Choosing Character Names in Fiction...

How do you choose a character name? There are several ways to choose an effective name in the process of writing a short story. The easiest way to choose a character name is to browse through popular baby names on the internet. There are several sites that will show up on a Google search, especially if you use search terms such as, ‘popular boy names’ or ‘names for girls.’ To choose a character name that is from another nation, you can perform an online search for French or Japanese names and surnames. Books are also printed which contain an index of hundreds of character names and you can find these books in the writing section of your local bookstore. One excellent resource is from Writers’ Digest, The Character Naming Sourcebook. It contains an extensive list of first names and a good handful of common surnames as well.  What about surnames? Just as with first names, you can perform an online search for ‘surname’ or ‘last name’ as well. You can also use a character surname based on street or location names in your local geography. There are many ways to refine your selection of a character name. You can choose a name that simply sounds good or a character name that has a particular meaning. Many name sites on the internet will give you the meaning of a particular name, as will most books with indexes of names. Not all characters have realistic names and you may want an outrageous or poetic character name to fit a particular mood in your writing style. For example, science-fiction character names may sound quite outlandish and unusual. In this case, you may want to try an unconventional approach to the given name and surname, such as using...

NaNoWriMo an abbreviation every writer knows...

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is happening through November. The idea behind the project is to give writers the opportunity to write a large work on a deadline and to have the support of their peers throughout the process. The goal is to achieve 50,000 written words between the span of November 1 and November 30. Just thirty days to write 50,000 words. To give a rough estimate of the size of the project, that’s the size of a slim novel. The project is not only open to established writers, but encourages any creative individual who has an idea to partake in the contest. An excerpt from NaNoWriMo’s site reveals that last year: “310,095 participants started the month of November as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.” The structure provided by the project is what helps new writers the most. With their step-by-step contribution scheme, NaNoWriMo encourages continual work from the aspiring author, asking for daily word counts, providing inspirational content or meeting grounds in order to help with writers block. Finally the site asks the writer to submit a full text of their manuscript for validation. This process confirms that the writer did in fact write 50,000 original words and once validated, the writer ‘wins.’ There are no official prizes other than a feeling of satisfaction. So winning of course means that the participants have completed the word count and are now in possession of a first draft of a novel. The publishing world considers a novel to be anything larger than 50,000 words. This also means that there can be more than one winner in every National Novel Writing Month. The worldwide contest has few restrictions and the possibility for writing content is really...

Tools of the Trade: Editing tools for writers...

Let’s discuss what writers need beyond a pen and paper or that all essential keyboard especially when it comes to making revisions.  The best tools are an exceptional dictionary, a handbook guide to grammar, a thesaurus and/or rhyming dictionary, a set of resources for naming your characters, tool bars and a search engine ready to look up not just information but to confirm quotations and facts, and personally I never leave a desk devoid of a stack of chocolate. The Dictionary Why is it necessary? Today we have spell-check everywhere. Except the more you write the more you realize that spell-check is not a highly functioning tool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a relatively obscure word that a spell-checker embedded into major software has not been able to clear and identify. I have these Twilight Zone moments when I race over to an online dictionary like Merriam-Webster.com and console myself that I’ve spelled the obscure word correctly. When I am correct, I’m sure to add the word to the spell-check dictionary by right-clicking on the word in whatever program I’m using to add it in. But imagine if you’re sometimes using a small program like Notepad, or in two or three various email apps or web browsers, or you’re using Word. You’ll never want to stop and take the time to open every single place you have spell-check software to correct it. Not when you’re on a writing deadline. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So get a good dictionary, even if you only go online to Merriam-Webster Online and use it. Merriam-Webster Online is free and if you add it to your bookmarks toolbar, it’s right at your fingertips. Enter the word into the search box and it will...

Writer’s Journey: Truth Bears Repeating...

“What is important is that, time after time, the stories themselves are true. I don’t mean simply that Neil Gaiman’s history is good history and that his myth is good myth – although they are. I mean that you will understand yourself and the world better for having read them, and that you will have been both ennobled and troubled by the experience; that this is not just art – all sorts of ugly and foolish things are art – but great art.” – Gene Wolfe, Introduction to The Sandman: Fables and Reflections In this quote we see another way of phrasing the role of fiction in the world. Humanity has a short memory but by the seventeenth century, it was the advent of the printing press which was responsible for much the same glut of material published as we now see on the World Wide Web. Possibly less in volume, but with the same difficulties as the current literary crowd has observed today. Quality control, mainly. In those days novel reading was a scandal, and novels were seen much as soap operas are seen today. Most works of fiction were published anonymously, or by unsupported authors without any gatekeepers. (Does this sound like the net today?) There need be no judgment call on this. It’s an inevitable process of creation and there are days when a dime-store novel is satisfying for its own merits. There are days when you need to find an obscure reference or opinion on something online and it’s there. The point in bringing this relevant period of history up and comparing it to the self-publishing renaissance of today is that once before we learned that the power of story was in the lasting truth of its vision. Gene Wolfe...

Writer’s Journey: Aspire...

Sometimes a writer has something to say, but won’t know what that is. It lies buried deep beneath the surface in the unconscious and it may take a story to trigger it. If someone asks a writer what he’s going to say with a piece of work, the writer might feel pressured for a grand answer before his unconscious even knows what words to choose to express it. It can be difficult to express any theme or core of the material before actually writing. For some writers it is impossible to get there except through the characters and plot which unfolds a page at a time. A writer may feel a strong impulse to write about an angry young lord who was stripped of his title and inheritance. If asked why she’s compelled to write about this particular character, there may be no rational answer; just a compulsion to explore this archetype and to bring it to life through certain details and encounters. By doing so, the writer will find more than a story. At some point the character she has chosen may come upon a situation where he finds himself about to enact a deed that will send another character into some misfortune. That moment is part of the writer’s grand design, or theme, and it could only have appeared by following the character of the story step by step. In this way the writer has something that she wishes to say, but she may have no idea just what that will be until that moment arrives in the plot line. And then it will rapidly unfold perhaps as a surprise but always with some underlying feeling by the writer that it had somehow been there all along, waiting for the right moment...

Writers Journey: Begin...

Before I began, the page was a blank space. In the Japanese language, the radicals that create the full kanji pictograph for the word ‘line’ are a thread, over white or blank water. That is probably because even in ancient times, people saw the blank page as a vast sea over which one small thread seemed barely visible; thus they probably felt as daunted as we do. Usually a writer is compelled to begin when she has something to say. That is different from having an idea. Behind every generated idea there must also be something worth saying. Some of the most memorable journeys were made by authors who were wrestling with some problem they wanted to understand, or some point of view that they felt as a cry to be generally understood. This compulsion is what can propel a writer over the ‘white or blank water’ and make the first few marks on a pristine page. This applies to fiction and nonfiction equally. It’s a mistake to feel that just because we write fiction we are exempt from saying something important in the subtext of our words. A setting and a character is not enough. A writer can spend years building a world from scratch, or researching a setting and characters. But until that compulsion to say something arises, there will only be note-taking and contemplation. Sometimes it’s simply the need to be understood that triggers the writing flow. Sometimes it’s a desire to impart a certain world view or ethic. Very often, a writer begins a piece because they have someone in mind to speak to, even if the narration may never show it. A mother writes a story for her child’s bedtime. A young lover writes a poem or short story...

Introducing: FB Kelly...

F.B. Kelly is the pen name under which this married couple and writing team work their magic.  The pair live in Seattle, Washington.  With each partner published individually before they joined forces, they found even more pleasure in working together on crafting stories of magic, whimsy and romance. We spoke with this pair about how they write together and why: How long have you both been writing? Ben:  I think I seriously started dabbling with writing stories since high school.  I was a highly imaginative child and I always told myself stories but it was in high school that I started writing them down. Fiona:  I think I was telling stories at a very young age, usually walking around and enacting them in the back yard.  I was writing a full-fledged ‘novel’ about a space station at the age of nine.  I’m sure it was at least ten pages long.   When did you decide to co-write? Fiona:  We’ve been co-writers for nine years now.  It just sort of happened on a whim one day. Ben:  It started by accident really. Fiona:  But we realized it was really funny and entertaining so we kept doing it.  And then we got married which was pretty serious and then we ended up wondering what to do about our first anniversary present. Ben:  She told me it was paper for year one. Fiona:  So I asked him, ‘You know we have all these stories that we’ve told over the years.  Why don’t we pick the one that seems the most like us and actually put it into print?’ Ben: Having studied design and book layout, I thought ‘Why not?’ It’s something we could do ourselves and I’d discovered lulu.com in art school, so I knew where to...