What’s in a name? Choosing a Name for Your Fictional Character

Melissa Janda - A Time to Write

NN is for Name

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~ William Shakespeare

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

What do you think? Does the name matter that much?

J.K. Rowling was a genius at naming fictional characters. Let’s look at a few:

• Albus Dumbledore
• Sirius Black
• Hermione Granger
• Bellatrix Lestrange
• Draco Malfoy
• Lucius Malfoy

The names are unique, so they make a lasting impression, but it’s also interesting to note that the meaning of the names fit the role of the characters.

These characters often acted…

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FREE for Kindle – Someday Always Comes

Someday Always Comes is up for grabs on Kindle this weekend, 4/26-4/27/14. I hope my readers will take the opportunity to grab a e-copy copy for themselves.

Thanks!…And Happy Reading.

http://amzn.com/B00B0HMZS2

The Three Dimensions of Character

Melissa Janda - A Time to Write

In his book Story Engineering, Larry Brooks says you should “imbue your characters with three very separate and compelling layers—dimensions, in this context—that are carefully crafted to bring your story alive with resonant emotional depth.” If you choose to wing it, you most likely will end up with characters who are as flat as cardboard cutouts.

 TT is for Three Dimensions of Character

What are the three dimensions of character?

Let’s take a look at the three dimensions of characterization as defined by Larry Brooks, using a character from Harry Potter—Severus Snape–to illustrate them.

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Creating a Credible Villain

Melissa Janda - A Time to Write

Today’s post is all about that character we love to hate: the antagonist, also known as the villain.

VV is for Villain

an•tag•o•nist noun an-ˈta-gə-nist: a person who opposes another person. Synonyms: adversary, enemy, foe, archenemy, nemesis, bane, competitor, rival, villain.

The antagonist can also be a group of characters (e.g., an institution) or a force (e.g., the weather), but for purposes of this discussion it will focus on the individual as the villain. Before we begin concocting our villain, we must understand the role the antagonist plays in the story.

What is the role of the antagonist?

The antagonist should serve as:
• An opposing force
• An obstacle for the hero’s goal
• A worthy opponent

The villain is one of the two most important characters in the story. Some believe it is more important than the hero. Without the villain, there is no opposing force to create…

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Why I Write

WHY I WRITE

James Funfer, author of Crystal Promise, tagged me for this Why I Write blog. I think I’m a little late in posting, and I apologize. Thanks, James, for including me. Check out James’ answer to these blog questions here: http://jamesfunfer.com/?p=499

 

Why do I write? I write for me. I write for everyone. I’m an artist and I must paint upon that white sheet of paper or go insane. I mostly write because I’m emotional. I write to lament. I write to vent. I write to smile. I write to cry. I write to brush off the day’s bad energies. I write to kill people. I write to save people. I write because I can. I can make you into a character, put you in to a story, and make you or break you. I can make you a beautiful hero with a fast car, a big gun and a loving son. I can turn you into a talking cockroach with mayhem on his mind or a wise own hooting the protagonist on to victory. Maybe you’ll be an antagonist with a missing eye and brown teeth, who suffers from a bullet lodged in his femur which makes him forever cranky and drunk on Oxycontin. I can turn you into Jeffrey Dahmer or Ghandi. No one’s safe.

And what I mean by the term “you” is you, my readers. You can run but you can’t hide when the devil’s by your side. 😉 You will experience firsthand what I create. That is why I write. I want you to be able to live each of the lives of the characters I paint.

I enjoy writing. I also hate writing. I love it when it works out. I enjoy the thrill of chasing the words for the next scene. I hate it when I think I have a fabulous idea that turns out to be crappy. I want to jump off a cliff when I create a hero or a villain that just sits around, hanging out on the pages waiting for me to do all the talking. Say something you rotten character! You’re supposed to be the one doing the writing.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I have several projects going and some are coming along better or more steadily than others. Among them, the sequel to Someday Always Comes titled The Devil Plays Dice. I had hoped to have it done by summer’s end but other stories grabbed my attention more strongly. I moved the date to late fall, but now I’m not so sure if it will see publication before the winter holidays.

I’ve been brushing up and adding to a manuscript called Storm Dwellers that I completed some time ago for a contest. I have edited it a bit and now I’m adding scenes. I hope to have this published by October in time for Halloween and the holidays. I’ve already mentally developed the cover. I am also looking for there to be at least one sequel to this novella.

I’ve been doing research for a book I have a few chapters done on, Angel Maker, which is the first book in a series called Sheriff’s of Roberson County.

As you can see, I am…er, or could be…busy with writing projects often, however, that old crazy thing called life gets in my way. I hate that! Plus, I’ll admit that I am a procrastinator and I will simply and honestly state that I find myself a lot of good reasons not to write.

HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

Firstly, I like to write in the First Person, as Someday Always Comes and its soon-to-be sequel, The Devil Plays Dice, are written in. I find it easier to relay emotions of a narrator to readers. However, while I know many genres can be written in this way, we chance having all narrators sound the same across different books and genres after awhile. Well, that’s my fear anyway. But I feel my ability to be a powerful First-person writer is a gift I possess that not every writer can pull off. No, I don’t mean to sound uppity or crass.

I try to focus more on character development. I feel that one can write a great storyline but if the characters are one-dimensional the story doesn’t matter. I hate things that are cookie-cutter. I want my characters to explode off the page and into your presence. Please believe me when I say that this is not easy to achieve nor will I also be able to accomplish it. And if they aren’t explosive, I want at least one character from every story to be memorable to a reader. Some readers may like one character more than another, etc., but if you love even one, then I’ve been successful.

In fact, I am currently wrestling with the memorable issue. If the character doesn’t have flair, or habits that make a reader tilt their head in wonder, then I haven’t done my job. If my reader doesn’t look at the character of one of the people in my book and think, “Why do you always do that to her?” or “Why do you always walk away like that?” etc, then I haven’t accomplished much. I can’t say this should happen with all characters – and as we know, love of character is in the eye of the reader, but I believe the main players have to be remembered by something they do or say. Or, the cookie-cutter character must suddenly come alive with such fierceness that the reader has to rub their eyes.

So for me, I believe that what the characters in the story do and say can be more compelling than a good plot and I have readers that agree with me and have commented very positively on my characters. Regarding Someday Always Comes, one reader commented on Amazon that “We could all learn something about character development from this author and I expect to see more of her writing in the future.” ~by authorpholloway. That makes me very happy that any reader, especially a writer, would say that about my work.

WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?

I write parts of me. My stories can stem from any phase of my life. Sometimes I write to protest. I honestly do not have just one reason. I get this uncontrollable urge to do it and I never know until a bit of time has passed why I am writing what I’m writing.

I am also a people watcher and a storyline or character can come from someone walking down the street, or two people talking at the post office. Maybe the news may prompt an idea.

I write in several genres of fiction and poetry styles. Someday Always Comes started out as women’s fiction and rounded itself out into coming-of-age, young adult and new adult fiction. Angel Maker is thriller and somewhat of a police procedural. Storm Dwellers can be considered young adult and horror or fantasy.

I am also working on a vampire tale, and a romance. So there ya go! I’m versatile.

When it comes to poetry, I really do not follow form and style unless I force myself to. My poetry comes from a different place than my fiction. Most of my poetry is more autobiographical and fueled by my emotions that stem from some occurrence or life situation, even from my spirituality. The words can come from love, happiness, anger, jealousy or revenge, among other things.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

My writing just flows. I am an organic writer, which in my opinion means I rarely do outlines or any synopsis before I write. I may jot notes and scenes. I may write down a line of dialog to later add to a story, but I couldn’t write an outline if the USA’s national security depended on it! I just can’t. Now I have sorted out a character’s personality on paper or his history. I’ve kept track of genealogy as well. But to do an outline is wasted time in my opinion because no one sticks to that old thing anyway. It’s just another means of procrastinating. I just sit down and write it. I open the story, build the scenes, and end the book. It’s over.

As for synopses. I know writers who have written them before hand. I can write one after using the manuscript as reference! 😉 Even then, writing my own book report causes me to want to run off into the great blue yonder screaming like a madwoman.

Now, don’t go far!…I’m tagging writer AMBER SKYE FORBES, the author of a book I’m currently reading titled WHEN STARS DIE. Check out more on Amber and her work on her website: http://www.amberskyeforbes.com/. Also, check out her WordPress blog here: http://amberskyeforbes.wordpress.com/.

 

Happy reading!

My Favorite Teddy Bear – Easing the Memory of Abuse

 

 

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*April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month – According to ChildHelp.org, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds, and more than four children die every day as a result of child abuse.*

 

MY FAVORITE TEDDY BEAR – Easing the Memory of Abuse

 
The above image is of Sparkles. I got this teddy bear, if I remember correctly, for Christmas in 1979. Yes, I still have it. And I still sleep with it. No, I don’t cuddle with it. I don’t cuddle with it mostly because it’s so old, and has a music box inside. I picked Sparkles out of either a Sears or JC Penny catalog. Where I lived in Texas there were no department stores and we ordered a lot via catalogs. At that time, there wasn’t any mall, department store or even a “big box” store for about 70 miles.
When I got Sparkles, I lived outside a tiny town – it’s still a tiny town – called Bremond, TX. I lived in a modest, clean home on a then dirt road. It was peaceful there with moonlit, Milky Way Galaxy-filled nights with crickets chirping and cows mooing. I moved there to live with my mother and step-father. I was nine years old when I arrived in the summer of ’79, leaving the big city and it’s horrors behind.

 
This was not as big of a culture shock to me as one might think. I actually liked it. I had some issues with my past life in Chicago. Now, I know what you might be thinking. You might be wondering what past issue can a nine year old have? I’ll tell you, but many of you may not like the story.

 
You see, I was a victim of abuse. Not by the hands of my biological parents or my stepfather. However, my biological father was a bit dysfunctional and a drinker at the time, but he still was an okay guy for the most part. Very naive though. My father had custody of me and my siblings. My mother had a modest job, living in a no-bedroom studio apartment. She could not take care of three kids in a place like that. During the divorce, the judge was going to award my mother custody of us and our brick home in Chicago. However, at that time, the mortgage payments and taxes were way too high for her to handle. My father kept the house and because she could not give us a proper place to stay, it was ordered we live in the house with Dad. That is a whole other story on it’s own.

 
The couple years I spent living with my father are a blur to me now. Maybe because I was so young, or the household was so dysfunctional. My father, to the dismay of Mom, decided that my well-being would best be served living for a time under the care of my Godparents since my Godmother was mostly a stay-at-homer. My mother protested the idea, but in those days it was whole custody or no custody and my mom had very little say without an attorney. Plus this meant leaving Chicago proper and going to the suburbs and she hated the idea it would be so hard at that time in history for her to get from Chicago to suburbia to check on me.

 
So, I spent awhile living with a couple named Rose and Mike. At first, Rose and I got along quite well. Until her son decided – or rather imagined, that she preferred my company to his. This wasn’t true. But, you see, my Godparents were a pitiful pair. Their son, little Mikey Jr. – whose face I still want to smash in with a brick after all these years, was very jealous of me. He did horrible things to me, and played tricks that pissed off his parents and set up the crimes to look like I did it. Yes, Mikey…those Gaines Burgers under my pillow were a neat trick. Rose, the Nazi, thought I was sleepwalking. Really? Well, that Nazi, Rose, locked me in my bedroom with a sliding lock mounted on the outside of the door. She loved me a lot, until little Mikey started his rotten tricks. And instead of getting to the bottom of things, she took what she saw as fact. When I asked her what I should do if I have to pee at night, she said, and I quote like it was yesterday, “Piss on the floor.”

 
So then started her little sport of holding my tiny hands over open flames of the stove, or forcing me to put them into the oven; calling me foul names like, bitch, began. I can’t remember what year it was, but I imagine I was somewhere between 1st & 2nd grade. You see, I cannot remember. With the exception of the incidences that occurred, I cannot remember my age. I never asked my parents how old I was at the time these things happened when I lived at Nazi Camp Rose.

 

 
Now I have no problem posting their names here…Rose & Mike Gregor (maybe not spelled correctly) and their stupid little boy who used to hit me with extension cords and knocked me down and kick snow in my face…actually kicking my face in the process. Hey Mikey…I’m all grown up now, bitch. It’s a small world and I hope I don’t ever see you. And I hope you are not abusing your own kids.

 
I was but a baby. I was a baby, baby, baby…you ruthless bunch of Nazis. And I say this because that bitch, Rose, was right out Germany and cold like a stone. Now, do not get me wrong, I have known many warm, friendly German people – this is not my opinion of Germans. It is my opinion of Rose based on how she abused me. This bitch was a nightmare. Yes…my Catholic Godmother. Rotten piece of shit. Even 30 years later, I hate your guts. I have never forgiven you, your stupid pansy of a husband, or that devil the two of you spawned. I will not forget either. But, I had to move on and work through the pain, the shame, and mostly, just the overall hurt feelings.

 
My father, who was a very good friend to my Godfather, Mike, who by the way, had little to do with what happened to me. He did not participate and I never felt he condoned it. But that Nazi & her dirty little boy ran the house and Mike did what he was told. I will never forget the day he placed that lock on the outside of my bedroom as I sat on my bed crying. The look on his face when his eyes fell upon me. He went out later. And I bet I know where he went. To the tavern. Or to the other woman. I also know that he knew if my Dad ever found out, he would’ve shot Rose Gregor dead. And yes, he would’ve. My being a frightened baby, and later the burying of the entire incident into the dark crevices of my mind and heart, are the only reasons that bitch lived.

 
My mother on the other hand had the instinct. She told my father that if he didn’t take me out of that house she would and he wouldn’t like what would happen next. My father picked me up and I was never the same. I never spoke of these incidents to my dad until I was about 20. We were in the car driving by the street where I lived with that ogre and her devil son. My father said, “I think Rose and Mike still live there. Maybe we should stop and see.”

 
I almost had heart failure. Goosebumps rose up, my mouth went dry. I started to cry. After all those years, the hell I endured the few months I lived in that hell came storming in. I blurted out all the horrors that took place in that den of devils. My father almost crashed the car.

 
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me!” Tears filled his eyes. “I’ll go find them. I’ll kill that whore.” I told him not to bother. There’s no way to prosecute the filth that late in the game either. It was hard to convince him to let it go.
Later I confessed these same things to my mother when I was about 28. My father told her about it at some point but I really didn’t want to talk about it. I actually had to get “help” in my late 20’s because I was still their victim. Sometime after that, I told my mother of the incidents that I endured under the care of Rose, the child abuser.

 
After I left that nightmare and moved back to my father’s house, I felt better but the fear that he might send me away again was always present. My father met many good women over his later single years, but he never could procure me a nice stepmother who could put up with his antics and drinking. My mom, however, did find someone who was the opposite of everything I’d ever known. A quiet, gentle person. They got married and in January of 1979 moved to Louis’ hometown of Bremond. They had a new home that they built on the outskirts of town on an acre of land they purchased from Louis’ brother. Louis had a farm as well only a couple miles up the road.

 
My mother came and took me away from my father and I went to Texas in July ‘79. I was afraid of the new place, yes. I was afraid of the very foreign Texas kids who went to the school in the small Catholic school, St. Mary’s, that I attended. But I loved those Texas nights with inky-blue skies that turned purple in the twilight. The smell of fresh-cut hay still takes me back to the best days I ever lived.

 
I felt lost trying to rebuild my world at nine years old. And a few months later, Sparkles came to me at Christmas. It was the first teddy I had in a very long time, since my brother ripped the arms off my panda when I was only about 6-7. That’s brothers for you! I never again felt lonely, or vulnerable. Sparkles was there with eyes wide open at night, keeping watch for human predators…and dare I say Texas-sized spiders ! 😉

 
After Sparkles came my lavender-colored bike. Me and the spirit of that bike explored many places together, sometimes with Sparkles on the handle bars. We climbed trees, hunted scary spiders, picked dewberries, and rode the long trip into town.
But my Sparkles, she was the teddy of the house. Easing my memories of abuse at a time when I still dare not tell another soul, except Sparkles. Oh, the secrets she kept. And no matter how many stuffed animals came after, she was my favorite. My protector. Sparkles, who came alive at night to watch for scary things after I fell fast asleep. Still to this day, my teddy bear sleeps with her eyes wide open! Now going on 35 years old, age and a glued-in eye do not hinder her in watching through the night for spooks, spiders and Rose.

 
When I die, Sparkles will die with me. She won’t have to watch any longer.

 

Creating Character Names

Good advice.

Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors

What’s in a name? Contrary to what William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo & Juliet, a name can say a lot about you. Certain names have certain associations or ideas linked to them. A character’s name can excite, terrify, or bore a reader (can you imagine Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes sounding interesting if their names were Roger Wilkes or Hugh Liddell? I can’t). There’s a reason why parents obsess so much over a baby’s name. They know that, one way or another, the name they give their baby will have an effect on it. And as the parents of our characters, we authors go through a lot of work to decide on names for our characters.

Occasionally though, we end up stuck for a name. We can’t think of one, no matter how hard we try. And if it’s an important character, we can’t proceed until they have a…

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