Writing Tip

hello-1502386_1280Naming Names

“There was a boy called  Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”            C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

An author can say so much about a character by simply choosing a suitable name.  In the sentence above, readers know all they need to about Eustace.  It is one of my favorite opening lines and character desciptions.

I thoroughly enjoy making up names for characters.  I am interested in names in general and have been since I was a kid.  Back then, I loved making up names for imaginary people — good training for a fiction writer.  I also liked looking up what names meant and from what language they originated.


The name of a character provides an image of him or her as much as the author’s description of the character’s features.  If I created a powerful family with a long history of political connections, I couldn’t use a name like “Yokum”.  That name has been used too much to label a character as rural or rural and poor.  Names like “Arlington”, “Stone’, or “Pierce” makes the family sound powerful.

If I named a character who is a free-spirited young woman, I wouldn’t use anything as common as “Sarah”, or “Jane”, or even “Madison” or “Mackenzie”.  Nature names, by “nature”, sound liberating and original, unless they are well-known ones like “Rose” or “Dawn”.  A name that is hardly used anymore, like “Cassandra” or “Felicity”, might also work.

Sometimes you can choose a name that means the opposite of the qualities your character possesses.  A free-spirit named Sarah might mean that she wants to break free from an ordinary past, signaled by her name, into a less conventional future.  But usually it is better to let the name work with the character’s features or personality than against it.

Next time, I will discuss some of my favorite sources for finding names, both first and last.

Writing Tip

keyboard-453795_1280Guest Blog

For the first time, I am a guest blogger on the site Word Sharpeners, a blog created by two writer friends Tamera Lynn Kraft and Carole Brown.  I hope you enjoy it.   (By the way, I have upgraded to contacts since my senior picture was taken.)

I have another link to another post on Word Sharpeners.  It list the expected word counts for different genres of fiction.  If you are interested in publishing your writing as a novel some day, you must know the acceptable words counts for it.  Agents and editors are only interested in words counts, not page counts.  I wish I has known what as the appropriate word count when I started writing my first novel.  It was already at epic length when I realized I would have to whack it half to make acceptable to publishers.


Writing Tip

download-1013983_1280Be an Expert on Your Own Back Yard

Another area where you can be your own expert is where you live.  It can be impossible to travel to far-flung locations to do research on a setting for story.  You might as well take the cheap route, research your own community, and see if that research spark any ideas.

If you like history, research that aspect of your community.  Local libraries are great place to do local research.  They often have a local history room with sources you can not find anywhere else.  Many communities have their own historical societies.  Check out their resources.  Both libraries and historical societies may offer free programs on local history.  I have learned a lot about my town from attending programs at my library.  Reading through old local newspapers, which a library should have, can also stir interest.

But if history doesn’t spark any ideas, get to know your community as it is now.  Just driving around with your powers of observation turned to full strength will help you discover unique aspects.  Where I live, out in the country, there are a lot of quarries, some abandoned.  I got to visit an abandoned one.  Because of the digging, the landscape in the quarry is very different from the surrounding one.  It’s very stark, even bleak.  It would be a good setting in a mystery or a thriller.  Or, if you are writing about a character who is an outsider in his or her community, the quarry can serve as a symbol of the character’s differences.

My county has a split personality.  It used to be rural with a college town as the county seat.  The county seat still has the college, but the southern part is developing into enormous suburbs.  The north is still rural with farms and tiny towns.  A lot of compelling storytelling can come from creating tension between the two disparate communties.

Even if you live in a big city, like New York or Los Angeles of Chicago, which are often the settings for stories, you can find smaller qualities about it that aren’t well-known.  And since you are unique, you can take even well-known parts of city and write about it with your own personal touch.

For another use of historical research, read this article by my friend Sandra Merville Hart.



Scripture Saturdays

bible-1846174_1280One Last Resolution

I like this article from Almost an Author.  It reminds me why Christian writers write.  I have tried to be diligent about letting God lead me as I started this blog, and this article underlines the importance of that diligence.

Writing Tip

download-1013981_1280Be Your Own Expert

Another way to bring authenticity to your writing is writing about what interests you and educating yourself into becoming an expert.

As I said in an earlier post, I worked in public libraries for years.  Using one as a setting  would be easy for me.  I am also interested in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the 1930’s and 40’s.  If I wanted to set a book in this period, I would happily do more research because it is a subject I am already interested in.

If you choose a subject you aren’t interested in, it will be difficult to write about it with any enthusiasm.  I once created a character, a teenage boy who earned money working on cars.  It was a dumb choice.  I knew nothing about cars (still don’t) and had no interest in them (still don’t as long as they run when I want them to).  It just didn’t work.

I love horses.  So creating a family that runs a business with horses came naturally.  I also made some characters of that family farriers.  Now I know nothing about the blacksmiths who shoe horses.  But I am interested in that skill, so when my library had a program featuring a blacksmith, I was eager to ask him questions.

If you are writing nonfiction, writing about your interest should be easy and your desire to learn more a given.  If you blog about the adventures of your pet, read up on the animal’s history as a pet, how the animal acts in the wild, unusual facts about it, anything to add to your knowledge

Become your own expert and enliven your writing.

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