is one of those things that we often search for as writers.  We want something unique for our stories…something that hasn’t been done before.  Though the world around us has plenty to offer, inspiration often works in mysterious ways, popping up when we least expect it.  Sometimes it hits when we’re dreaming.  Sometimes it hits when we’re doing the dishes or going for a morning jog.  Sometimes it’s obvious and we can’t help but run with it, yet sometimes it’s also subtle and easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.  The point is inspiration is different for everyone, yet like Forrest Gump says with his “life is like a box of chocolates” speech, we never really know what…or when…we’re going to get it.  But just like those box of chocolates (or, in Captain Patty’s case, a chocolate pie), when that inspiration arrives, it’s the sweetest thing imaginable, and we can’t help but savor the moment.

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Make sure to check out the Home page of my site for the latest news regarding Book 3 of “The Ripple Affair” series, as well as two announcements regarding Goodreads Giveaways!  

The Deer in the Headlights

I recently had a book signing that didn’t go so well.  It was at a craft show and I arrived thinking that this was going to be my best moment of sales yet.  Thousands of people were expected to be at the event and I’d have the biggest opportunity for book exposure this year.  I bought extra author copies to sell at the show, and even though it was an outdoor event, I made sure I wore dress clothes and high heels to look extra professional.

But when the show came and passed, I found that it was the worst show I ever had.

It was a rainy weekend, which meant the humidity was high and my books looked like they came out of a flooded basement.

It was really hot, so people crowded around the ice cream and drink tents instead of the craft ones.

I nearly died in a port-a-potty (well, I’m only slightly exaggerating that claim.  I went in, got my heel stuck in the floor, and went flying forward towards the end you don’t want to be in.  It’s a wonder the thing didn’t knock down and things really got messy!)

I only made one sale.

That’s right.  Out of all the hard work and money paid out to renting a booth and travelling across the state, I made one sale.  That alone was worthy of sending me to spend the night in front of the TV watching Lord of the Rings and pigging out on a gallon of chocolate ice cream.

As a writer and artist, it’s discouraging to see your work go ignored.  Sure, it was bad weather, and sure, other artists didn’t sell much either, but when it happens to you, you can’t help but feel a little down that things didn’t go better.

About a week after the show, my stepdad’s birthday came along and my mom and I went out to Dairy Queen to pick up an ice cream cake.  While out on the road, I decided to tell her about my discouragement on the show not going as well as I thought it should.  She mentioned not being down about the bad show, that sometimes life won’t go as expected, and we can’t let setbacks discourage us.  We need to keep our eyes on the road of life, to the destination we know we’re headed towards, and we can’t let things like a setback keep us from getting there.

Suddenly, in the middle of our conversation, a deer decided to jump right in front of our moving vehicle.

Now I don’t know about you, but ever since moving to the suburbs after growing up in the city, I’m still not used to seeing giant wildlife going out into the road to say hello.  I’d rather wave to them while they are far away from my car where we both are safe and sound.

My mom slammed on the brakes and we waited until the deer pranced over back into the field, happy like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

After a moment of awkward shock (and realizing we were all still alive and in one piece), my mom decided to continue her lesson.

Just like the deer, unexpected setbacks come into our lives.  We didn’t see the deer jump out in front of us until it was on the road, staring back at us with the “deer in the headlights” look.  It was the same with the bad show.  I didn’t see the bad weather, lack of sales, and port-a-potty death trap coming.  But just like the deer, it soon pranced back into the field and became a thing of the past.  We didn’t stop and turn around to forget getting our ice cream cake.  We kept on driving down the road, bound and determined to get that cake for my stepdad’s birthday!

Bad days and bad breaks will always be around.  As writers and artists, there will be times when we’re on top of the world and there will be times when we wonder if we really should keep doing what we’re doing.  And while there’s a time to know when to give up, there’s also a time to keep going.  If I let one bad book signing determine my future, I may never see all the good that’s ahead.  There are more books to write.  There are more stories to tell.  There are more people to encourage and help.  Sure, there’s a chance I’ll have more unpleasant shows, but if I stop moving forward, I’ll never have a chance to see my dreams come true, either.

I hope this week is finding you all well.  I have some good news to share before the holiday this weekend.

> Book Three of “The Ripple Affair” series is written and done!  I’m currently getting the cover designed and it has went through the first round of edits.  It’s on track to be released later this summer, so be on the lookout for more announcements regarding “When Dreams Break”.

> “Captain Patty and the Nameless Navigator”, a new series about 18th century pirates, is available now on Amazon and Kindle.  It’s the first book in this series, and if you enjoy reading it, don’t forget to leave a review if you’d like to!  🙂

I hope you all have a wonderful week and a safe, fun Fourth of July weekend.

Confessions of a Genre-Confused Writer

I’m not sure where I learned this, but I had it in my head that you write what you read.

That is, if you read a certain genre or enjoy a certain type of story, chances are that’s what you’re going to write in.  At first I followed this notion-my favorites stories were set in Middle Earth and Narnia, so when I started writing, fantasy was the genre of choice.

But then time passed and I found myself getting, well…confused.

Because as I was writing my epic fantasy adventure, my characters started to change.  My plot began to take shape.  No longer were my kings and knights and princesses going on epic quests.  No, instead they started falling in love with each other and got involved in drama.  Lies, betrayal, a villain who started off as a background character suddenly deciding to manipulate herself to center-stage…yeah, it was a mess.  My carefully planned epic fantasy started turning into a romance!

That’s when the genre-confusion first began.

I found myself scratching my head as my story changed genres.  How did this happen?  I read one romance novel in my entire life (a Christian prairie story I got for Christmas from a friend).  Aside from that, I knew nothing of the genre.  I didn’t watch soap operas.  I never really got into romantic comedies.  Even my personal life was void of inspiration for chick-lit gold (no shy girl dating the popular guy here!)  And yet somehow, someway, I ended up writing a romance series.

How it happened, I’m not sure, but I can’t help but think fate is laughing that I’m writing in the one genre I swore I could never learn to write in.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned in my genre-confusion.  Despite my setbacks, despite my willingness to run the other way and write a story that would make Tolkien proud, I found myself (dare I say it) enjoying my new genre.  Sure, I may have entered it with no clue as to what I was doing, but as I continued to write and grow with my characters, I found that switching genres can actually be fun.  Writing romance has taught me that experiencing a new genre can be a great learning experience, teaching me how to be a better writer by challenging me and making me step out of my comfort zone.   Not only that, but I’ve learned that romance can be so much more than what I thought it could be.  I’ve learned so much just by practice, and in the end, I found myself wanting to write more.

It hasn’t stopped there, either.  I struggled with poetry in school, and through years of misinterpreting meanings of words and being the only kid in the class who didn’t get it, taking a poetry class and writing my own poems has made me appreciate an art form I (unfortunately) grew up loathing.  I’ve learned to enjoy it so much that I’m actually starting to write poems to put in my books!  And (slight spoiler here) I’ve been playing with other genres for future storylines, too.  Mystery, suspense, action and adventure…there’s no limit to the worlds that can be explored and created through imagination.

But none of this learning, none of this adventure in writing, would have ever began had I not been a genre-confused writer.  Sure, it was messy in the beginning when stepping out of my comfort zone.  It was scary jumping into the unknown and not knowing how it was going to all turn out.  But in the end, I learned more about myself as a writer and what it is I like to write.  There’s still some genres I’m still hesitant to try just because I’m not sure I’ll be good at it or not, but that’s the adventure.  It’s constantly learning and making yourself grow in your craft.  It’s learning your strengths and weaknesses and growing in them.  It’s learning who you are and striving for who you want to be.

So in the end, do I write what I read?  Apparently not, but I guess that’s just me and my genre-confusion.  There are writers out there who know their genre inside and out.  They read what they write and they write what they read.  Sticking with your preferred genre isn’t a bad thing, and many fantastic writers are made that way.  Call me different, though.  Why I read and write in different genres is beyond me, but that’s how it ended up.

And frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  🙂

But What Happens Next?! (A.K.A. Cliffhangers and Story)

Oh, BBC’s Musketeers…how you have made my week agonizing…

(spoilers ahead!)

In case you missed the recent episode before the series 2 finale, life was becoming a tad complicated for our beloved French soldiers and their friends.  Constance’s fate is in the balance and Aramis’ affair with the queen is about to throw him in loads of trouble.  The queen is imprisoned in her own home with Rochefort’s schemes about to tear everything apart.  And then, once the credits role, we find we have to wait another week until everything is concluded.  Will our heroes save the day?  Will some characters be like Cardinal Richelieu and not show up in series 3?  Will the king ever stop listening to bad advice?

Honestly…if I wasn’t a Sherlock fan, the wait really would be terrible.  Thankfully I have practice in being patient.  (*cough* waiting two years for Sherlock Series 4 *cough*)

Anyways, last Saturday’s episode got me thinking about cliffhangers.  As readers or viewers, many of us tend to hate them.  We want to know what happens now and being left in suspense is about as fun as being stuck in an elevator with someone who ate way too many beans for lunch.  These are the characters we’ve invested time and emotion in, after all.  Having to wait and learn their fates later just doesn’t seem right.

But being a writer, I do have a confession to make.  As much as I hate being the victim of a cliffhanger, I can’t help but love writing them.  And here’s why:

  • A cliffhanger leaves you wanting more.

When Sherlock Series 2 ended some years ago, fans were left speculating as to how on earth Sherlock Holmes survived that fall.  Now, with Series 3, we’re left speculating how Moriarty did the same thing (or did he?????)  Regardless, even though we were left in suspense, the ending of both series got fans wanting more.  We couldn’t wait to find out how Sherlock did it (I’m still believing Anderson’s Sherlolly theory.  Don’t judge.  Ha ha!)  Instead of forgetting about what we just watched, it replayed in our minds and made us count down the days to when we could find out the answer to our questions.  Which leads me to my next point…

  • A cliffhanger can unite the fans.

I don’t know how many theories came up after Series 2 ended, but I know it was a lot.  And these weren’t just simple theories, either.  Some went as far as using knowledge of physics and all sorts of science to explain how their theory would work.  I’m sure even the easily-displeased Mr. Holmes would be impressed with their work.  But what made it so interesting was that fans were together talking.  They were united in a common love for a story.  If Series 2 had ended with a resolved plot, would the fans have talked as much?  I’m not sure, but I doubt they’d still be discussing some things months (and even a year) after the finale aired.

  • A cliffhanger can show how invested you are in a story.

If we didn’t care about the characters, we wouldn’t care what happens next for them.  Cliffhangers that leave us with emotions flying prove to us that the characters, and their story, mean something to us.  I’d like to think that if we care that much about what happens to someone who isn’t even real, the author is doing his or her job and doing it well.  To me, an author’s job isn’t just to write a story.  It’s to write an experience for the readers.

I’ll admit that when I wrote “The Ripple Affair”, I had planned on ending it with a cliffhanger.  Bad, mean author (I know.)  But even though my readers weren’t too happy with it (I can’t say I blame them), it still served its purpose.  It left them wanting more.  It gave them something to talk about.  It showed me that they really did care about what I was writing about.  Thankfully, the sequel to “The Ripple Affair” didn’t have a cliffhanger ending (uhm…sort of…), but it did teach me something about endings and how we are to approach them in story.  Are cliffhangers a good way to always end a story?  To repeat many of my fellow readers and viewers, no way!  But they aren’t always bad, either.  Sometimes they can serve their purpose, and depending on how its written, serve it well.

You Know You Do NaNoWriMo When…

It’s that time of year again!

November-the one month where writers come together from all over the world to create a novel in 30 days or less. It’s a time of creativity, discovery, and all-around coffee binges, and is probably one of the most fun (and a tiny bit stressful) events a writer can be a part of.

This is my second year of doing NaNoWriMo and my second time trying to write a novel in a month (I was in the July camp session this year which made for good practice.) After thinking back on my previous experiences, I decided to come up with a (mostly sarcastic, yet goofy) list of what I’ve discovered writers go through during the NaNoWriMo event:

  1. You plan your new novel with outlines and notes that tells the perfect story from beginning to end only to find out you change your mind three pages into writing, voiding every plot point you spent weeks or months thinking about.  (Seriously, I can’t be the only one who recycled an entire basket full of sticky notes.)
  2. The barista at your local coffee shop knows you on a first name basis and makes sure your little table by the window is ready for you and your laptop.
  3. You spend more time on Facebook, Pinterest, tumblr, and Twitter than you do in actually writing the story.  (You never know when you’ll find inspiration buried underneath all those recipes.)
  4. The first week of November is productive and confident.  The second week is just okay.  The third week shows signs of writer’s block and re-written paragraphs.  By week four, you’re scrambling for a sentence that makes sense.
  5. Friends and family start to wonder where you’ve been because you’ve been glued to the computer for 30 days.  The light also hurts your eyes when you finally go out of doors.
  6. When you do take a break from writing to be social, you find many fellow NaNoWriMo participants match the deer-in-the-headlights look you have.
  7. You celebrate your victory in winning by jumping up and down and dancing, followed by confused stares from onlookers.

Of course, I kid at the fact that us participants are book-writing zombies by December 1.  The truth is NaNoWriMo may be stressfull and a lot of work, but it’s also one of the most fun events for anyone who ever wanted to write.  It’s a time to get creative and tell a story, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with other writers who share the same passion for the written word like we do.  Even if I don’t hit the 50,000 word count goal, the mere act of participating and getting a story going is a win.

So to all my fellow writers and NaNoWriMo participants-enjoy this year’s event and have a great time writing!

P.S.

I’m getting questions regarding a Kindle version of my book, “The Ripple Affair”.  A Kindle version is being created and I will post as soon as it’s available.  🙂  Thanks for the patience!

Readying for Camp!

You know how you tell yourself, “Nope.  I’m not going to do this,” and then you go off and do it?

I’m not going to break my diet by eating that piece of cake.  You eat not just the piece, but the whole cake.

I’m not going to spend hours playing video games instead of studying.  It’s 5 AM when you realize you have a test in a few hours and all you’ve done is move up two levels and won a pretty sweet game of capture the flag.

I’m not going to do Camp NaNoWriMo while I’m busy working on my novel series.

Well, guess what I did?

After I put aside NaNoWriMo to concentrate on a novel series I was actually planning on publishing, I decided to throw in the towel and do the July camp session.  It’s not quite hard-core NaNoWriMo like what we see in November, but it’s still a month of writing, and my goal of 50,000 words in 31 days is still there, looming and filling my ever waking hour with word counts and daily averages.  

As if I didn’t get enough sleep while writing a series (ha!)

But as crazy as it sounds, I’m excited.  Yes, I know it’s going to add another busy thing to my already busy schedule.  Yes, I know reaching 50,000 words is more of a dream than a reality at this point.  Yes, I know I’ll be working on two completely different story sets at the same time and I’ll probably be confused by the time August rolls around.  But this is writing-writing-and I can’t help but get giddy when thinking I’m going to get the chance to create another story for fun.

And on top of that, I won’t be alone!  A friend of mine (who is also a fellow writer) will also be joining the craze with me.  It’s nice to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo with people, and I definitely look forward to being able to talk about word counts with someone who will know what I’m talking about!

So for all you fellow campers, good luck and have fun with Camp NaNoWriMo this July!  I’m going to try and post some camp updates during the upcoming month and I hope to have some updates on the series I’m readying to publish as well.  My sincerest apologies that this blog has been a little scarce lately (editing and re-editing takes up a lot of time), but I’m hoping to pick things up a bit with more posts in the coming months.

I’m off to pack for camp!  (I’m going to need a lot of s’mores for this!)

A Writer’s Toughest Critic

I was at the grocery store the other day running some errands, and as I was browsing through turkey bags and potato chips I decided to make a run through the book section.

Not to browse through and find something I actually wanted to read, mind you.  Since I’m readying to publish my first book, I decided to check out my book’s competition.

I know, I know.  It’s totally shallow of me.  I also ate three no-bake cookies that morning with breakfast.  I was having a very human day.

But the reasoning of checking out said books was more of a confidence check for myself, since I’m being completely honest.  I don’t expect my books (when they are published) to be anywhere near the bestseller list when they come out, because hey – let’s be realistic…I’m a relatively unknown author – but I was having a moment of self-doubt and needed reassurance.  I wanted to see if my books, my writing style, was good enough to enter the wonderful world of fiction.

I’m about to enter a market where a lot of talented people work and thrive.  I’m a little fish jumping into the ocean thinking I can swim with whales.

And since I have two betta fish at home, I can only imagine how they’d be in the ocean.  They’d be terrified (especially when they find out there’s no fish flakes in the Atlantic.)

So I went to the book section and started browsing.  I wanted to see if my writing ability could be on par with other authors.  I picked up a thriller, opened the pages, and settled on the first chapter to read.

To my surprise, the chapter was okay.  The writing style wasn’t to my personal taste and it was filled with adjectives with every other word, but I found myself thinking, “Huh.  Well I think my writing might at least be on this level.  Maybe even better.”

I put it back and picked up another book of general fiction.  When I opened and read, I found the writing style eloquent, fancy, and highly intellectual.  Whoever wrote the book was a master of grammar and voice.  It was no surprise this was on the bestseller shelf.

Yep…that author was way better than me.  My book was surely doomed.

But as I kept on browsing, picking up a few different genres like action, young adult, and romance, I found myself seeing something unique about all the writers.  The way they shaped their words wasn’t explicitly bad or good…it was just…different.  I found myself questioning the very notion of what I considered “good writing”.  I limited it to one style, highly detailed and highly perfect, and I figured that if my writing didn’t match up to what I considered “good writing” (or what I was taught “good writing” to be), then my own writing was terrible.

After reading through the various books, however, I realized my writing was just like the other authors’.  It’s not bad, it’s not good.  It’s just different…unique.

I left the book section that morning with a change of mind.  I went in worrying if my books were going to be “good enough” for people to read, but I left realizing that my books are as good as I see them to be.  No matter how unique the style is, someone, somewhere will like it (just as someone, somewhere won’t.)  As authors, none of us write the same.  We all have different voices and different styles that can reach a broad audience.  And yet that’s what makes writing so beautiful.  It’s diverse, full of different voices and styles to appeal to everyone, coming together as one broad voice known as literature.

I learned a lesson that day in the grocery store – a lesson I already knew but never really took to heart.  My toughest critic isn’t the reader, nor is it the reviewer.  It’s myself.  I’ve been the one who has been thinking my writing needed improvement.  I’ve been the one who said my work wasn’t good enough.

That isn’t to say it hasn’t needed improvement.  I’ve learned some lessons over the years that has helped my writing get better, and the constructive criticism I’ve received has been extremely beneficial.  But constructive criticism aside, I learned I needed to stop being so hard on myself.  Stop comparing, stop self-criticizing, stop worrying.  I need to be my biggest supporter, not my greatest enemy.

As creators, it’s easy to become perfectionists in our work.  It’s also easy for us to be bogged down by insecurity or fear of not being good enough.  Whether it’s in creating story or creating art, talent comes in many shapes and forms, but it isn’t talent that purely grows success.  There’s another important ingredient, something that can even overshadow talent.  It’s confidence-confidence in our work, confidence in ourselves, and confidence that we can do anything we put our mind to, as long as we work hard and believe.

When A Good Story Ends

When it was first announced that Disney was going to be taking over the Star Wars Universe, I was a bit indifferent. I was happy with George Lucas and Lucasfilm and I was happy with Disney (“Tangled” is still one of my favorite films of all time). But when it was announced that Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” was going to be ending abruptly after five seasons, six if you include what’s been released to Netflix, I was befuddled. The story was still going strong and many questions created by the series were left unanswered.

Though I still like Disney and am looking forward to “Star Wars: Episode VII” and “Star Wars: Rebels”, TCW’s successor, I admit the abrupt ending given to the “The Clone Wars” left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Yes, stories can’t last forever, but as the YouTube video link above demonstrates, the show was still going strong for many viewers.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, even in a Galaxy Far, Far, Away…

Ending a story can be tricky. End it too late and you can leave your audience feeling bored and disinterested, like the story is dragging on with no end in sight. End it too soon and you can leave your audience scratching their heads wondering just what happened to this character and that character (the TV show “Flashforward” comes to mind for me on that one-I really, really wanted more than one season).

And then comes the biggest problem: you can end it on the right timing, but if there are questions that haven’t been answered, the audience may find the ending bittersweet. One example of this is the show “Lost”. It was a popular show with a huge following, but after the series finale aired, many fans were left unsatisfied as many questions still hung in the air. (I’m still not quite sure what that smoke monster was, exactly.) Yet another example is “Mass Effect 3”. Though I’ve never played the game, I’ve heard many a gamer express their discontent over the ending of the otherwise successful trilogy.

Ending a story isn’t easy, as there have been countless examples of those who have tried and failed. And yet there are also examples of those who tried and succeeded. Many feel a good ending includes a lesson learned, a happy reunion, or an emotional farewell. All of those are true for certain stories. But for me, and I’m sure for many other audience members, a good ending provides closure. It makes the audience feel content that the conflict has been resolved and questions have been answered. There’s not too many great mysteries to be left in the air to drive the audience crazy for years to come (and if there is a mystery, there’s hope for a sequel, ha ha!)

As “The Clone Wars” has finished its course and transitions to “Rebels” in the Fall, I’ll admit I still have questions left by the show. What does Sidious plan to do with Darth Maul? Where did Ahsoka go, and how does Anakin handle her departure? Does Captain Rex disobey Order 66 or does he follow it like every other clone? Do things on Mandalore ever settle down? But even if these questions don’t get answered, I can at least watch the past episodes with a smile. Just like Lost, or maybe even Mass Effect 3, I can still enjoy the journey to the end.

Character Names (a Lesson from Darth Vader)

I love foreign languages.  I love learning them, speaking them, writing them, and incorporating them into my day-to-day vocabulary.  One of my prized possessions in college was a pocket-sized dictionary that not only told me the meaning of English words, but also Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and Italian.  This dictionary was one of the best portable translators I’d ever had, and often times I’d type in words and look up the translations for fun.

One time I was looking up the translation for “father”.  I typed it into the translator and began receiving its translations in different languages.  For Spanish, it was padre.  For French, it was père.  When I came to Dutch, however, I was surprised at what I found.

The translation for father was “vader”.

Now being the Star Wars nerd that I was, my reaction was simple: “Wait-was George Lucas revealing Darth Vader was Luke’s father all along?!?!?!”  The character naming made sense to me.  If “vader” is Dutch for “father”, then Darth Vader’s name was essentially “Darth Father”.

Regardless of whether George Lucas named Anakin Skywalker “Vader” as a hint towards his connection with Luke is anyone’s guess, but as a writer and student of story, I couldn’t help but be intrigued that Vader’s name revealed a part of his character.  The biggest revelation of his story was that he was Luke Skywalker’s father, and what better way to reveal his character than to have his name be a reflection of who he is?

I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about how they name their characters.  Some take names from people they know (with permission, of course).  Some search the baby name book for ideas.  Some invent their own names, whether widely used or not.  And others give their characters names based on what the name (or word) means.  Which route an author chooses depends on who the author is, and many writers mix and match how they name a character.

When I write stories, I’ll often use a name that just fits with a character.  But ever since my own “Vader” revelation, I found myself looking up meanings before branding my character with a name he or she will be stuck with.  I want the meaning of the character to match the meaning of the name.  But even if I love a name that doesn’t have much of a meaning (or, if the name is invented, no meaning at all), there are a few questions I find myself asking:

  • Does the name reflect my character’s personality or story?
  • If writing about a specific culture, does the name reflect the culture the character is in?
  • If writing about a specific time period, does the name reflect trends of that time (or, if it doesn’t, does that name exist?  Some names weren’t created until later.)
  • Does the name simply sound like it fits the character?