Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wishing You a Happy New Year!

Around here, all is still holiday hustle and bustle. There is still lots of visiting with family and friends going on, not to mention too much eating of too many Christmas cookies. So, this post is going to be short and sweet:

Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2012!!!

I have a bad track record keeping resolutions made on the cusp of a new year, so I make resolutions as I go along. However, I’ll admit that I am looking forward to a 2012 of writing and completing projects. I am also looking forward to reading lots of wonderful books.

How about you? Are you making any resolutions for 2012? Dare I ask if you kept those you made for 2011?

Happy, happy New Year !


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rainy Days, Lost Luggage, and Tangled Lights

Maya Angelou said this: "I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage,

and tangled Christmas tree lights."

Now that the holidays are upon us, I’ve dealt with two out of these three in the last few weeks. Happily, not the lost luggage. Although, it’s not hard to imagine how I would handle this—with lots of frustration, especially if I had a work in progress or even a good book in the missing bag. However, I’d be reminding myself not to kill the messenger. The person delivering the bad news that my luggage went missing in action probably wouldn’t be the same person who hurled my bags out the back of the plane somewhere over Missouri.

As for a rainy day. . . Well, if I have the luxury of staying inside and I have my good book and my trusty laptop (assuming they didn’t get lost with the luggage), bring on the sloppy weather.

Christmas lights are another story. No matter how hard I try to wrap these little buggers while taking them off the tree, they somehow tangle themselves in the basement from January until the following December. Every year I curse them and call them ugly names. It doesn’t help that while unknotting and detangling, I am thinking about how much writing I could be getting done.

What conclusions might Maya Angelou draw from these scenarios? Probably that I adore writing, revising, and reading enough that I get cranky when life keeps me from indulging in them. Something tells me she’d understand.

How about you? How do you handle rainy days, lost luggage, and tangled lights? What does this say about you?

Wishing all of you a very merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What’s In a Name?

I have the hardest time naming my characters. The only thing more difficult for me is coming up with a title for a manuscript. Pure torment. I feel clumsy and awkward as I pound my head against my desk in search of the perfect character name. And why not? Names tell us so much about a character that we’re reading about. The greatest of writers have sculpted the greatest of names. Think Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter books. When I read that name, I think Dracula or dragon, and malice or malformed. As another example—Snape. It sounds like snake, don’t you think? Or consider Ebenezer Scrooge. If someone suggested you have dinner with an Ebenezer Scrooge, I bet you’d think twice before accepting. I would. Yet I wouldn’t hesitate if the name happened to be Stuart Little, even before realizing that he’s a mouse.

When I am trying to come up with a character’s name, I try to channel Charles Dickens, but that doesn’t usually work. So, I try a few other techniques beyond the baby name books and the telephone directories.

I brainstorm and scribble down words that come to mind when I think about one of my characters. Then I mix and match parts of these words to see if something interesting pops up.

I search out names on the Internet. For example, I might do a search for names of famous warriors if my character has a strong and aggressive personality, or names of chefs if he or she loves to cook. By the way, did you know that Draco was the name of a 7th-century Athenian statesman and lawmaker responsible for a code of laws that prescribed death for almost every offence? Something tells me J.K. Rowling knew this. Anyway, you get the idea, but I should add that I will often play with the names I find to make them a little different. Draco isn’t obvious, but Zeus and Thor are.

Year books, the Bible, dictionaries, and encyclopedias can also be great resources for names, but again, sometimes a bit of editing and word play may be required to nail that perfect name. And speaking of word play, why not check out the meanings of mundane names in other languages to add a bit of spice? Did you know, for example, that Antonio Banderas translates to Tony Flag?

What are some of the greatest names that you’ve encountered in stories?

If you are a writer, how do you come up with great names?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When to Ask What

I’ve heard authors say that as they write, they ask themselves what their readers want from the plot and characters at each moment or scene of the story. I find this admirable. I’m not surprised that writers care this much about their audiences and are passionate about giving their best. But. . .

I don’t obsess in this way. I don’t ask myself what potential readers want from plot and characters while I am beating at the keys of my laptop. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this or blog about it. Believe me, I do care a lot about my audience, really I do, but once I’m writing the first draft of my stories, I don’t ponder what the readers want. There is too much else going on in my brain. I am too immersed in my story and my characters while I am scraping out the first draft. I am right there with those characters, getting to know them, going through the motions of the story, tripping over road blocks, living the moments. To consider the audience too much would yank me out of this story world. A sports commentator might say I’m “in the zone.”

I do, however, consider audience during my first step--when I’m outlining and crafting the skeleton of the story. Does that count?

As a reader, can you tell when an author has been keeping you in mind?

If you are a writer: At what point do you ask yourself what your readers want? Or do you ask yourself this at each moment and scene of the story?