What’s in a Name?

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

50. Character names

Choosing the name for a character can be one of the difficult parts of planning a story. Some people love choosing their character names, while others (like myself) find it a grueling, miserable process. You can’t choose just any name that strikes your fancy; you have to think about who the character is, what they are, and what they represent. You want your readers to picture your character using the information you give them and be able to say, “Yeah, he/she definitely seems like a _____.”

Think about it for a moment. Would Eddard Stark seem so noble and admirable a character if he had been named Bob Smith? Would Harry Potter elicit the same feelings of familiarity and empathy if Rowling had named him Stan Tanner? Hell, would Christian Grey get so many crazy women’s motors running if he were named Walter Fitzgerald?

So we (presumably, unless we are naturally talented in this particular art) labor long and hard while working out what our characters names will be. I myself always have a hard time with this. When I was young and foolish I would always name my main characters after myself. I’ve used my real name, my nicknames, and my usernames in the past. Of course this is not an accepted practice in the real world of writing and is generally looked upon as a red light for wish fulfillment fantasies. These days I try to picture my characters and imagine names that suit them, the same way you might see a person walking down the street and guess what their name might be based only on their physical appearance. Sometimes I meet with success – the main character in my zombie apocalypse manuscript is Nancy King, and I can’t imagine her having any other name. Other times I have hiccups that won’t go away – the main character of my fantasy epic has had her name changed no fewer than four times and it still doesn’t sound right.

I think it’s almost like a game that you have to win before your story can be whole, and certain stories crank the difficulty of the game up to “Author Must Die” mode. But this is just another hurdle we must leap on the way to creating wonderful stories.

Mythologically Speaking

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

46. Myths about writers

There are a hell of a lot of myths out there about writers and writing in general. Do a quick Google search and you’ll be bombarded by everything from stereotypes about people who write, to complete BS about how publishing “really” works. I’ve plucked out a few particular ones that I hear quite often and thus feel that I can comment on them.

1. All writers are insane.
Obviously this one is a generalization, but it does actually have some basis in truth. Writers do tend to be a little…off the deep end…but that’s just because of the overwhelming mixture of creativity and passion. Here me out: writers have all this creativity in them, all these stories that need to come out, and there’s a desperate passion to make that happen. But putting a story to paper is a lot more difficult and time-consuming than non-writers think. In order to put that story down you have to give up things…time, sleep, a social life…and you’ve got to be at least a little bit insane to do that.

2. If you’re talented, you’ll get published.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The only other myth that’s as far off the scale as this one is “you’ll never get published without natural talent”. In a perfect world the talented writers would get all the publishing contracts and the no-talent hacks would never get anywhere near a published book. But this isn’t a perfect world. Unfortunately wonderful stories will get overlooked for a number of reasons, the least of which is not a publisher’s desire to publish what is currently “popular”. Publishers are like any other business…they’re in it to make money, and if they get a wonderfully-written fantasy epic and a crudely-written vampire-porn, they’re probably going to publish the vampire-porn because that happens to be what’s “in” right now.

3. All you need is an idea: the rest will come easily
Oh my laughable lord, no. I don’t think anyone really understands the writing process until they’ve done it, but as with everything else in life people will always talk about what they don’t understand. Sure, getting an idea for a good story is definitely an important part of the equation, but it is hardly the only variable. For one thing, a plot is nothing without good characters, and good characters need subplots, conflict, and personalities that allow us to relate with them. And even with all that you need a multitude of scenes, tension and climaxes, and a reasonable conclusion, and that’s a lot more difficult to figure out than it sounds. Also, all that isn’t taking into account that you have to find the words, the proper words that make everything sound right. All I’m saying is, try it first, judge the difficulty later.

I Write Like…

A while ago I stumbled upon this website, I Write Like, and just recently a fellow blogger linked to it and brought it back to my attention again. The idea, basically, is that you copy and paste an excerpt of your writing to the webpage and it analyzes it and tells you which author you write like. It analyzes based on word choices and writing style (which I’m assuming refers to sentence structure or some such); I can’t imagine that it’s terribly accurate, but it’s still interesting to see who you get. 🙂

For my zombie novel, Nowhere to Hide, I got Charles Dickens, even when I had the site analyze super-creepy and/or gory scenes. It has me very interested to actually read some Charles Dickens that isn’t Oliver Twist. o.o

For my Final Fantasy fanfic, I got Edgar Allan Poe, which just fathoms me. I could imagine getting Poe for my horror novel, but for a video game fan fiction? Wuh?

For my supernatural romance, tentatively titled Moonlight, I got David Foster Wallace. I have no idea who this is, so I’m going to have to do my research, but if his writing is anything like mine in this particular piece, I’m very interested already. lol

I analyzed several different scenes from my fantasy epic novel because it’s been written and re-written so many times that nothing fits together properly anymore. I got Jonathan Swift and Ursula K. Le Guin for two of the scenes, neither of whom I’ve heard of so again I must do my research. For another of the scenes I got Stephanie Meyer, which has prompted me to re-analzye my own writing stat.

The bits and pieces of what will someday be a space fantasy gave me Anne Rice. I know Anne Rice, of course, but I’ll have to read some more of her work to actually get an idea of whether this is accurate.

And finally, my Chrono Trigger fanfic gave me…J.R.R. Tolkien. o.O I, uh…totally can’t see it, but thanks for the compliment, I Write Like! lol

The thing that really amused me about this was that – with the exception of the aforementioned fantasy epic – I tried multiple scenes of each work and got the same results regardless, so there must be something there that the site is seeing. Very interesting. Now if only I could glean some of the success of these famous authors! lol