Friday, September 16, 2011

Ephemera

I haven't gotten much novel writing done lately because settling back into school is eating up a lot of my time.  I have been writing, just for class.  I'm enrolled in a creative writing class and I've been writing so much for it.  It's great to have an outlet for all the other ideas in my head that don't have anything to do with The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends.  I've submitted 3 exercises and a 100-word story on an index card.  The last exercise hasn't been graded yet, but I got an A and an A- on the exercises and a check plus on the index card story, so there's that.  I've also been collecting dozens of names.  For future characters, future children, just for fun.  I love names.

Some of my favorites:
Delilah
Theodore
Delaine
Roxby
Britta
Minette
Persephone
Calliope
Verity
Odette
Brooke
Petra
Melisande
Belsante
Darby
Elodie
Jubilee (even though I usually hate word names, it just sounds so pretty and happy and, well, jubilous!)
Emmeline (like Emmeline Pankhurst)
Rory (especially for a boy, Rory Williams is a great role model)
Kylie

Do you collect names?  Do you have ideas for characters you'd like to write?  I was thinking maybe I'd post some of my shorts that I write for class.  Would you read them?

Stay Tuned.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Support


                Rachel Hawkins wrote a post (here) about what marrying well means for writers.  She didn’t mean marry rich, that’s an entirely different ballpark.  She meant marry well.  Marry deliberately someone who supports you.  And it got me thinking about what support means to different people.  For some people it means someone who will financially support you while you live your dream. For some people it means someone who will read every single sentence you write.  For others it means someone who will hug you through the rejections and rejoice with you when the requests come in.
                For me, the most supportive people in the world are my mom and my long-time beau Jon.   It’s been two and a half years since I fell in love with him, and he knows everything about me.  He’s read most of the things I’ve written in that time period and he’s always the first person I tell about a new project.  He believes in me, he believes that this book will get published.  He believes that I will write more and more and keep on writing because guess what he understands about me?  No matter what else happens in life to change me, I am a writer, and I always will be.  Jon has faith in me like I never experienced until I handed him a story I’d written and he liked it. 
                When I asked him what it’s like to be with me as a writer his first response was ‘interesting’.  When probed he answered: “You get to watch the creative process unfold.  It’s really hard to explain.  It’s watching an artist at work.”  So there you go.  Nothing about the crazies.
                My mom on the other hand is a different sort of support.  There’s lots more yelling.  The past five years it’s been just my mom and me, now not so much, but those years gave me a strong bond with my mom.  We relied on each other a lot in a way a two-parent family or one with more than one child can’t understand.  We stretched our mother-daughter relationship to its limits, until we both thought it would break, and it never did.  My mom was the first person I let read my current WIP.  She’s my biggest cheerleader.  My mom does financially support me while I’m at school, so there’s that kind of support.  I also talk to my mom all the time, even when we’re a thousand miles apart.  Because my mom may not be my best friend, but she supports me no matter what I want to do.  She believes in me. 
                The kind of faith and belief in me that these two have is unbelievable.  It’s humbling, that’s for sure.  It’s intense and strong and it props me up when I think I can’t keep writing.  Find that person or these people who support you no matter what, and when you do, never let them go.



Stay Tuned.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Naming Your Characters


                I put a lot of thought into naming my characters.  I want their names to mean something, to be important.  They’re not always reflections of the characters, sometimes they’re reflections of their family, their place, their journey.  My WIP’s main character is named Serendipity Jones, but she gets called Dip.  I started off calling her just Serendipity, then I tried Sera but it didn’t fit the character.  Then the name handed me Dip, which matched well with her aunt Daff and her boyfriend Danny.  Dip and Danny sound like a cool couple.  Her sister is named Alliana, automatically called Alli.  She has never been anything else.  When I wrote Dip’s scene with her pseudo father, I discovered he called her Dippy as a kid. 
                I’ve written characters named Phoenix called Nikki or Nix or even Phee.  I’ve written girls named Alice and Sophie.  I’ve written girls named Elektra (a sister to Phoenix, her name was later changed to Elaine). 
                A character’s name, to me, is a symbol of who they are and what they’re going to do in the story.  I know some authors regard this as secondary to knowing every detail of your characters down to what they like best for breakfast (Dip – chocolate chip scones, homemade or from Connecticut Muffin on ninth avenue) but to me knowing their name is important.  Knowing what they want to be called, whether it’s a full name or a nickname, is important to who they are. 
                I’m a Name Nerd, I love reading meanings and derivations for names.  I spend a lot of time on Behind The Name, Name Candy, and Baby Name Wizard.  I own a name book and spend hours debating the perfect name.  For many of my characters their names are the start of their identity.  Dip came to me as Serendipity Jones, a long drawn out unusual word name anchored by a short, to the point, Welsh surname.  Sometimes a character comes to me fully formed but nameless and I have to try names on them like you would try on coats at a department store.   Sometimes the names they give you don’t quite fit and you have to find a reason.  Dip’s mother Americanized her name when she immigrated here, she had a very Celtic name and changed it to the simple Lyssa.  Dip’s bff had no name at all for a long time because I couldn’t find just the right name.  I’m particular about names, they’re important. 
                Names tell us something about characters.  It might imply where their loyalties lie, it might imply their national origin, it might imply their personality.  No matter what it is, though, names are meant to tell us who these characters are more than any physical trait does.  Being named Jennifer makes it clear a character is an all American girl more than being blonde with blue eyes.  Naming a character Ophelia implies a tragic end to anyone familiar with Shakespeare. 
                Naming a character is as intricate and intimate as naming a child, but we writers have one thing parents don’t.  Knowledge.  We know our characters.  We know their personalities, their professions, and their lives.  We know if they are good or evil, loyal or traitorous, kind or cruel.  We know if they’re a nurse or a shop owner, a begger or a billionaire.  We know them in a way parents of a newborn don’t.  We know their futures. 
                This should, theoretically, make it easier.  You know your character will be a loyal, generous nurse say, so you don’t want to name her Bellatrix or you know your character is a treacherous thief so you won’t name him Honorus.  There’s so much to consider about a name.  Do you want the reference to be obvious?  Say naming a faerie queen Titania, or less so, say middle naming a thief Oliver?  Do you want the name to have absolutely nothing to do with what your character does or who they are?  Do you want the name to reflect their background as Jones reflects Dip’s Welsh heritage?  Do you want them to hate their name and go by something else?  All of these are valid considerations when naming a character just as when naming a child. 
Further Reading:
BehindTheName.com
NameCandy.com
BabyNameWizard.com
You can also check out any author blog where they will undoubtedly have a post about naming their characters. 
One example of such: Reading Writing Rachel 


Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nom De Plume


                Many authors throughout history have chosen to write under a pen name or nom de plume.  Sometimes it takes the form of initials, like H.G. Wells or J.K. Rowling.  Sometimes it’s a part of their name being used as a full name, like Dr. Seuss whose given name was Theodore Seuss Geisel.  Sometimes it’s a wholely unrelated name, like Mark Twain or Lewis Carroll, whose given names were Samuel Clements and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson respectively.  Stephenie Meyer wrote once that she had considered the pen name of Morgan Meyer.  Anne Rice (given name Howard Allen Frances O’Brien) has written as Anne Rice, Anne Rampling, and A.N. Roquelaure.  Lillith Saintcrow uses her given name but changes it slightly when she writes her YA series Strange Angels to Lilli St. Crow.  Nora Roberts (given name Eleanor Marie Robertson) has famously written as J.D. Robb but also as Jill March and Sarah Hardesty. 
                I could go on and on and on but let’s stop here.  All of these famous authors have used names other than their given name, and they have all had good reasons for doing so.  Some were stepping outside their established genres, some were changing audience ages, and some were simply tired of their names.  Many writers choose to use a nom de plume to keep their personal life and professional life separate. 
                I choose to blog and write (and eventually publish, positive outcomes only) under Jeanni Grace.  I’ve used Jeanni Grace for several years.  I chose it because it fits me.  My personality is a Jeanni, not a Jean.  Grace is, to me, a feminine last name that represents me well.  It’s also a family name and my given middle name.  I don’t want my given name attached to my writing because I want to preserve a small amount of anonymity especially as I get older, go into the professional world, and have a family.  I don’t want potential future employers or grad school boards searching my given name, finding that I’m a writer, and questioning my commitment to my job or grad school studies. 
                Writing is very personal and it’s a very lonely vocation.  It involves being raw and pouring yourself into the stories you write.  It involves baring your soul to everyone who reads your work.  Sometimes it’s better to have a small buffer between your writing self and your professional self.  For most writers writing is a passion, something we can never completely stop doing.  But it doesn’t pay the rent, it doesn’t pay the medical bills, it doesn’t support us fully.  I write because I can’t not write.  Even if I don’t put everything I write down on paper, every story I tell myself on the metro or in a museum, even if I do put it down and nothing comes of it, I can never stop writing.  It’s who I am.  But it’s not my job, it’s not my whole life.  I do intend to have a job, a profession.  I want to dig archaeology sites and write long papers about Viking bones.  I want to work in a lab with ancient bones and eventually I want to teach at a university.  Along the whole way I will be writing.
                Do any of you write under assumed names?  Why?  Do you prefer assumed name, pseudonym, pen name, or nom de plume?  (I prefer nom de plume).  I’d love to hear from you.  


Further Reading On The Subject:
Rachelle Gardner:


Nathan Bransford:

Word Server Water Cooler:


Stay Tuned.