Four ways to come up with names

Do you have trouble coming up with fantasy names?  Do others make it look easy while you are struggling?  Here are 4 ways to come up with names.

1)      Steal them from another writer.  Some main characters have really neat and original names, other times it’s the character we see for one page, either way the name is something you wish you had thought of.  Well steal it.  Honestly think of how many Jennifers or Roberts you know?  Not much different is there?  Just be careful that you don’t take a name which is highly popular and use if for your own main character or people might think you are a copy-cat writer.

2)      Take a name you like and change it slightly.  This may sound strange but it gives you a unique name, without having to struggle for one.  In fantasy, this is especially useful since many names are odd sounding to give them the element fantasy writers are looking for.  You could add or delete letters or even change the order of them.

3)      Find a name generation site and play with it until you find something you like.  I have seen some sites which give names for Welsh, Irish, English, Elves, Dwarves, etc.  Some will generate several names at once and others one at a time.  You can always keep a list of these to pull out when needed so you don’t have to keep going back.  This is especially useful if you write offline.

4)      Use names which mean something to describe your character.  JK Rowling did this with many of her Harry Potter characters.  The most obvious was Remus Lupin since lupine means wolfish in Latin.  She had several others which were not as common though.

I have used all four of these techniques and they have made life much easier when a new character pops in my story.  Do you think these will help you?  Do you have other techniques which you use that might help others out?

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When do you describe something?

Having moved on from my first chapter I began re-reading the next one.  I can see some changes that need to be made badly, especially since I have now corrected things from the first chapter, which changes the tone of my main character.  There will also be some other major changes due to that overhaul but I am only thinking about those at this time.  However, what I have been thinking about is when do I describe certain things?

Since this is a fantasy work, I have created some of my own terms for certain things, as well as “created” a race.  I realized that I never truly describe the new race.  In fact, it didn’t occur to me until the second book when I was comparing my new race to dwarves.  I realize I have to go back and enter some kind of description in the first novel.

I want to keep the urgency in my book, which I have (hopefully) set up when my main character meets this other race.  At the same time, I need to interject his description so the readers know that he is a certain race.  I think that taking the one I used in my second novel will work, with some slight modifications, but I also don’t want an information dump, which might turn the reader off.  So at this point, it’s a balancing act of how much and when do I describe the race.

I guess the best thing to do is rewrite the scene and then work from there with what is important right away and what is not.

Would do you think is the best time to describe something?

Boring yourself

Last week I spoke about striving for perfection in my novel.  While I am in a way, I also came to realize that I am starting to get bored reading these same few pages over and over to make them better.  Now does that mean I think a potential reader will be bored with the story, no.  But I do see that I need to move on in the story before I decide I don’t like it anymore and want to stop working on it altogether.

I have to admit I never thought I would get to this point.  I mean I love my own characters, even the ones I hate, because I created them; or at least made them my own in the case of some.  So how could I get bored with them?  Well I think it’s because I want to get on with the story and see what comes next.  It is the same way when I read a book.  I want to keep going so I can see what happens to the characters I like, or despise.  The really, really good books make me want to keep reading until I am done in one sitting.  For some books that is not possible and I rue having to stop.

Now some might ask how I can want to get on with the story when I know it.  All I can say is it has been long enough there are some things I forgot and there are some things that need to be changed so the story becomes better.  Also, I have some ideas for my world that I didn’t when I began writing this story and need/want to incorporate them into the novel.

It could be that boring myself is not the correct term but I cannot think of anything else which fits.

Have you ever been working on something and got bored trying to make it better?

Go Tell it on a Mountain

You’re a writer right?  Even if you are unpublished you still consider yourself one right?  Well don’t be shy to tell anyone you have a friendly acquaintance with.  No matter the subject you write, unless maybe you write erotica because many people are sensitive to that, don’t feel like they will think less of you.  There will always be those not interested in the genre you write but even those that might not be possible buying customers someday will find it fascinating that you do write and ask questions.  I say tell them because you never know what may come of a simple conversation.

Case in point for me, my neighbor has known for years I write.  When her daughter was in her early high school years she expressed an interest in the same genre as me and we did some exercises together.  Later the daughter quit because compared to my writing, hers was not stellar (her words not mine).  I still encourage her to keep doing it because she will get better the more she does it, so far she hasn’t.  However my neighbor occasionally asks how my writing is coming along and we discuss it for a few minutes.

Yesterday I get a message from her on Facebook; she was speaking with a co-worker of hers about the fact that I have a book completed which needs editing.  The co-worker has a brother in the same state but a few cities away who writes a different, although similar, genre and the co-worker said might be willing to look my novel over and give me some advice for making it better!

This is not something I neither requested nor asked about but due to some simple conversations the chance is there.  So get out there and let everyone know you write because you never know what it might lead to.

Shout it out Loud

As promised in my last post, I read out loud; let me tell you that was interesting.  I don’t do different voices publicly well, I am a written story teller not a verbal one, but just listening to how things sound as they are spoken does make you realize errors that reading do not bring to light.

I only did the first chapter, I figured that was best.  I caught several mistakes which should have been obvious but weren’t until I had to listen to them.  I also had one sentence that bugs me to no end because it sounds “wrong”.  I can’t tell you what is wrong with it but the wording sounds funny coming out of my mouth and so I know I need to fix it, I just have to figure out how.

I plan to do a second reading once I have gone through once and let someone else go through it once as well.  Why?  Well just because the first time I made changes, once its edited again there might be more to make the story tighter.

Regardless I am very glad that I tried this and will continue with the rest of the novel before hitting the computer again to edit.  I truly recommend this approach to anyone out there.

How much do you “Borrow”?

Speaking with a friend about my novel recently we were discussing where some of our characters come from.  I told her there are some where I know exactly where they came from; they are not so blatant rip-offs of characters I have seen in other stories.  That might sound bad but I don’t really think it is.  I am not taking the character and just dropping them into my story.  No I am changing some things to make that character mine, but the basis has been “borrowed” from another writer.

This one character I am speaking of I have wanted to create since I read several books with her original.  Yup it’s female.  I won’t say which character or which books I took her from but she appealed to me, even if I despised her for being the villain, because she was a strong, fiercely independent woman who went after what she wanted.  In much of the stuff I read, I don’t see a lot of that.  Or at least I didn’t used too, there are now books coming out or becoming popular which DO have a female like that.

Anyhow this character floated around my consciousness for years.  I never intended to use her; I just wanted to use elements of her.  Well when I decided to make my short story in to a novel, I needed to figure out exactly why the one character was where she was.  It occurred to me she was similar to the one I had read so many years ago.  So I used the other female as a basis for my own.  She is not a doppelganger by any means but if you put them side by side, you would notice how alike they are.

Am I worried about revealing this?  Not really.  Is she the only one?  Nope, I have others although none as heavily borrowed as my female.  I am trying to distinguish them in ways so that they do become my own characters and not a copy of someone else’s work.  Some characters this is easier to do than others.  For now though I will take my inspiration where I can find it and not worry about what someone thinks.

A Different Perspective

In the process of editing my novel I have decided to attempt for someone to read it and tell me where they think the story needs improvement; in a way, editing it themselves.  I am not looking for perfection as I know someone who has never done it before is not going to catch everything, but someone who hasn’t read it before will catch things I don’t see.

This endeavor has gained me little.  One person who read it said they couldn’t follow the storyline but nothing else.  I honestly fail to see how they couldn’t.  No that is not because I wrote it so I know the plot.  I have taken pieces of this to my writer’s group and they can follow it so obviously it’s not that complicated.  Another person finally told me she wasn’t going to read it because she thought I would get too upset with her when she handed it back to me with red everywhere.  I have since given it to two other people in the hopes that one of them will get back to me with something useful.

I need a different perspective here.  Yes the story is extremely unpolished but I want someone to tell me where they think it needs improvement before I change too much and have to rewrite entire chapters over.  Maybe that is unrealistic and even with their input I will have to later.  That is a bridge I would rather cross when I come to it now rather than worrying myself over the notion.

So tell me how to get someone to actually read the novel (everyone keeps claiming they want to before I give it to them) AND give me something I can use to make it better?