Thursday, August 4, 2011

That which we call a Rose … OH! Rose?

No doubt, my favorite part of starting a new story is naming my main characters. I spend hours researching on (which has its own ‘Tips for Writers’ section because, apparently, I’m not the only person who’s thought of this).

So far, I have a Rainy Baker, an Ivy Taite, a Sundae DeSilva, a Drew Morgan and twin girls Piper and Melina Cora. I have a Zellie, an Oliver Bexley and a female Emerson. I’ve created Dale Nasira, Wes Draiman and Elizabeth Bianca Fallon, not to mention Nick Sylvestre, Balthasar Harding and Dr. Paul Wilson.

… But for the love of JK Rowling I can’t come up with a name for the main character in my latest WIP.

Description: Character X is a young asst. curator at a museum. She has a boyish pixie, is cute and short with curves, and enjoys fashionable pencil skirts, Mary Janes, books about adventure, and tall roguish cable TV hosts with big egos … but she’ll never admit to that last one.

At first, her name was Alana Wendell. I liked this for the feminine flow of the first name, which worked well with the tough, almost working class last name. The sound worked, and there were quite enough syllables to feel right on the tongue (or, the mind’s tongue). But, I didn’t love it. It was a little too ‘floaty’ – a nonsensical term for how I describe a name that’s too girly, too angelic and too innocent.

It’s still a favorite for the position of ‘official name,’ but I’m keeping my options open.

Then, she became Leona Bennette – fierce, strong and interesting first name anchored by a classic, feminine last name. I tried this out at my husband’s suggestion (he’s a tremendous help), but I’m just not feeling it. The first name is too ethnic for a librarian-esque girl who works in a museum. All I can see is a little Italian woman with her gray hair pulled into a tight bun. If I changed the spelling to Liona, that helps a little …

Now, I'm considering Claire Melisandre. It's got the librarian esque first name with a distinct flair of adventure in the last name. But, I'm just not sure. I feel like I might be quoting 'The Breakfast Club' lines while I'm writing.

So, I’m appealing to you all for some help, while also giving away some tips I’ve discovered for naming characters (because, despite what I’m showing here, I’m actually quite good at it and <3 it). Here are my best ones:

Think of adjectives that describe the person. Write them down, and then look at the list. Maybe a few spark a memory of a girl you once knew, or a guy from a TV show you saw while clicking through the channels. Or, maybe if you’re feeling crazy, you can piece together the adjectives themselves – using letters to form names or maybe parts of the words themselves.

Watch movie credits. Let your eyes skim the first names – or the last names. Whatever. But you’ll find a ton of interesting monikers you might never have thought of yourself. Also, the Disney/Pixar movies have a fun thing at the very end of the credits called ‘Production Babies,’ which shows all of the babies born during the making of the movie. HUGE wealth of info.

Visit a graveyard. OK, this is not as morbid as it seems. A few years back I was unfortunate enough to be driving slowly past tombstones in a French-Canadian cemetery, and I was inappropriately struck with a desire to have my notebook.

…Which leads me to my last and best tip:

Make a list. When you see a great name – someone being interviewed, a name in the news, an email from a PR person at work – make a note of it. Designate a page in the back of your writing notebook (I use the very last page) as a repository of great names. That way, whenever you get stuck, you have a starting point with notes you are giving yourself.

Remember, the name is a huge part of the character. Choose the one that will express something special about your character that you won’t ever have to explain yourself. A perfect name sets the tone, while an imperfect name detracts from it … and could cause a reader to stop reading.

Things I try to avoid:

Names recently used in popular books. The world doesn’t need another Bella, Hermione, Clary or Juliet. Just. Say. No.

Anthropomorphic names. Wren is very cool, but I’ll always think of a bird first instead of a hot blond with dreadlocks.

Names the general populous can’t pronounce out loud. Russian names, while pretty to look at, are hard to read. So are some French names (gasp, mon amour!), Persian names, Irish names, etc. Exotic is great, but think of the poor audio reader who’s going to be reading this aloud.

OK, now that I’ve hopefully helped you, could you help me? Alana Wendell or Liona Bennette or Claire Melisandre – or something else entirely? : ) Do you have another suggestion?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's an odd form of inspiration, for sure.

If the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that I’m not nearly as alone as I thought in the blogosphere. Thus, it stands to reason that I’m also not alone in wanting to wear ADORABLE t-shirts that show (in a clever way, of course) that I enjoy reading and writing.

… Or admitting that I sometimes have to look in strange places to find inspiration when my Muses take a late lunch.

I happen to find most of my inspiration in fashion – odd since I’m not a fashionista. I enjoy thinking about the clothes my characters are wearing and what they say about who my characters are beneath my words. The girl wearing a bold gem-colored jersey dress over crisp dark jeans and her highest heels has a much different personality than the woman in a lemony oxford, hounds-tooth pencil skirt and red patent-leather Mary Janes. Right?

So often it happens like it did today: I’m taking a break from (read: am thoroughly avoiding) editing my latest chapter in my fab WIP and browsing online. I become entranced by a pair of shoes, and a character springs to mind. What would she say? Could she wear these?

And that sets me off to explore more about the character than I otherwise would have given my normal writing schedule.

I was fustzing around on the web the other day (in similar pursuits of inspiration) when I came across this fun blog entry somewhere (I don’t remember where I was!) (please, if it’s yours, let me know and I’ll link!) that asked me to answer questions about my MC. Silly things like, 'What’s in her refrigerator right now?’ and ‘What’s on her movie shelf?’ Anyway, I loved it – what a great way to really get in touch with a character.

…But before I get too deep in the philosophical character-building techniques (it was done better by this mystery blogger I can no longer find, so I’m of no help whatsoever), let’s swing back to *my* main point: T-shirts.

Yes, that’s right. Welcome back :) Here are some of the images that are making me smile today. Also, if you’re in need of inspiration, I find that some of the designs are so clever that they actually get my mind back in writing mode – hence the title of this blog.

(All of these t-shirts are from, from which I’ve bought garments numerous times. They are inexpensive, true to size and original enough to garner many compliments. Needless to say, they come highly recommended.)

‘The Best Channel Since 1465’


‘The Cloud Menagerie’

‘The Woods Belong to Me’

‘Honey Moon’

‘Snow Globe’

‘Polar Gardening’

‘The Flow of Wisdom’

‘Why is an Owl Smart?’

What odd things give YOU inspiration?

A Small, Very Appreciative ‘Thank You’

Twice in the past week, I’ve been given a blog award from two extremely kind and talented writers – Angie Cothran and Laura Barnes. Both ladies are wonderful, and I highly recommend you visit their blogs when you have a free moment.

The ‘Libster Blog’ award is meant to highlight new bloggers and connect the online writing community even more through kindred spirits. You can see my tag displayed proudly along the right column.

While I’m not quite ready to bestow the award myself to five new and worthy candidates (since these ladies already have thoroughly earned Libster Awards of their own!), I just wanted to stop the presses long enough to say a very heartfelt and sincere THANK YOU to these ladies – and to all of you who leave comments and, in general, have made my last few weeks so much fun.

<3 <3 <3 Love, Amber