For Writers

“What’s In A Name?” – Naming Your Characters

name book

Great characters deserve great names, but how do you determine what that name should be? Some writers just write whatever name comes to them. They like the way it sounds, so it should work, right? Not necessarily. There are a few things to consider when naming your characters.

First off, you don’t want to have characters with names that sound the same or begin with the same letter. Your readers will inevitably mix them up. I’ve had it happen  to me. I’m reading along when I suddenly realize, “Wait- this isn’t that character, this is that other character. How long have I been mixed up?” I furiously flip back through pages I’ve already read, trying to determine where exactly I got confused. It’s not a good feeling, and you don’t want your readers to experience it.

Second, you want your characters’ names to match up with their personalities. For instance, if you are naming a scaredy-cat character who never faces his fear, you wouldn’t want to name him Eric, which means “powerful”.  A baby naming book is a great tool for finding names for your character.  In fact, sometimes it’s fun to peruse a naming book and write down names you like for use in a future story. I like The Name Book by Dorothy Astoria.

Third, you want your names to be consistent. (This pertains especially to fantasy and sci-fi.) By this, I mean you don’t want to have a lot of characters with exotic sounding names like Thordan, Boriel, and Cantor, and then have one character named Tom. When a reader comes to that name, they’ll be drawn out of the story just trying to figure out why his name is Tom. The exception to this rule would be if there actually is a specific reason for his name being Tom – like maybe he is from a different place than all your other characters.

Fourth, make sure names are believable and not too hard to pronounce. You want to be creative, but you don’t want to turn off readers. Try saying your chosen name out loud. Show the name to some friends and have them read it back to you. If it seems a little too made-up or hard to pronounce, it probably is. Also, if you can’t find the name in a baby book or a online name generator, you should probably nix it.

Fifth, minor characters might only be known by characteristic/appearance. Sometimes we have characters so minor they don’t need an actual name, but they do need something shorter than a full description for each time you refer to them. For instance, perhaps there is a mean boy tormenting your MC. He could simply be referred to as Meanie once you’ve introduced him as such.  Maybe there is an extremely pale girl who rides the same bus as your MC, but never actually talks to the MC. She could go by Ghost.

I recently read a book where the MC’s name was Seredipity.  Kind of a cool name, right? At least it was until the author gave the MC the nickname Pity. Yes, Pity!  Every time I read the name I couldn’t help but think, “What a horrible name! Are we suppose to pity her? Does she pity herself? Who would want to be called Pity?” I struggled to get through that book.

So you get the idea. You want to use creativity in naming characters, but you also want to be sure your characters’ names make sense, and that they don’t turn the reader off.

How do you choose your characters’ names? What tips do you use to help you choose names? Let me know in the comments!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop hosted by the lovely Raimey Gallant. To find out more about the blog hop and check out the other participants’ post go here.

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diyMFA book club, For Writers

A Writer’s Reading List – diyMFA book club

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Today I’m doing my final post for the diyMFA book club. (If this is the first time you’ve heard about diyMFA, you can find out all about it here.) One of the prompts was to share your reading list.  I enjoyed the reading section of the book, and I loved the way Gabriela broke the writer’s reading list down into three categories. The great thing about it – you tailor it to your genre. The three categories are:

Craft Books: These are the books that deal with the craft of writing –  books that help you improve your writing.  Currently, these are the craft books I have on my TBR list (some of them I’ve read parts of, but I haven’t read any of them in their entirety):

    1.  diyMFA by Gabriela Pereira

    2.  Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

    3.  Story Genius by Lisa Cron

    4.  Self-Editing For Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King

    5.  Social Media for Writers by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine 

(You can add me as a friend on Goodreads, where I have a bookshelf full of these books 🙂 )

 

The Classics: These are the books that are classics in your genre. I write YA – which doesn’t have as many classics as some other genres. Widely considered the first YA book, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, was published in 1967. I’ve already read this classic and loved it! Here are some more YA classics on my TBR list:

1. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Ursula Le Guin

3. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

4. Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (Written in 1942, some people considered this to be the first YA book, as opposed to The Outsiders, so I’ll have to give it a look)

5. The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Comp. Titles: These are books that are comparable to the book you are writing. I write YA fantasy with a fairytale twist (some are retellings, some are just stylized like fairytales), so I read a lot of fantasy, especially retellings. I don’t have a specific list for this group, because I am always on the lookout for these books and am continually adding to my TBR list. This month I have selected several books to read for the #fantasticfeb reading challenge, and several of them fall into this category. You can see my #fantasticfeb list here.

Another diyMFA book club prompt was to share a picture of your writing space.

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I write a lot of different places, but I do have a desk where I do a fair amount of that writing. There’s a window on the left side which lets in lots of natural light. I find this energizing and motivating.  Also, I’ve hung a lot of inspirational pictures above it. 🙂

writing space

I love this desk! I’ve had since I graduated from college. One day, my grandpa (the same grandpa who helped inspire me to become a writer by telling me his stories) and my dad helped me comb through garage sales to find a sturdy desk. We found this one for a dollar.  It needed some cleaning, a little sanding, and a new coat of stain, and then it was ready to go. Pretty awesome, right?

 

So how about you -What’s on your reading list? Do you have a favorite craft book? Where do you write? Let me know in the comments.

diyMFA book club, For Writers

diyMFA Book Club – Characters and Story Type

Today I’m responding to a couple more diyMFA book club prompts. Both of these two prompts were particularly interesting to me, because I feel like they given me some insight into my current WIP.

First, is which supporting character type is your favorite to write?

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There are five supporting character archtypes discussed in the diyMFA book:

The fool – This is the character who tells the MC the things he or she needs to hear/face, but won’t face on his or her own. Often this character seems shallow in the beginning of the story,  but as the story progresses you see that is not the case.

The love interest – This one is pretty self-explanatory. This is the MC’s love interest. Sometimes there can be more than one, creating more conflict in the story.

The mentor – This is the character who takes the MC under his/her wing and often tells the MC things he/she wouldn’t otherwise know.

The BFF – Again, pretty self-explantory. This is the best friend of the MC. This is another case where having more than one can help create more interest in the story.

The villain – This is the person who is out to destroy the MC, and this is my favorite supporting character to write. I love seeing how the villain came to be, and writing at least little of his/her origin story. I also like comparing the MC to the villain – hi-lighting the choices the MC makes that keeps him/her from going down the same path as the villain.

When talking about villain stories, I have to mention Heartless by Marissa Meyer. This is an excellent origin story about how the Queen of Hearts came to be. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

The next prompt moves from characters to story. Just like with character types, there are several story types.

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There are three basic story types:

1. The protagonist faces a more powerful antagonist. 

2. The protagonist faces an antagonist of equal power.

3. The protagonist faces himself.

 

My favorite story type is the first one – the underdog story. I love writing about characters that triumph even when it seems unlikely that they will. Even in real life, I always root for the underdog.

Just like with many of things, your story can be a mix of these types. Often the protagonist is going to have to confront him/her self. These scenes are fun to write. I like discovering why characters make certain choices and seeing how those choices are going to change their journey.

What is your favorite character archetype? What about your favorite story type? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

I’ve really enjoyed participating in the diyMFA book club, and I will be posting about it once more later this week. Though the book club is pretty much over, there are a lot of great resources available on the diyMFA website.

And if you’re on Instagram, check out the giveaway I’m hosting @charityrau.

 

Reading Challenge

Fantastic February

The first smaller reading challenge I’m doing this year is a monthly (February) book challenge. If you missed my previous post about the yearly reading challenge I’m doing  you can check it out here.

The Fantastic February reading challenge is hosted by Kathy, author of the Books and Munches blog, and you can find all the details here.

Basically, this is a challenge that focuses on reading fantasy/paranormal books. Since I have a bunch of those on my unread bookcase, this is perfect!

Here is my TBR list for February:

fantastic february books

The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine- I started this series awhile back and only have four books left in this series, so I’ll be finishing the series this month – Black Dawn, Bitter Blood, Fall of Night (not pictured), and Daylighters. 

The Queen of Hearts series by Colleen Oakes – I loved the first book and can’t wait to read the last two in this trilogy – Blood of Wonderland, and War of the Cards.

The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz – This books sounded so good I pre-ordered it, and just haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo – I’ve heard so many good things about this book,  it had to be added to the list.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire – I’ve actually never read a book by Maguire before, but have heard many good things about him, I decided to give this book a try. Also, this is an audiobook. (Audiobooks are one way I up my book count for the year.)

If you couldn’t tell, I love fairytale retellings, and am psyched to be doing a fantasy-themed challenge. I realize this is an ambitious list, but I will be trying to fit them all in. Like I said in my previous post, challenges motivate me. 🙂

What’s on your TBR list for February? Are you participating in Fantastic February or any other reading challenge for the month? Let me know in the comments.

 

Reading Challenge

The #unreadshelfproject2018 Reading Challenge

unread shelf

This year, I’m focusing on my reading by having more specific goals, and with that comes the reading challenges. I love a good challenge. I’m a bit competitive, so challenges really motivate me. 🙂

If you follow me on Instagram (@charityrau), then you know I’m participating in the #unreadshelfproject2018. What is that, you ask?  It is a reading challenge hosted by @theunreadshelf,  @katereadsbooks_, and @calsreads on Instagram.

The objective of the challenge – to focus on reading your own unread books. I have a ton of books that I haven’t read yet, and had been contemplating doing something like this for 2018 when I found this challenge. It’s the perfect motivation! The hosts will be posting weekly, and sometimes monthly, challenges throughout the year which will help me stay motivated and stick to my goal.

One of the first challenges was to count your unread books. Now, when I say I have a ton of unread books, I’m not exaggerating. Some are in boxes and others are scattered among books I have already read. I started with the one bookcase I know contains mostly unread books.

unread bookshelf

There are 120 unread books on that shelf, so that’s my goal for the year – to read 120 of my unread books.  I read 140 books last year, so this is doable for me. I will read a few library books as well, but only ones that qualify as highly anticipated reads for this year.

First I’ll be reading series – there are several series I’ve started, but haven’t finished. I’m currently finishing up the Lunar Chronicles.  I’m also planning to finish The Queen of Heart series, The Morganville Vampire series, the Beautiful Creatures series, and The Throne of Glass series.

This is my big reading challenge for the year, but I’ll also be doing some smaller challenges to help me stay motivated. I’ll be posting about some of those a little later. 🙂

What are your reading goals for 2018? Are you participating in any challenges? Let me know in the comments!

 

diyMFA book club, For Writers

Creativity and Storytelling Superpower

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This is my second post for the diyMFA book club, and I’m responding to two different prompts. 🙂

The first prompt: What is your storytelling superpower?

storytelling superpower

I got disruptor.

Disruptor – You’re drawn to larger-than-life characters who rebel against the status quo. Your stories champion people who will do whatever it takes to change their societies, overcome all odds, and defeat tyranny. Whether your character makes a small but significant personal choice or starts an all-out revolution, at the core your stories are about sharing your ideals with the world.

I do love to write about characters who overthrow evil tyrants 🙂 , so I think this fits. This quiz is pretty fun, and gives you some insight on why you might be drawn to certain characters.

If you want to take the storytelling superpower quiz, you can do so here.

The second prompt: What feeds your creativity?

creativity

So many things!

I find inspiration in art, nature, family and friends, people watching, books, and movies, to name a few. One thing that I found really helpful in Gabriela’s book is the idea of having an ORACLE (outrageous ridiculously awesome creative literary exercises). An oracle is a box or container filled with things that inspire you. Whenever you’re having an uncreative moment, you go to your ORACLE and look through it.

Up until this point, I had just been keeping a notebook with ideas, but I realized how helpful an ORACLE could be. So many times I forget things that have given me a moment of inpiration. So I have decided to start my own ORACLE.

oracle box

I found this box which I think is perfect. I love the color and sparkly mermaids! They fit fit right in with my genre (fairytale/fantasy).

Some things I’m including: inspiring pictures (a folder for character images, and a folder for setting images), story cubes, and a jar of writing prompts. I’m also including the my Writer’s Digest magazines, because they always provide inspiration. 🙂

oracle contents

The thing I really like about the ORACLE is that it can grow with me. As I find more inspiring things, I can add them into the ORACLE. This is going to be great for my creativity!

What’s your storytelling superpower? Do you have an ORACLE? What kind of things do you keep in it? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

diyMFA book club, For Writers

My Origin Story – How I became a writer

BookClub-Badge-Teal

As I mentioned in my last post, I am participating in the diyMFA book club, and this is my first official post for the book club. 🙂 If you want to join the book club, all the details are here. The first prompt Gabriela gave us was to write out your origin story – the story that led you to become a writer.

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As long as I can remember, I’ve been surrounded by books and stories. My parents are both teachers, so they understood the importance of exposing children to books at an early age. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that I decided to become a writer, but there are several personal experiences which led me here.

Some of my earliest memories include the stories my grandpa told me, my siblings, and my cousins. They starred a heroic coon dog named Cady. She defeated bears, took down mountain lions, and conquered evil humans, and I loved her. Soon I was making up stories of my own and telling them to my siblings. This was my first step into the world of storytelling.

Not much later, in about second grade, I discovered the book Little Women (the great illustrated classic version, which I still have). I carried that book everywhere with me and read it too many times to count. I even fended off a boy a grade above me who claimed I was too little to read such a big book.

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Jo March was my favorite character, and I wanted to be just like her, including becoming a writer when I grew up. And Jo March was only the first of a long line of characters (including Anne Shirley, Rory Gilmore, and Jessica Fletcher) who continued to inspire me to become a writer.

As I got a little older, I still continued to tell stories, often incorporating them into play. My sisters and I just didn’t play house with our Barbies. Our Barbies were on the run from an evil stepmother, solving murders, or trying to survive on their own.

(Scroll over the pictures to see the captions. 🙂  These are my actual Barbies from when I was a kid.)

But it wasn’t until middle school, when I took a creative writing class, that I began writing my stories down. I also started keeping a journal then.

My senior year of high school, I was editor of the school newsletter. I went to a small private high school, so it was actually pretty cool that I had this opportunity. I began contemplating a career in journalism, but really liked writing fictional stories best. However, I knew it would be difficult to make a living solely on writing novels.

cca chronicles

Once I got to college, they had already prepped a course schedule for me (based on the elementary ed major I had initially written on my application) and rather than go through the hassle of changing it, I decided to accept the schedule they had already set up. Lazy, I know, but I still had those doubts about not being able to make a living by writing.

I did add an English minor, and that proved beneficial as I learned so much in those classes, and there were several inspiring English professors who encouraged me to follow my writing dreams. I began writing my first novel while in college, but ended up shelving it because it was not good.

After graduating, I continued to write on and off. I had times when I was productive and other times where I didn’t write much. It was several years before I decided to take my writing seriously and start treating it like a job. I started this blog, created social media accounts, and began building my brand. Now I have four manuscripts with complete first drafts, but in various stages of the editing process. I am putting the final touches of one of those manuscripts and it will be published later this year!

What was you journey to becoming a writer like? Let me know in the comments. 🙂