30 April 2015

The Zzzzz Factor

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

As we wrap up the A to Z Challenge, I thought I'd share an overview of tips to help you out with naming your characters. Because the last thing you want is for your readers to be snoring over your dull, predictable character names, right? Here are some ways to keep things interesting!!!

  • Just pick whatever name feels right for your character. Who cares if your book takes place in the 1600s where no one would ever have that name? It just makes your character mysterious!
  • Name some characters after celebrities. They’ll totally want to read your book if their names are in there, right? 
  • Always address the character by name in every line of dialogue. How else will the reader know who's being spoken to? 
  • Making up character names can be fun so why not do it all the time? It doesn't even matter which genre you're writing. Made up names can keep thing interesting! 
  • If you change your character’s name halfway through writing the novel, there’s no need to go back and replace it in what you’ve already written. It will keep the readers on their toes. 
  • Give each character about 10 different nicknames and use them randomly. 
  • Name the villain after your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Full, middle, and last. They’ll get the message. 
  • Give all of your characters unisex names and don't use pronouns. Your reader will be trying to guess your characters' genders through the whole book. 
  • To simplify things, have every character’s name start with the same letter. Heck, just give them all the same name.

I'm sure by now you've realized this was a joke. Most of these tips are horrible ideas that will never work. But hopefully this post didn't make YOU snore!! Congrats to everyone who finished the A to Z Challenge! We did it!!!

29 April 2015

You Can Call Me...

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

Having a name for your character is probably the most important thing to figure out. That name will be the most common way for the other characters in the story to address him. But another way to address a character is to use a title. Which ones you use will vary from character to character, and could depend on things like their gender, relationships, or profession.

The titles you'll use the most usually go with a character's last name. So if you're planning on using a title, you should probably figure out your character's last name first. You've got the basic four, of course: Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Ms. Mr. will be used for men, obviously, while the ones for women can depend on her marital status or personal preference. There will be plenty of characters and instances where you'll need to use these titles. Most kids will refer to their neighbors or friends' parents using Mr. & Mrs. Most teachers will also go by these titles (through high school, anyway). Basically any time a child has to address an adult, this is probably how he/she will do so.

A character may address an authority figure in the same fashion, such as a boss. These titles will also be used when someone is trying to be formal or professional, perhaps with a client. Using "Sir" or "Madam" is another way to address someone that doesn't actually use his or her name. Maybe your character needs to talk with a customer at their job and rather than forcing a name on the reader, this could be the easiest way to address them.

Plenty of characters will require a title in regards to their profession. If you're writing a mystery, you may have to use Detective or Officer before a character's name. There are religious titles used when addressing members of the clergy, such as Father or Reverend. A college teacher will most likely go by Professor. Doctor can refer to an actual medical doctor or anyone with a Ph.D. You may have had a few professors in college who demanded to be referred to as Doctor (I sure did!).

It all depends on your story how many different titles you'll need. You may have a Mayor, Governor, or President. A person's station in life could determine their title. You could also have a Lord or Lady, or royalty like Princess, King, or Queen. When addressing royalty, you may have to use "your Majesty," or "your Highness," rather than the character's name.

No matter what the situation, using a title will usually have a feeling of formality to it. Make sure the title you're using fits both the character it belongs to, and feels comfortable for the person saying it. Some situations may require titles, whereas others may not.

What sorts of titles pop up in your stories? Is that gif anyone else's favorite Reid moment ever??? (I'm sorry, I could only think of one real question. I need my coffee...)

28 April 2015

Character X

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

This is really an anti-name post. Most of the time you'll come up with names for your characters, especially the most important ones. But every once in a while, you may write a story where you don't have a name for your main character. Having a minor character or a character who only shows up in one scene with no name isn't really a big deal. The less we see a character, the less we're likely to care about him or what his name is. But not giving your main character a name can be tricky.

A nameless character will probably only work in certain circumstances. You'll want a good reason for doing so. It could be symbolic, maybe having something to do with identity or if the character feels insignificant. If you don't give your main character a name and you don't have a reason, it may come off as strange and unnecessary.

The format of your story will also help with how natural the nameless character feels. It will probably be easier to pull off in a short story because the reader isn't with the character as long and may not even care about knowing his/her name. If you're writing a novel, a first person narrator will probably be the best way to go. Unless another person is addressing him, he will be using "I" instead of his name most of the time, anyway. It may even take the reader a while to notice that you haven't given him a name. You can also use placeholders to refer to your characters: boy, girl, man, woman. Or perhaps their relationship to other characters can be used: father, mother, etc.

It can be a daunting task, but it's definitely been pulled off before. Just a few well-known examples of novels with nameless narrators or characters include Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. If you've read a book with a nameless character, did it bother you? How long did it take you to notice? Or did you notice it at all? If you want to use a nameless main character, it should feel natural and go along with the story you're writing. If you try to shove it in the reader's face, they may just find it strange.

Have you ever used a nameless main character? Read any other books that do so? 

27 April 2015

Zadekiel Release Day!

If you're looking for my A to Z post, click here. Hey, I can have two posts in one day if I want...

Today is the release day for Zadekiel, Book 2 in the Path of Angels series by the awesome Patricia Josephine (you probably also know her as Patricia Lynne!). I got hooked into this series with the first book, Michael, so I definitely wanted to help spread the word today! Patricia is here to talk about choosing the name for her main character (See? Everything ties together.), and you can check out my mini-review for Zadekiel below. Can this count as a "Hey, I Read Your Book" post? I'm gonna go with yes...Take it away, Patricia!

What’s in a name?

After Michael, I decided I wanted to find some more unique angel names. That’s a little tricky when I need archangel names. There aren’t that many. When I picked Zade's name, I hadn't really looked into the meaning, but it's interesting how his character developed and matches this.

Angel of Prayer
Zadekiel is an angel of charity, solace and gentleness. This loving angel radiates comfort to those who are afraid, wounded or grieving. He also kindles a desire for spiritual development in the human heart and is considered an archangel, governing over the order of Thrones and Dominions. He is present in the bible as the angel who prevents Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac to God. He guards the powers of invocation.
*    *    *

The path is lost.

With Michael gone, the mantle of leadership falls to Zadekiel. In this time of darkness, with tempers running short, Zade struggles to guide his brothers. Hope comes in the form of a green haired woman with a unique gift. She represents a way back to the path they lost when Michael disappeared.

Zephyr fills books with cryptic poetry, a powerful compulsion, which is more a curse than a blessing. With no control over her ability, she struggles to live a normal life. When she meets Zade, he insists her ability is a gift from God. Reluctantly, she agrees to join the cause–it’s hard to dispute a man with wings.

Now the path is found, but one question remains. Will it lead to further darkness?

Check it out on Amazon and Goodreads! Also pick up the first book in the series, Michael, here.

About the Author:

Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn't regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who.

Sarah's Review: 

Having loved the first book in this series (and also willing to read any and all types of romance), I was excited for the story to continue. The thing I really like about these books is the complexity of the relationships. In the case of Zade and Zephyr, the latter is an atheist who also has a compulsive urge to write, and the fallen are after the book she wrote. Not only does Zade have to protect her, but has to convince her of the truth and deal with his feelings for her. The relationship does have a bit of an insta-love feel, which can be hard to pull off, but in this case, I think it works, particularly because of Zephyr’s attempt at denying what is happening. The story itself moves along at a good pace, with a great mixture of action, suspense, and just a little bit of sexytimes. And (vague spoiler!) I was very, very, very happy when two particular characters popped in to save the day. The worst part about reading this book was reaching the end and not having the next one to read yet. Can’t wait for its release!

Also check out my review of Michael here!

What Does Your Name Mean?

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

There are plenty of things to consider when choosing a name for your character. You could think about culture and ethnicity, how popular a name is, or just how it sounds. If you want the name you choose to hold a little bit more significance, one thing you can do is find a name with a particular meaning. You can choose a name whose meaning reflects who your character is or even his place within the story.

Name meanings are almost as diverse as the names themselves, so there are many different possibilities for choosing a name’s meaning. You can pick a name that means light, dark, power, strength, hero, warrior, beautiful, friend, or lucky. Some names have meanings related to animals, like wolf, lion, or even dragon. Other name meanings are related to nature, like river, fire, sky, or moon.

The name could reflect a character trait, or the character’s actual role within the story. Maybe the name represents something that your character already possesses, or something that they will achieve over the course of the story. All of your characters could have meaningful names if you wanted them to. Your main character’s name could mean hero, while his sidekick’s name means friend, and the love interest’s name means love. This may be a bit obvious, but it’s just one way to look at how you can utilize a name’s meaning.

Of course, you don’t have to choose a name with a significant meaning, but it kind of goes along with the idea of putting symbolism in your book. You don’t have to do that, either. But if you do, it’s just an added bonus, something the reader may or may not pick up on. Pointing out a name’s meaning will probably feel silly within the story, so the only way a reader will figure it out is by looking it up. Most readers aren’t likely to do so, but those who make the effort will get a very awesome surprise.

Have you ever chosen a character name by meaning? What does your name mean? (Mine is princess!)

25 April 2015

Variety in Character Names

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

Chances are your book will have more than one character, and most of those characters will need their own names. Each name should work for each individual character, but you should also think about how all of your characters’ names work together. If you have characters who are constantly interacting, then their names should probably have some variety.

There are plenty of different relationships that could happen between different characters. You could have family, friends, couples, or just acquaintances. The closer two characters are, the more often they will be likely to interact throughout the course of your story. So their names will be on the same page. A lot. And if those names are too similar, it might confuse the reader.

There are plenty of ways to mix up the names in your cast of characters. Just having a variety of names with different syllables could help. A mixture of short and long names would feel realistic. Maybe some characters go by their first name, others have a nickname or prefer their last name to be used. Have a mixture of unique and common names. If every character has a long, extravagant name that no one’s ever heard of, the reader may get annoyed with reading these names. You also probably don’t want to have every character’s name start with the same letter (unless, say, it’s a theme within a family and they are the only characters).

It sounds pretty easy, right? There are, however, plenty of naming techniques to avoid. You wouldn’t want your characters’ names to rhyme, for example. Let’s say your two main characters are Matt and Pat and they own a cat and work in a hat shop. Ok, I kind of took it to the next level there, but it sounds silly, right?

Couples can also be tricky to name. You don’t want their names to be too similar, like Adrian and Adrienne, or even Michael and Michele. Or (and this should probably go without saying), giving them the same unisex name. It may seem cute at first, but the reader could have a hard time keeping track of which character is doing what. Which would make for very interesting sex scenes, but is something that’s just too confusing to pull off.

How do you maintain variety with your characters’ names? How do you come up with names for your couples? 

24 April 2015

Unisex Names

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

Most names will only work for one gender. Boys have boy names and girls have girl names. But this isn’t always the case. There are also plenty of names out there that can work for a boy or a girl. These names are called unisex names, since they are not gender specific. While some may be used more often for one gender than the other, it is still possible to use them for both. So why not give your character one?

An expecting parent may choose a unisex name because they really like it and it will work no matter what gender their child is. But as a writer, you already know the gender of your character. So why choose a unisex name? The simple answer is just that you like the name and it fits the character (or the character tells you his name and you have no say in it).

FUN FACT: Unisex names are illegal in Iceland (with exactly one exception). There are preapproved male and female lists made by the Icelandic Naming Committee.

There probably aren’t going to be a lot of situations where your story will require you to pick a unisex name for your character (unless you’re writing something where you don’t want your character’s gender known). Like most other names, it should just be because you like it. The way it sounds or its meaning should just fit your character. Trying to force meaning out of the fact that your character has a unisex name may actually be risky.

The name itself really should have nothing to do with the character’s gender, sexuality, or even just how they behave. For example, giving your girl a unisex name because she’s a tomboy. It’s perfectly fine to give her that name, but probably not to point it out, or to make it seem like your character acts this way because of her name. You may get a few readers rolling their eyes. 

A unisex name can be fun to use, though. Maybe you choose a name that’s usually a boy’s and give it to a girl, and maybe that just adds a bit of quirkiness to her character. Maybe two characters meet for the first time and one is surprised at the gender of the person they meet, having only heard their name. Hilarity ensues. Who knows?

WHAT I’VE DONE: Oh come on, do I even have to say it? Oh, all right, some of you may be new here…I feel like there should be fireworks or something…
*kicks muse* Weren’t you supposed to set up the pyrotechnics??
I’m pretty sure he’s faking. Anyhoo, my muse/MC has a unisex name: Jordan. I’m really fond of unisex names and I have no idea why. I’ve also used Madison, Cameron, and Jamie (I think that’s it…for now…). 

Have you ever given a character a unisex name? For a full list, check out Behind the Name!

23 April 2015

Twins, Siblings, & Families

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

There are plenty of characters who could pop up in your stories. More than likely at least one of them will interact with their family members. These characters could be minor or extremely important, depending on your story. So how do you name these family members? If your main character has a twin, sibling, or other family member, you could find a way to link those names together and make it more interesting for the reader.

Twins can be particularly fun to name. Their names don’t have to necessarily be related at all, but there are ways to connect them. You could have both names start with the same letter or be the same number of syllables. There are other tricks you could use, as well. You could find names that are anagrams of each other (like Amy and May), or even names that are the reverse of each other (Aidan and Nadia). Or you could look up name meanings and find two names that mean the same.

Also think about how connected your set of twins is. Are they extremely close or do they try to separate from one another and form their own identities? Is one good and one evil, or some other version of opposites? You could find a way to reflect that in their names.

WHAT I’VE DONE: In the untitled NaNoWriMo novel that never was, one of my MC’s, Gabriel, has a twin sister named Grace. I knew I wanted their names to start with the same letter. Of course, in my search for the sister’s name, I came across Gabrielle (or Gabriella), but thought that would be super creepy.

Like twin names, sibling names can but don’t necessarily have to be connected to one another. Some parents may plan their children’s names long before they even have them. But unlike twins, when the first child is born they aren’t going to know when or if they will have more children, or what gender those children will be. So most likely they will choose names for each individual child.

There are other ways to connect sibling names, though. You can have an entire family of names starting with the same letter. My maternal grandparents’ names both started with a D so they named all of their children with D names. You could also come up with themes for your fictional families. I once had a novel idea where three sisters were named April, May, and June. You could name a group of sisters after gemstones—Ruby, Jade, Pearl. You could name your characters after flowers, or give them all historical figures’ names. There are so many different possibilities for name themes. If you want to connect your sibling characters’ names, this is one way to do so.

Names can sometimes be a tradition within families. Children can be named for their parents, grandparents, or other distant relatives. Your main character could be the second (Jr.), third, or fourth in line of family members of the same name. How does having an inherited name affect his personality? Does he hate the name or is he proud of it? Does he have a different nickname to distinguish him from the other family members? Does he plan on passing this name on to his own child?

How do you name family members in your stories? Ever written about a set of twins?

22 April 2015

Some People You Know (and Their Names!)

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

There are plenty of places where you can find names for your characters. If you just look at things in your house—books, DVD cases, magazines—you’ll find an endless supply of possible names. But you may not even have to get up to come up with a name. If you had to make a list of the first names of every person you’ve ever met, how long would it be? You’d probably be sitting there for hours, right? So why not use one of those names?

This can actually be a bit tricky. If you think of a name and it just happens to be the same as someone you used to work with or was in your kindergarten class, you probably won’t have a problem. If it’s someone closer to you, it may be a bit harder. It depends on why you want to use this particular name. Does it have anything to do with the actual person, or do you just like the name?

If you’re actually trying to model your character after someone you know or have known (and it’s not a memoir), then it’s probably not a good idea to use their name. Unless, say, it’s your best friend and they’re totally on board. And of course, naming your villain after an ex can be extremely tempting. But it may be better to mold the character around the way the person behaves or things they have done, rather than using their name. 

On the other hand, first names should be pretty free to use. If it’s a name that everyone is familiar with, then it’s unlikely that you’ll get in trouble for using it. Especially if it’s somebody you don’t know anymore, or barely knew at all, and the character doesn’t actually resemble the person.

The problem for your character is that you have to separate who he/she is from the actual person whose name you’re using. If you don’t want this person’s personality traits influencing your character, it may be difficult if it’s a name that you automatically associate with someone you actually know. Try to think about why you want this particular name for this character. What does the name mean to you and how does it fit the character? Using a name that belongs to someone you know may not be the easiest thing to do, but if you really like a name, and it fits with how you see your character, go with it. 

WHAT I'VE DONE: Ok, this one's a stretch, but I do have a slight revenge based name. A minor character in UL, Brian, is very loosely based on a girl I used to be friends with (because teenage girls and boys go about things differently, so he really bears little resemblance to her). But I've kinda always had it in the back of my mind that he has the same last name as her. I don't actually use it in the story so I figure I can get away with it. But if anyone ever asks...

Have you ever named a character after someone you know? Did you just use the name or was the character like that person? 

21 April 2015

Research & Resources

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

Sometimes when you're naming a character, the name will simply pop into your head. Even when you find yourself this lucky, however, you may still need to do some research to make sure your name is accurate. And if you can't figure out a name, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you. Here are some tips and places you can go to help you figure out those pesky character names. 

Research Tips
  • Once you've figured out your character's full name, Google it. You want to make sure it doesn't belong to a well known character or a famous person. 
  • Make sure your character's name fits their ethnicity, especially their last name. If you haven't figured out your character's ethnicity, do some research on their physical traits to figure out where they could have come from. 
  • Also make sure the name you've chosen would actually be used in the time period your book is set. 
  • Check out name meanings to find something that reflects your character's personality, or just for that added bit of symbolism (there may be an entire post on this subject in the future...)

My Favorite Resources
  • Behind the Name: My absolute favorite name site. Each name entry includes the meaning as well as where the name came from and what cultures use it. You can also look up names from Ancient and Medieval times, as well as mythology. And check out their separate site for surnames
  • Nametrends.net: This site allows you to look up a name and see how popular it has been in different years. It also includes US maps to show which states the names have been popular in. 
  • Fake Name Generator:  This site generates a random name with an added bonus of an entire identity, including address, email, and mother's maiden name. It also lets you choose what culture/ethnicity you'd like the name to come from. 
  • Fantasy Name Generators: This site will create a fantasy name for every fantasy series, and can also come up with names for pretty much everything else you could imagine--places, pets, band names (wait a second! I'll be over here for a while...) 
What sort of research do you do when naming a character? Have any favorite naming sites?

20 April 2015

Quirky Names

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

You have a lot of choices when it comes to figuring out a character’s name. You can go with a first name that’s popular or common—one that everyone has heard before. Or you can go with something that’s a little more unique.

What exactly makes a name quirky or unique? It could mean different things depending on the name. There are plenty of names out there that aren’t as common as others. A unique name could just be one that you’ve heard of maybe a few times, but isn’t quite as popular as those names you tend to hear every day. Some names may be more common in different places, but unheard of in others. And there’s always the option of creating a brand new name, which could work depending on your genre or your character’s backstory.

So why would you want your character to have a quirky name? The good thing about a unique name is that it will stand out. People will remember it. It’s a great way to have your main character stand out right from the very beginning, and it may just give your character a little something extra to their personality.

The bad thing about a unique name is pretty much the same as the good thing. It’s going to stand out, meaning that people could question it if it’s really out there. This probably won’t be a problem if it’s just a name that’s fairly uncommon. If you choose a name that no one’s ever heard of, though, you’ll probably need to address it. The reader will want to know where this name came from and how it affects your character’s life. How does he/she deal with having this name? Is it something she embraces or does she hate it? A unique name could impact how a character sees herself.

FUN TIP: If you do want a unique name for your main character, it may be a good idea to give your supporting characters more average names. Your main character’s name will be more memorable than the others’, and it will make the characters more believable. If you think of the names of all the people you know—how many of those names are unique vs. average? There could be a mix, but there are probably more common names in that group. You’ll want your group of characters to be the same.   

Do you prefer quirky or common names? Have you ever made up a name? 

18 April 2015

Popular Names

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

There are so many different things that can influence how you choose a character's name. You may want to choose a name that is unique and interesting, or you may want to choose one that is more common and believable. It will all depend on who you want your character to be and the kind of story you’re writing. One thing you can take into consideration is how popular a name is.

Think about the first names that were popular when you were growing up. When I was in school, there were a lot of Ashleys, Brittanys, and Michaels, for instance. A popular name will probably come to mind first if you just try and think of a random name, because it’s probably something that you’ve heard over and over again. The more people who have a particular name, the more popular it is.

When it comes to naming your fictional characters, knowing which names are popular may help you figure it out. If your book takes place in a particular year, knowing which names were popular is important. Even if you want a unique name for your main character, you still have plenty of other characters who need names. Giving them popular or common names may make your cast of characters seem more realistic. If every single character has a unique or strange name, the reader could be thrown off. Popular names occur in real life, so they should probably occur in your story.

FUN TIP: The Social Security Administration keeps track of name trends in the US. If you want to see which names have been popular from year to year, check out their website!

So what causes trends in name popularity? Pop culture can be a HUGE influence on what people name their babies. If a TV show or movie is particularly popular, new parents often jump on the bandwagon and name their children after its characters. For instance, the name Arya was at #942 in the US in 2010. In 2013 it had risen to #277. Game of Thrones premiered in 2011. Coincidence? Not even a little bit. 

Movies, television, and books are constantly influencing name trends. The name Luke started to rise in popularity after the first Star Wars movie was released, and has been popular ever since. Willow gained popularity after Buffy the Vampire Slayer first premiered. Official 2014 numbers aren’t out yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Elsa is in the top 100 after the popularity of Frozen.

You can, of course, name your characters after other characters, although this can be tricky. But just knowing what names are popular can help you figure it out, whether you want a popular name, or even if you want one that isn't...

Do you choose popular names for your characters? Come back on Monday for pretty much the exact opposite of this post...

17 April 2015

Other Things that Need Names

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

Today we're going to play a little bonus level of The Name Game. This post isn't about naming characters, but about other things that may be in your stories that also need names. We've talked about people and animals, but what about all of the various objects that go by specific names? Coming up with names for these things could be as hard or even harder than deciding on a character name. Here are just some possible examples of things that you may want to name in a story. 

Places. If you create a fictional setting, you may need to name a town, country, or even a planet. Plenty of buildings and businesses will also need names: schools, stores, restaurants.

Groups and Organizations. Clubs and teams will most likely need names. If you’re creating a fantasy or even a cult story, you may need to name a religion. BAND NAMES (I still haven’t come up with a name for Jordan’s band. I’m avoiding it because I don’t need it right now and it’s the hardest thing ever.). And evil organizations, of course. 

Body Parts.  I know your mind just went straight to the gutter, but let’s not forget things like fists or muscles. Obnoxious? Yes. But do people do it sometimes? Yup!

Vehicles. Boats usually have names. So do spaceships if you’re writing Sci-Fi. Some people even name their cars (I named my car after a character in my favorite musical! Because that's normal, right??). 

Weapons. Lots of people name their guns, knives, and other weapons.

Other Inanimate Objects. Your computer, laptop, or phone might have a name (most likely so you can yell it when there are technical difficulties). Children will usually name their stuffed animals and other toys (I had over 300 stuffed animals and they all had names…and I knew every last one of them).

Really, anything could have a name if you wanted it to. You could have a character who names every dish, utensil, and piece of furniture, although that may get a bit confusing keeping track of all those names. Some of these things like places or organizations really should have a name if you want it to seem realistic, whereas something like a car or gun could just be an interesting character quirk. 

How do you come up with names for places or groups? Do you have names for any random objects?

16 April 2015


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

Pretty much everyone has had a nickname at some point in their lives, whether it was something your friends called you in high school, or just your significant other calling you “honey.” There are so many different ways to get a nickname, whether you love it, hate it, or just put up with it. Choosing nicknames for your fictional characters can make a huge impact on your readers. You can pick something that is significant to the character and shows who he is and how he lives his life.

A nickname can hold a lot more meaning than a first name. It’s most likely chosen or created by someone close to the person or even the person himself. It can be reflective of his personality, or something that he has done or has happened to him. A character’s actual name would be chosen by his parents before he’s even born. A nickname, however, is usually something that holds meaning to who he actually is as a person. It can come from his physical characteristics (like hair color or body type), his occupation, or where he comes from. Really, the possibilities for nicknames are endless.

There are plenty of ways to use nicknames within your story. Your character could already have it before the story begins, or something could happen during the story that causes its creation. Maybe something embarrassing happens that creates a nickname that continues to haunt him. Nicknames could be good or bad. A person’s friends might give him a nicer nickname, whereas people who aren’t that close to him could call him something derogatory. A nickname can be a great source of emotion for your character. If he hates it and has to deal with it on a daily basis, then that could just be another thing he has to work through during the course of the story. 

When you choose a nickname for your character, think about why he needs it, who gave it to him, and how he responds to it. All of these things will factor in to how significant the nickname turns out to be in your story.

Terms of endearment are another form of nicknames you can use. If you have a couple in your story, they most likely won’t refer to each other by their first names all of the time. They’d be more likely to use something like “baby,” “honey,” or “sweetie.” These terms are just something that will make the characters feel more realistic, because using them is something that we all tend to do. It’s also just something that hopefully the reader will find adorable when they picture these characters interacting.

WHAT I’VE DONE: Surprisingly, I haven’t thrown in too many nicknames into my fiction, but a few terms of endearment do pop up now and then. Tom repeatedly calls Jordan “gorgeous” in UL. In real life, my fiancĂ© and I call each other “sweetie” and he calls me “princess,” as well.

Have you ever given one of your characters a nickname? What do you call your significant other? 

15 April 2015

Middle Names

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

Most of these posts have been about first names, and yesterday I talked about giving your characters last names. Now there’s just one portion of a person’s full name that’s left: the middle name! Like the last name, the middle name isn’t always necessary to have for your fictional characters. It isn’t usually something that will pop up very often within the story. But it does help you form a stronger identity for your characters.

Middle names aren’t all that likely to show up within a story. Like real life, they’ll probably be used mostly when you’re in trouble with your parents. When you hear your full name, you know things are serious. Whatever reason you have for using a character’s middle name will vary from story to story. A character’s middle name can mean nothing, or it can be very significant, whether it’s through symbolism or just family backstory.

If you don’t end up actually using the middle name, choosing one can still be fun. Your character will feel more real to you because you know his entire name. So how do you choose one? A middle name can be something traditional within a family. The middle name Elizabeth has been passed down from my mother to my sister to my niece. I got my paternal grandmother’s middle name. Another common tradition is using the mother’s maiden name as a middle name. Or you can just choose whatever middle name you’d like. It can be as random or as significant as you’d like it to be.

You’ll want to think about how the whole name flows together—first, middle, and last. Choose something that sounds good and feels right to you for this character. There are plenty of possibilities when choosing your character’s middle name. Some people have more than one middle name. Historically, having a very long name shows a higher rank in society. Some people choose to go by their middle name rather than their first. Maybe your character hates his first name or is named after a family member he wants to forget. Middle names don’t have to be useless for a character. They can hold some significance as well.

WHAT I’VE DONE: I’ve only given four of my characters middle names, but for some reason, Jordan’s was the hardest to come up with (he couldn’t just tell me because he wanted to be a jerk, apparently. *snort* Muses…). For a while I knew I wanted it to start with an M and eventually settled on Mason, and created a whole backstory for it as well. Mason was his grandfather’s name and would have been his, too, if his grandmother had her way. Since his mother hates her parents, she never uses his middle name. I can picture her starting to yell at him, screaming, “Jordan M—” then getting thrown off and forgetting what he had done to get in trouble in the first place.

Do you give your characters middle names? Where did your middle name come from? 

14 April 2015

Last Names

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

When it comes to naming a character, the first name is most likely going to be the most important thing for you to figure out. But if you look at your characters as if they were real people, then their first names really only make up part of what their full names should be. And if you want your character to feel like a real person, then he should have a last name. 

Of course, last names usually won't be as important as figuring out the first name. It won't be used as often. Depending on the character, it may not be used at all. Every single character who pops up in your book doesn't necessarily need a last name. It would probably be distracting trying to keep track of all of them. Your minor characters probably don't need them, but it's probably a good idea to give last names to your main characters. It may come up, and it may not, but it's good to have it in the back of your mind. 

You probably won't be as passionate about a character's last name as you will be about their first, and that's perfectly fine. It doesn't always make up a huge part of their identity like a first name does. It can be something common or generic and still not make the character seem boring. What it really does is make them feel like a real person. Even if you don't use the last name, it's a good idea to know it so they feel more real, more concrete in your mind. And if you need to sneak it in somewhere, then you already have the name on hand and don't have to spend a lot of time searching for one. 

FUN TIP: Can't come up with a last name? If you've got a phone book lying around (yes, they still exist...), close your eyes, pick a random page, and point your finger somewhere on the page. If you like the last name you land on, use it! 

So when will you actually use a last name within a story? Some people go by their last names more often than their first. At my last job, pretty much everyone called me Foster. So whether your character goes by his first or last name can depend on where he is and who he's with. His family will most likely use his first name (or his full name if he's getting yelled at, but more on that tomorrow...), but maybe some of his friends call him by his last name. 
It can also come up when mentioning family members. If your MC's parents are constantly being referred to as Mr. and Mrs., then obviously you need to know your MC's last name. You'll want a last name that actually fits with the first. They shouldn't have similar letters or sounds, or both have a ridiculous amount of syllables. You'll really just want them to flow together, to actually sound like a name that someone would have. 

WHAT I'VE DONE: I only gave the two main characters in Uneven Lines last names (plus the MC's mom, of course). One of Jordan's friends, Brian, pretty much always calls him by his last name, Palmer. I don't even know why. He's just one of those guys, I guess. 

Do you give your characters last names? Has anyone ever called you by your last name? 

13 April 2015

Killing the Name

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

Sometimes a character’s name comes to you right away. Other times you have to research it, go through countless lists of names before you find the right one. No matter what works for you, at some point you will choose a name for your character and you’ll start writing. Sometimes, though, you may discover that the name you chose is no longer working, and you have to change it. This can be devastating, but if you feel it’s necessary, it may be the only choice to make.

There are plenty of reasons why a name won’t work for a particular character. If the names of all of your characters have too many similarities (same number of syllables, starting with the same letter), it may be smart to mix this up a bit (I’ll have a whole other post on this subject for the letter V). Maybe the name is too similar to someone you know or someone famous. Or maybe the name just doesn’t feel right. Every time you write it, it just feels off. It doesn’t fit the way you picture this particular character.

There’s also other people’s perspective on the name to consider. If you have one person read your work and they don’t like a name, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change it, unless they give you a good reason. If everyone you have read it hates the name, and their reasoning makes sense to you, then you probably should take it into consideration. Ultimately, though, the choice to kill a name is totally up to you. If you love a name and think it’s working, then stick with it.

WHAT I’VE DONE: I actually need to rename a character who is in my sequel ideas for Uneven Lines. The drummer in Jordan’s band so far has been named Joe, but I thought having two characters’ names start with the same two letters wasn’t going to work (and I certainly wasn’t going to rename Jordan!). I’ll probably pick another one syllable name, since the other two guys in the band also have two syllables in their names (Eric and Adam).  

It can be difficult to change a character’s name when you’ve already grown accustomed to it. A secondary character may not cause you as much grief as a main one, but there is still a process to work through. You’ll have to consider everything about this character’s identity. Why wasn’t the name working? What sort of name will work? Will the new name go well with the other characters’ names? It may take a while to find that one perfect name, but it’s out there and you can find it.  

It’s kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid. Once you know you have to change the name, try to figure out the replacement as soon as possible. You don’t want to dwell on the decision or you may second guess it. Also, be sure any mentions of the original name are replaced with the new one. Do a search in your documents to find and replace them. You don’t want your character’s old name haunting your story like a ghost!

Have you ever had to change a character’s name? Why did it need to change? 

11 April 2015

Just Make Up a Name!

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**
Sometimes you may have a particular story, or a particular character, even, and no name on this entire planet seems to work for them. Maybe they don’t even live on this planet and that’s the problem. Maybe they’ve just got really wacky parents. For whatever reason, sometimes it’s necessary for you to make up a name for your character.

Of course, there are only a few times that you’ll be able to get away with making up your characters’ names without the reader thinking you’re crazy. Genre will usually be the deciding factor. If you’re writing something that is Fantasy or Science-Fiction, for example, you could definitely get away with making up your character names. If you’ve created a world that is completely separate from the real one, then it would make sense for this world to have its own set of names.

So how do you come up with these made up names? It could depend on the story you’re writing. Maybe the universe you’ve created has a specific way of naming its people. Maybe they have a different alphabet. Or you can just put different syllables together until you come up with something that feels right. A name could reflect where your character comes from, or even have some symbolic meaning for what kind of character he is (good or evil, for example). You could incorporate different languages or even make up your own. You could just have fun coming up with your original names, or find a way to put some meaning in to it.

Your characters can have long, elaborate names, but if the reader has no idea how to pronounce them, it might trip them up. Try to make your names understandable and not something that makes the readers pause every time they come across them. You’ll want to avoid anything that makes it harder for the reader to just get through a paragraph.

If you’re writing realistic fiction, it probably isn’t a good idea to create a fake name for a character. If you do choose to do so, it needs to be explained. Maybe this character’s parents wanted to create a unique name for their child. It’s probably something that your character will have to explain to everyone he meets. Whatever the reason for having one, if you just leave a freaky name out there with no explanation, it may throw off the reader.

FUN TIP: If you have a non-fantasy character with a crazy, made-up name, maybe he gets really sick of explaining it to everyone he meets and adopts a more normal sounding nickname.

How do you come up with your Fantasy & Sci-Fi names? Do you find it easier to make up a name or find an existing one? 

10 April 2015

Introducing Your Character

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

So let's say you have a character, and that character has a name. At some point within your story, you're going to have to introduce this name to the reader. Your characters' names are a very important part of distinguishing who is doing what within the story. Before we really get to know these characters, we simply need to know who they are. Each character should be clearly identified before you get too in depth with the story. And each time a new character comes along, we should be given their name as soon as possible.

Ok, I realize this sounds like a no-brainer, and most of the time this will be pretty easy to do. But there are some things that could complicate it, and there are also ways to have fun with it.

How you go about writing your story will have an impact on where and how you'll need to introduce your main character's name. If you're writing in third person, it will most likely be very straightforward: "Bobby walked into the classroom." There--you've stated the name and introduced your character. If you're writing in first person, however, it may not be so simple. Just having a sentence within the narrative that says, "My name is Bobby," will most likely feel awkward to the reader.

Using dialogue is an easy and natural way to introduce any character's name. Maybe another character will call out your first person narrator by name. Maybe he'll need to introduce himself to someone. This will also work when you meet other characters along the way. If your narrator already knows a character, he could use their name when saying hello. If he doesn't know this person, then they can introduce themselves to each other.

FUN TIP/ WHAT I'VE DONE (yes, both!): Keep your main character's name a secret until an important moment occurs, such as when when your love interests meet (I love doing this!). That way the reader gets to learn both characters' names at the same time. Here's how my two characters meet in Uneven Lines, and it's the first time I used each of their names:

            “Hi. Jordan?” He smiled, looking down at the floor and then back at me. I was done for. I was probably drooling. “I’m Tom. Your geometry tutor?”
            Oh, right. Say something. “Hi,” I finally managed to choke, but I sounded like a frog croaking.

This is actually not the first time that I've saved the first person narrator's name for the moment when he/she meets the love interest. I just think it's a fun, cute way to introduce your characters. :)

Do you find introducing your characters' names easy or a bit more difficult? How do you usually introduce a first person narrator? 

09 April 2015

Hey, You! Calling Out Your Characters

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

Today’s post isn’t about coming up with a name for a character, but about how we actually use names within the writing. Whether you write in first or third person, characters’ names will pop up all the time. It’s important that the reader knows which character is speaking or doing the action. But what about within dialogue? How often should you use your characters’ names? And how easy is it to overuse them?

When you use a character’s name in the dialogue, it’s called direct address. This means that the speaker is directly addressing the other character by name. This is mostly used when you’re trying to get someone’s attention or starting a conversation. It’s something that’s very easy to overdo. We may want to use our characters’ names over and over again in the dialogue, whether it’s to keep things clear for the reader or just to provide emphasis.

So how do we know when to actually use a character’s name? Think about all of the times you actually say someone’s name throughout the day. Is it a casual part of conversation, or is it just when you’re trying to get their attention? I know I hardly ever call my fiancĂ© out by name—
usually when he’s doing something like walking the wrong way or about to step off a sidewalk into oncoming traffic (yeah, that actually happened once). I’m sure parents use their children’s names a lot more often than anyone else, whether it’s to yell at them or just call them downstairs for dinner. But really, when do you use a person’s name? And more importantly, when should you use it in your writing?

FUN TIP: Pick a person you talk to regularly and make a mental note of how many times you actually say their name in one day. It’s probably lower than you think.

A character’s name really shouldn’t come up all that much within the dialogue. Take this little snippet of an argument, for example: 

“John, you really screwed up.”
“I know, Mary, but what do you want me to say?”
“You could just apologize, John.”
“All right. Fine. I’m sorry, Mary.”
“Now, really, John, was that so hard?”

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? You most likely would never use direct address so much, but do any of these sentences really need it? If you cut out all of the names from that conversation, wouldn’t it still get the same point across? If you already know who is speaking, using it within the dialogue probably isn't necessary. If you do need to point it out to the reader, it would probably be better to use it in a tag:

"You really screwed up," Mary said.
"I know," John replied, hanging his head.

From there on you wouldn't need to use the names again, unless someone else entered the conversation or if you insert some exposition between the lines of dialogue. This way, it's clear who is speaking, but the names aren't overused. The less you use your character's names, the more natural the dialogue will feel.

Do you try to avoid direct address in your own writing? When do you think names should be used in dialogue? 

08 April 2015

Trusting Your (And Your Character’s) GUT!

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

There are several factors that could go in to naming a character. You may need to do a ton of research to find that one perfect name. But there is another technique, and it is probably the most basic when it comes to choosing a character’s name. That technique is to simply choose a name out of thin air.

Whenever this happens, I like to think of it as the character naming him/herself. You as the writer didn’t actually create the character; you’re merely telling his story and since he is a real person, he already has a name. Seems a little silly, but it really does feel that way. At a certain point during the early stages of plotting the story, the name will simply pop into your head as if the character whispered it in your ear. And for some strange, magical reason, whenever this happens the name is always right and always perfect.

Now this is probably easier said than done and it most likely won’t work for every character you ever create. But some characters are special. Sometimes the name is like an instinct. You just know when it feels right. Trying to change it feels like it would break your heart.

How exactly do you make the magical spontaneous name happen? Well, it’s really all about luck. It could happen, but it’s not guaranteed, no matter how passionate you are about this particular story or character. If you really want to make it happen, though, I have a few tips. Try to tune out everything around you—no noise, no computer, no phone. Close your eyes and think about your character. Don’t actually think about names. You don’t want a full list to flood your brain—you just want that perfect one. Think about what your character looks like, his mannerisms, the different things that will happen to him in your book. Think about someone calling his name. Then, hopefully it will come to you.

WHAT I’VE DONE: If you usually frequent my blog, I know what you may be wondering. Did Jordan name himself? OF COURSE HE DID. I have no say in anything else he does; why would I get to choose his name? I have no idea where his name came from. It just popped into my head and was instantly perfect.

Do your characters ever choose their own names? What do you do to get your character to speak to you? 

07 April 2015

Freaky Name Coincidences, Part Four

Or better title, Attack of the Sequential Vowels!

If you missed out on the first three installments of my Freaky Name Coincidences posts (which you probably did if you’ve never been here before…), check them out here! These posts started when I realized that strange things tend to happen to me when I’m trying to name my characters. If I had 26 instead of 4 I would probably do an entire A to Z Challenge on them. Maybe someday. Since my theme is all about names, I thought it was a great time to share the fourth freaky name coincidence!

This one is tricky to describe because I’m not even sure how I figured out this was a thing in the first place. When you think about your characters’ names, you don’t usually think about the individual letters and how they relate to each other. Or how those letters relate to the letters in a different character’s name. But sometimes those names may have something in common, and you don’t even realize it.

I was plotting a book with every intention of writing it for the last NaNoWriMo. I got the first sentence down on November 1st and never wrote another word, but that’s not the important part right now. What I did figure out were the two main characters’ names: Gabe and Jamie. I wish I could remember the exact moment, or what exactly triggered this thought in my mind (because that would probably make this story more interesting), but at some point I started thinking about Gabe’s full first name (see my D post!), which is Gabriel. And then I realized something. The vowels in my two main characters’ (and love interests) names lined up perfectly:


It was an interesting coincidence. It only worked if I used Gabe’s full name, of course, but it was still there. What exactly did this mean? I had no idea, actually. I just thought it was cool. So I decided to examine my other book ideas. I looked at the characters in Uneven Lines, Jordan and Tom. Doesn’t seem so at first. But wait! Like Gabe, Tom’s name is a diminutive one (I really like using that term now that I know it…). What happens if I spell out the whole thing?


The vowels strike again! I was even more freaked out, especially because in no way did I do this on purpose. But I had to check one more time, to the characters who’ve been in my head since I was 14, Drew and Amber. I’ll spare you the diminutive speech again…


AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! It happened again! Or more accurately, it’s been happening for years! Not only are all the vowels in these characters’ names the same, but they’re in the same order. And for all three sets, it requires the full first names, not the shortened ones that I actually use. Weird and cool? Yes. But I have no idea what it means. Maybe these love interests are supposed to be soulmates? Definitely with one, nope nope nope nope nope with another, and the verdict is still out on the third, but probably. So that can’t be it. Maybe it’s just one of those things that sneaks its way into a story and maybe the reader will notice, but it’s perfectly fine if they don’t. It just makes things a little more interesting.

What do you think the vowels mean? Have you ever noticed strange patterns in your characters’ names?