Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An Affection for Vowels: Character Names

Oh, what glorious hair I have!

Naming My Characters

I spend a lot of time surfing through names websites when I have characters to name. Just the other day I googled "Old Fashioned Boy Names" because I wanted to give a boy a middle name that he'd find embarrassing. Of course, when its your own name, it is so much easier to be embarrassed by it. I'm leaning toward Virgil, but I might consider something a little more innocuous that most teenagers would be embarrassed by simply because teenagers are typically easily embarrassed. Archibald and Ignatius are also in the running

Dang, and I just googled "Embarrassing Middle Name" only to find out that I'm subscribing to a trope! Oh well. I have my reasons.

Appealing Names

While I was surfing the names sites, I realized that I have a real affection for names that start with vowels. I feel like they are typically better able to rhyme or at least have a very pleasing rhythm to them. For example, I named one character Eric Ortega. His sister (half-sister) was Alyssa Barnard. And, in general, I just like vowel names so much that I tend to try to move consciously away from them so I don't end up with a ton of characters with similar names.

I also have a tendency to lean toward one or two syllable names. Eric. Alyssa. Moura (from the book I'm currently re-revising). I like names that nobody's going to trip over. I actually feel like that's a good quality. In books that I read, I like names that I can actually pronounce (or try to pronounce) without feeling like an idiot.

A Potentially Embarrassing Situation

And while I'm on the topic of names, I've realized that anybody who catches me at my naming craze would probably think I was pregnant because the best name sites are baby name sites. So that's just one of those kind of funny things that could turn out a little embarrassing if I'm caught on a baby name site at work. Or elsewhere. I've already warned my husband that this is why I spend so much time on baby name sites. ;)

In closing: if you celebrate it, Merry Christmas! If you don't, Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Contemporary Novel Nagging At My Brain

I've gone back to adding ridiculous photos of me to the top of my posts.
For now.

For the past few years, I've stuck to the realm of fantasy and sci fi. I love imagining different worlds and cool new inventions, and when you've got villainous leaders, it's always easy to pick a fight and have your hero be the good guy.

But a few nights ago I was trying to go to sleep, and I just had to write the first page to a contemporary YA novel. The first scene is semi-autobiographical: the adoption of my childhood cat. Vincent Van Cat, in case you were curious. He was named after the artist because A) my mom likes art and B) he'd gotten into a fight and lost a little chunk out of his ear. Oh, and C) he's a cat.

And now that I've got a first page that I really quite like, all of these ideas that I'm having just won't leave me alone.

I now know that my main character is a bit depressed. He didn't get into the school he really wanted to go to, and he doesn't have a back up plan. He's questioning his future because of that. I know where he works (his dad got him a job because he wanted his son to get up off his butt and do something productive.) I know that he loves his cat very much, and his cat is very old (uh oh).

I've got a whole list of ideas about this book. Honestly, I'm pretty excited about it. But I don't read too many contemporary YA novels. I don't know that I can write a contemporary YA.

So now I've got to go and do lots of reading and even more plotting because I think this book is just begging to be written, and I only hope that I can do it justice because, in my head, it is an amazing book.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Creating My World

(Photo Credit to Eigirdas)

My Story

As I'd mentioned on my blog, I put out my first round of queries (six in all) a little over a month ago. Well, one of those queries resulted in a partial request for the first 100 pages of my book. As you can imagine, I was overjoyed. Thrilled. Excited. Absolutely aglow (I don't feel the word "aglow" gets used enough these days.)

But then, a few weeks later, I got a very nice note from the agent saying that she just could not figure out where the dragons fit into my world and that this omission distracted her so much that she wasn't able to get into my story. Rejection.

While I appreciated the feedback (afterward), my first reaction was much less productive. (I crashed to one of those dramatic lows of "I'll never be able to do this!" and "My life is ruined!") But after a few hours of reveling in my angsty angstiness, I started thinking about how to use that feedback to improve my book. We writers can be tempestuous folk.

So now I'm revising my book, and this time around I'm working on my descriptions and world building.


Evoking the 1950s - My book takes place in an alternate 1950s, so I've been watching White Christmas and Leave It To Beaver and Daddy Long-Legs (all from the 1950s, all on Netflix) and taking note of speech and dress and attitude. I did some of this before writing my book, but I'm going back and taking notes. In my writing, I'm trying to add in 1950s clothes and surroundings whenever I can (without going overboard). I know these films create a more ideal version of the 1950s (and, trust me, my book doesn't go in for 'ideal') but they're a great place to go for descriptions.

General Description - I hate adding in description. When I'm writing, it always feels like a distraction from the actual story, but I know it can add a whole new dimension and help the reader feel even more enveloped in my world. So I'm making a concerted effort to describe things like the color of my main character's hair, the fabric used in the living room couch, and the location of the lamps in the living room. (Yeah, I just wrote a scene in the living room, which is obviously affecting this list.)

World Building

Descriptions are a key part of world building, but there is so much more to it. You've got to decide upon the rules of your world, the look of your world, the different segments of society and how those delineations in society affect architecture and fashion and so much more! I'm thinking about trying to do some drawings. I've already picked out photos that are good references, but I just don't have them all together in one picture that is solely my world. I need to make certain I have this world solidly in mind as I revise and I need to add in little extra glimpses of the greater world beyond just the view of my main character. This is a whole world, and I need to make it feel like a rich and full world.

So that's what I'm up to these days.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

One Last NaNo Post (for now)

Happy December, Everyone!

November is over, and I did it, Baby! (Think Austin Powers)

(Photo credit to George Thomas)
Lego Dragon and Knight fighting it out in downtown Disney.
(Although that fire looks a little like spew if you ask me - it's the green tint.)

On November 28th, I finally tippity tap tap typed my way to 50,289 words, and then I put my computer away and went off to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family.

I desperately wanted to make it to that rather arbitrary goal of 50k, and I kept hacking my way through, but I kept feeling like I really wanted to stop and make some necessary plot adjustments.

So now that I've got some sort of basic plot down (and yes, I did do a lot of outlining beforehand, but some things get moved about as I write), I need to go back and:

  • Make my world cohesive (you know, like use the same made up words throughout)
  • Add in more scenes that describe my world and make it feel real: I need more grit!
  • Make my characters speak and behave the same throughout: Cohesion!
  • Add in more tension
  • Have my main characters interact more (so we understand how they all feel about each other)
  • Add description (I just don't like describing things, so I have to pay attention to that)
  • Add in foreshadowing 
  • Add in more world-specific elements (What's the point in having dryad type people if we never see them?)
  • Rethink my ending: It needs more umph! And more build-up.
Basically, I'm going to write down my current outline and figure out where I should start adding things in. I'm going to really visualize my world so I can describe it better and make it feel like it's the same world throughout. And I'm going to figure out how my characters and places fit into the scheme of the world as a whole and make that clearer.

So, I've got lots to do, and lots to dream up.

But before I do that, I need a good long break. Fortunately, we just bought a ton of Legos, so I've got plenty to do. ;)