Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roadtrip Wednesday: How I name characters

I’ll start with things I never do: I never name characters after family, friends, relatives, ex-boyfriends, etc. It’s just awkward, and I also think I’d find it hard to make their personality their own. My subconscious would accidentally give them the personality of whoever I knew with that name. I also never use names that are impossible to pronounce, have a lack of vowels, or have apostrophes in the middle of them. There could be a place for names like this, maybe, in other people’s writing, but not in mine. I also learned the hard way about not giving characters placeholder names. A character I intended to be minor in my WIP Ignited, who I randomly assigned the name Harry (for the sole fact that it seemed like something someone could be named who had been alive for eighty years, even if they weren’t human), grew to become one of the most important characters, but by then his name had kind of stuck. So even though I don’t like it (and, of course, who do you think of first when you hear the name Harry?) it became his name, and I can’t make myself change it. So, from then on, no naming characters without a little bit of forethought.

As for how I actually pick them, it can either be really simple or really complicated. I always want their names to feel right to me, but not too right. I don't want the name to fit my character's personality (or looks) so well that it feels like I'm using it as a plot device. Some just sort of decide their names on their own—the name Olivia for my newest MC just sort of popped into my head. I liked it because it’s popular enough not to be weird, but unpopular enough that it’s a little different (although I’ve noticed more Olivias lately, so maybe this name is coming back in?) In Unthawed, Dusty was just Dusty, there wasn’t a question. And Charlotte was Charlotte. But Emma and Grant took some time. I opted against giving them unique, futuristic names, because when I try to pull that off, I always feel like I’m being weird rather than futuristic. Some people can pick those names well, but I can’t. You'd probably end up reading a book with a main character whose name was Pufferfish Smith. So I looked at simpler, more common names, figuring it could also be believable that some of the old classics stayed popular throughout time. Emma’s name just needed time (and some baby name websites) to come to me, and Grant’s took searching through lists of characters on soap operas (there are so many! And of such varied ages. This was one of my better ideas). In my latest WIP, I still have some important characters who I haven’t been able to settle on a name for. They will come to me, and I will wait (well, wait, but also look at soap opera websites and baby name databases!)

Now, wander over to YA Highway to see how the rest of the ladies (and blog commenters) name their characters!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Thanks to everyone who commented!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roadtrip Wednesday: Haiku WIPs

YA Highway's Roadtrip Wednesday topic this week: summarize your WIPs in a haiku. Now, this combines two things I am not good at: summarizing briefly, and writing poetry. So what you will see here is probably not going to be breaking any haiku records of awesomeness, but I have to admit, I did sort of have fun. Don't take too much from these, though. I only kind of captured any of my plots.

Untitled WIP:
Sent back from the dead
To recapture her nature
Finds danger lurking

War in Hell’s bleak depths
Demons and humans entwined
Death the only end

Beneath frosty plains
A fearsome beast is unleashed
Wreaks havoc above

If you want to write a haiku for your blog, go on over to YA Highway and link it in the comments section. And don't forget to check out the other Highway ladies' blogs, because they are awesome.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Roadtrip Wednesday: Rough Drafts

This week's topic is: how rough are your rough drafts?

Mine vary. It goes a lot, lot better if I outline first. Otherwise, it tends to be sort of a mess and a good part of my editing time goes into fixing everything so it makes sense. Now that I've discovered outlines, my rough drafts tend not to be too hideously awful.

But I definitely have to cut rather than add after my first draft. If there's a scene I am not sure belongs, I write it, even if it means cutting it later. I also tend to add in some redundant or unnecessary sentences, and obviously those need to be cut too. And conversations between characters can definitely sometimes go from the realm of necessary for moving the plot forward to just plain conversation. Sometimes, I just sort of forget to stop.

I like not editing what I've written until I'm done, which I didn't really used to do, and I think it's benefited my drafts, actually. When I go back and edit constantly, it takes me out of the story and the writing can get shaky.

It helps me to remember that I can always take away or add things in second drafts.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I mean, it's Wednesday now, after all!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Widening horizons

Advance warning: this post may make no sense, and may ramble. But it's something I've been thinking about lately, so I'm giving it a go.

When I was younger, I lived and breathed fantasy. Of the epic sort, mainly, but also the Redwall series, because of the animals as main characters. Pretty much everything I write in high school (and younger) was epic fantasy or had animal main characters (although the animal thing kinda faded after middle school). Now, there's nothing wrong with that. I knew what I liked, and that's what I read.

But somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that I didn't like contemporary all that much. There are a lot of things that caused this, everything from how boring I found Sweet Valley High to the creative writing class I took in high school, which happened to be populated by all the...let's say offbeat kids. It was like a competition to see who could write the thing that made the least sense, and had the most drug use, sex, and suicide/depression references possible. And I was not (and still am not) into edgy for the sake of being edgy. So this is the image I had of contemporary, and it stuck with me.
For a long.

But then I slowly started to feel like I was limiting myself, only reading fantasy (and a bit of sci fi...and the odd historical fiction). I felt sort of like I was running out of options (which is ridiculous, because I'm still finding great fantasy all the time, like The Shifter which I just finished and LOVED) and I started to feel like I was missing out.

So I started branching out. I took recommendations not just from my Harry Potter loving friends, but from the ones who would die of boredom reading it, too. The first contemporary novel I recall reading and enjoying after that fateful creative writing class cemented my dislike at age sixteen was I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe, recommended by a close friend my junior year of college. The thing we both enjoyed most about it was the fact that it took place at a fictional Ivy League university, and we could picture it being ours.

And since then, especially recently, I've gotten much more open minded about my reading choices, and much better at finding great things to read on my own. (And of course, by recommendation from wise people like my lovely moosers). Most notably, I'd always thought of literary writing as this scary thing that would be too fancy and go over my head or bore me. But then one fateful day (this post is so much more fun if I write it as though it's a tense and exciting story...) I noticed that the super awesome Kirsten Hubbard wanted beta readers, and even though I didn't know her very well at the time, I thought she seemed nice and Like Mandarin sounded interesting, so I volunteered.
And it was literary.
And it was beautiful.
And it didn't go over my head or bore me.

And there went the last of the genres I *feared*. And it's led me to read some pretty spectacular books in the few months since then. I know, it took me pathetically long to figure out that literary wasn't scary. I think I just needed to understand what it was. Because I have to say, once I realized what literary was, I discovered I'd already read it. (I Am Charlotte Simmons, now that I think about it, is definitely very literary. But see, at the time, I just thought the writing was the way it was because the author is an old dude. Which makes me sound ignorant. But this post is basically a giant confession, so there it is. I was kind of ignorant.)

And here's the whole point of all that: although I don't think I'm ready to tackle anything literary myself, having seen the way some of my fellow writers (again, I have to credit my moosers with this) use their words to create the most amazing, vivid images, it's made me more aware of my own word choice. I'm definitely still a work in progress, but I think even in genre fiction, there's absolutely a place for beautiful images (um, beautiful, unpurple images, that is!) and it took me a painfully long time, but I am so aware of it now, and my writing is much better for it.

So, in the moral of this enormous post, branch out. Don't ever limit yourself with ridiculous generalizations about entire genres, and for the love of God, don't let it take you as long as it took me to figure out how much they all can help you, even if you really only write one.

And since I mentioned literary YA...there's an awesome interview with Melina Marchetta, author of Jellicoe Road, posted on YA Highway. Not to mention other awesome posts by amazing ladies who inspire me just as much as (more than?) anyone currently they all will be one day soon.

Just to end what I hope is not too boring and nonsensical of a post on a sentimental and loving note.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Roadtrip Wednesday: How I get ideas

I am a random idea getter. I’m not someone who is overtaken by a new idea each week. Usually my ideas come from a little seed I plant in my mind that stews and stews until it turns into something viable. For example, Unthawed started as a desire to write something with mammoths in it. I had this thought in about January, and sometime between January and the end of March, it evolved into an actual, outlineable idea.

I guess I’m inspired by my interests more than anything else. I like to blend together my interests to make something that is (hopefully) different from what’s already out there.

As for what triggers the ideas to form in my mind, it can really be anything. And I mean anything. I get a lot of ideas while in the shower, the rocking chair, or doing dishes (aka any task that involves little/no mental stimulation). But the tiniest little thing can be what sparks an idea. A leaf blowing in the wind, a news story, a specific line in a TV show or song that my brain connects to something else.

My mind is a strange place. You just never know what you might find there!