I Don’t Want To Name Names


Oh…but I do want to name. One of my favorite parts of being a writer is finding the perfect name for my characters. And they will protest if given them the wrong name (writer’s you know what I’m talking about). Once the right one is found, the reward is awesome. It helps bring the character to life, gives them attitude, helps define their overall disposition. For example, when you see the name “Milton” you don’t assume evil mastermind. You probably think of this guy from Office Space or the guy from The Walking Dead.

The main character in my debut novel, EDGE OF TRUTH (YA paranormal romance/dystopian), is Rena Moon. She’s named after her mother Laurena, whose name is symbolic of honor and victory. ‘Rena’ also means reborn. According to my research, people with her name have a deep inner desire for independence, are passionate, compassionate, romantic, and are sometimes quick-tempered. Fits my MC perfectly.

In my new manuscript, BLINK (YA Paranormal), the MC’s name is Alexandra Ripley, but she goes by Lexi (←she made me mention that addendum). Her first name means ‘protector of mankind’, and it’s not easy for her. She’s the only girl Called to Hunt since the Brotherhood swore to defend mankind centuries ago. Now, she struggles against the patriarchal traditions that deem her unworthy, while facing the evil that killed her predecessor. Oddly enough, I knew her name, before I discovered the challenges she’d face.

Baby name books and websites are wonderful places to find the perfect name. What I like about these resources is they go beyond giving names and dig deeper into the meaning, origin, year of popularity, and sometimes, the online ones, list celebrities with similar names.

In the past, I’ve found these sites helpful:

What are some of your favorite character names (either yours or someone else’s)? When reading a book, do you ever stop to research character names? When writing, do you research before naming characters?

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Earn The Story


The other day, I was watching a movie, and all I could think was the story didn’t earn emotions on the screen. It felt forced. I saw them setting up the blocks, predicted what would happen next, and felt rather disappointed when it did. Every genre has a general formula that if follows. You can’t have a mystery without a red herring or a contemporary romance without a hero/heroine. Regardless, readers and viewers expect some deviation. Writers can’t rely solely on tropes to set the mood throughout a story.

Emotional levels vary. When a character shoots straight from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, skipping all the steps in between, it may feel forced. For example, a character is cheerful one moment and the next instant angered. There are a number of phases in between. Until readers get to know a character’s personality, motivation, goals, etc. this sudden shift may feel jarring and fake.

There are a number of ways to move from one emotion to the other:

cheerful + overwhelmed + isolated + frustrated = angered

cheerful + embarrassed + confused = angered

cheerful + surprised + discouraged + inferior = angered

Once the reader is firmly grounded in the story and character, they’ll understand which emotional change a character is undergoing and it will feel logical and earned.

How about you? What tips do you have for earning a story? Do you have any examples of a story/movie that earns the story?

Thanks for stopping by. This blog wouldn’t be the same without your support.

 

Do I Have To Let Her Fall?


My Sweet Daughter
(I know I should let her fall, but I can’t)

When it comes to fictional characters, it’s tempting to catch them when they fall, or at least ease them to the ground. Say, the main character gets in to a fight and manages to escape relatively unscathed. Or perhaps, there’s a car/airplane/train accident and the protagonist walks away with only a concussion. Unless the main character (MC) possesses supernatural abilities, the scene may not be living up to its full potential.

Not only do writers have to let the protagonist fall, they have to push the MC down and step on their fingers. If readers don’t believe the character is in real danger, it diminishes the tension. Conflict stems from characters facing a worthy adversary, someone or something which could potentially conquer the MC.

Every character has a weakness. It’s the writer’s job to figure out what it is and push their darlings to the edge. Keep in mind, conflict stems from a variety of sources, not just physical pain. Think of Will Smith’s character in the Pursuit of Happiness. The movie starts when things are going okay for him, but then his life undergoes dramatic changes, most of them to his detriment and just when you think things can’t get worse they do.

Do you let your characters fall? Are you guilty of catching them? What book/movie do you feel exemplifies letting a character “fall”?

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Eavesdrop and Take Notes


Photo Credit: Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)

I’m always looking for inspiration for my next short story, novel, blog post, characters, setting, etc. While my dreams provide the foundation for many stories, some of them are a little too out there to mold into anything useful. I’ll be the first to admit my muse and I don’t always get along. There are times when we don’t talk, but if I’m going to take this writing thing seriously, which I do, I can’t go around making excuses.

“We value results, not excuses.”

So, what can you do when you’re fresh out of ideas and your muse is on vacation? Eavesdrop and take notes. I know as kids we’re taught listening in on other people’s conversation is rude, but I’m not convinced it applies to writers. After all, are we not tasked with observing the world around us and capturing it with words?

And while you’re noting story ideas, plot twist, dialect, key phrases, or potential conflict, go ahead and note how people interact. What are their hands doing while they speak/listen? How do facial expressions change? How are they sitting (leaning close/away or a combo)? How much eye contact is going on? Are people standing? If so, how are their bodies positioned? Straight? Angled? Weight shifted to one leg?

Observe and take notes. Just don’t let them catch you doing it. 🙂

Where do you find inspiration for your work? Have you ever eavesdropped? Do you take notes? Anything from your ‘field study’ you’d like to share?

Slow Reveal


One of the things I love about having a writer’s critique group is the learning opportunities it provides. I learn by reading the work of my CPs, through them critiquing my work, and through critiquing them. I’ll be the first to admit some of the things they suggest to help me strengthen my work are things I already know. Every now and then I’ll let a passive sentence slip by when it can easily be converted to an active one. Sometimes, I don’t dig deep enough because writing can feel like frothing egg whites by hand. It takes concentration, dedication, and by the end you ache from the effort.

Photo credit: Jon Rieley-Goddard aka baldblogger’s photostream

During a recent review of my current WIP Dark Intent, an adult paranormal romance, one of my CPs busted me on this very thing. My main character has a severe fear of the dark. I established my MC’s distress by showing her emotional/physical reaction to darkness. After watching her internal struggles for a while and not understanding the root cause, her responses lost impact. To avoid ‘info dumping’, the source of her terror must come out in bits and pieces.

The ground work for this was already there, I just didn’t dig deep enough. My CP helped me see how I could use the existing framework to strengthen my story. She recommended I go back to all those places where my MC attempts to confront her fear and reveal snippets of the inciting incident of her anxiety. Nothing major, just incomplete glimpses because in the dark, its often the thing we can’t fully see which scares us the most. It took my story from ‘can relate’ to ‘now I have goosebumps’.

Have you come across something similar in your writing/revising/editing process? Do you have any tips on slow reveals? Do you have character(s) coping with phobia?

Reading Like A Writer


I spoke a couple of weeks ago about a method I use to take the sting out of query letter rejection (here). Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read a few books. While I await the release of Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole and Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, I’ve selected a few free ereads.

Photo by Jessie Harrell

For a while now, I’ve been reading like a writer. Sometimes it takes the joy out of a book, other times it adds a whole new level of appreciation. This month, I read one book in each category. Overall, I enjoyed both of them. However, one author has me willing to pay money for the next book, the other not so much.

Here’s what did/didn’t work for me:

The Book I’ll Pass On

  • I have to admit, I loved the premise of this story. It was well into the genres I like. The author had a strong grasp on the paranormal creatures in the story and did a wonderful job of staying consistent with the supernatural powers in the world created.
  • There was tension and conflict in the story, but some of it felt orchestrated and much was resolved through hap and circumstance.
  • This one was a YA book and the author nailed the age and attitude, but it was a little over board.
  • The author used regional slang and clichés to the detriment of dialogue.
  • Plus, and I might be guilty on this one, the author had multiple scenes of every day things with no underlying tension. For example, the MC was getting ready for a date and that was it. No underlying emotional or mental tension.

The Book That Hooked Me

  • LOVED the heroine and the hero.
  • The voice hooked me right away. The MC is funny and relatable and freely admits her faults without out sound too self-deprecating.
  • The world building is wonderful and information about the setting is doled out in small digestible doses.
  • The supporting cast a.k.a. minor characters are intriguing in their own way.
  • I cared about what happened to the MC if she failed to reach her goal.

Have you ever picked up a free book which hooked you so well you purchased more from the author (if it’s paranormal romance, I want titles and names, please and thank you 🙂 )? What drew you in? Have you picked up one that turned you off, and if so say why (out of respect, please KEEP TITLES and NAMES ANONYMOUS)?

[Update: Look what I found. Free Kindle books here.]

Why Can’t I Quit Her?


I have a stack of books waiting for me to pick them up and crack them open. I have sample pages of eBooks on my Kindle waiting for me to click them. Yet, I keep finding myself searching for new Kresley Cole Immortal After Dark books. This series centers around a variety of Lore creatures from Valkyrie to Lykae to Shifters to Vampires to many others who secretly live among humankind. I love all things paranormal, but more than that draws me into her books.

As a writer, my curiosity about how Cole hooks readers led me to this list:

  • Rich and vivid world building. I have no problem imagining the settings Cole creates. She doesn’t dedicate page after page to description, rather she brings the environment alive through her characters’ POV and shows them interacting with their surroundings.
  • Strong, well thought out characters. I am amazed by how seamlessly she weaves her characters into the different books in this series. Each one focuses on a hero and heroine, their individual goals (which conflict with one another), the obstacles in their way, and how they intend to reach their goals. She brings in characters from other books in the series who inadvertently and sometimes advertently (Nix, I’m talking about you) affect one another. Each character has their own sense of humor and made me laugh at the most unexpected moments.
  • Deep paranormal immersion. This world that Cole has created is ripe with powerful paranormal beings who have weaknesses and scars. There’s the Valkyrie,who are fierce, beautiful women with an affinity for movies, video games, and swiping clothes from one another. The Lykae, Vampires, Demons, Beserkers, and Fey are powerful, wicked, and scarred.
  • Thrilling and intricate plots. So far, every Immortal After Dark book I’ve read mentions the Accession, a kind of mystical checks-and-balances system for an ever-growing population of immortals. Readers get to see this thing unfold from multiple points of view. I’m impressed with how tightly the story lines are weaved from one book to another. The adventures take readers around the world.
  • Last, but not least, the romance. Cole knows how to create mental, physical, and sexual tension between characters in a believable way. Her passionate, virile male characters are lethally protective over their fated mates, even though these women can hold their own.

What draws you into a book series? Who can’t you quit?

[Note: Cole writes adult paranormal romance.]