The naming game . . .

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My writing has hit a wall! One made out of colorful Post-its, carefully pinned to the corkboard above my desk. I’m at that point in the story where it doesn’t feel right to continue calling the characters by generic names. That worked in the beginning for practicality and momentum. Not now.

This became painfully obvious when I introduced my lead character’s sidekick. Dialogue was stifled and lacking. Liveliness missing. He needed to be named, like all things created.

From this fantasy story’s conception, he’s been called simply, “Red Man.” It’s a literal observation. Similarly, other characters had/have temporary names, e.g. Yoda-like dude (short, wise, and speaks his mind). So, I pulled out the baby-naming books and my overflowing “naming” file—full of scraps scribbled with cool-ish names that I’ve come across. I find them everywhere: books, magazines, movies, the shoe boxes at Kohl’s, name tags of service workers, and even the yearly unclaimed money/property register. I do, however, draw the line at searching the obituaries. (That’s actually a story idea in the making, hmmm . . .)

But nada. Again, I’m at a standstill. I need the perfect name and it eludes me. A solid and strong name, perhaps one from long ago that can be resurrected and recycled.

I’d love to hear from other writers! What is your character-naming process? I’m especially curious how fantasy and/or other uncommon world genre writers come up with character names.

 

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Difference Between a Hobby and a Calling

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For the longest time, my husband has considered my writing a hobby, and often refers to his enjoyment of fishing as a comparison. This infuriates me, because writing, to me, is so much more. I believe it to be my calling. Something I don’t necessarily want to do, but rather its nagging and berating calls me to respond. To act, to write.

Anyway, after considering the matter, I’ve realized that perhaps I was not fully understanding the comparison. Indignation aside, I had quite the epiphany. What if I was only applying my own assumptions/perceptions of what fishing meant to me? I failed to understand what fishing meant to hubby. So, I thought about it . . .

He loves throwing a line into stilled water, watching the undulating ripples, anxiously awaiting that pull from the other end. He calls this time his peace. Mind roaming, relaxed, and embracing nature. So, I get that now. Maybe that was the intended comparison. I was simply hung up on the word “hobby.” Maybe I expected a more elegant lexicon to acknowledge my efforts.

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I mean, writing is a very internal process, requiring lots of snapping synapses to flick just right. It is hard, frustrating sometimes, conjuring up new worlds, or characters that actually think and feel and act in all sorts of crazy, human-ish ways. It can be exhausting. Whereas, fishing is an external interaction in the living, tangible environment—outside of self. Yet, in the end, both can provide the same result: a feeling of unawareness to the walls of everyday life that otherwise enclose us.

Sometimes, I think we all get hung up on the precise meaning of words, adding in our own (mis)perceptions too. We don’t stop to realize that not everyone shares the same experiences and interpretations.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

So, I won my first writing contest…

Contest Winners

Well, I won second place. However, it feels like I won it all, because, the true competition was within myself. See, I’ve been dabbling in writing for the last year and half, or so, unsure and uncertain—basically fearful of immerging myself completely. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I was wasting time that could be more productively spent elsewhere? Thankfully, the biggest “what if” unwavered: What if I don’t try?

This spring, after months of abandoning my writing, and then mentally beating myself up for not writing, I had an honest discussion between my heart and head. It boiled down to one statement: Either commit yourself to writing, or quit. I could not accept the latter. I just couldn’t let it go (I’m a bit stubborn). I’d heard the promised whisper of what should be, coming to me when I needed it most. Writing helped me through a very difficult time. And there I was, neglecting it and its purpose—and ultimately, myself. That had to change. I needed to banish the doubtful, self-contrived comments to the farthest reaches of my comprehension.

I also made the decision to re-start one of my several stories (all in various stages of development) and stick with it until the very end. No more daydreaming between various characters and worlds (unless something just happens to pop in my head). I’d be resolute, dedicated. I have to say, this obvious method is working, much to my chagrin.

Anyway, late one evening, while goofing off, I googled “writing contest.” I just happened to stumble upon Women On Writing! (WOW!) and saw that they had a quarterly flash fiction contest ending soon. From nowhere, a vision played out, a flash. Immediately, I wrote it down.

My inspiration: “The fair nymphs of this isle are in wonderful tribulation…” ~Francis, Lord Rawdon. I had recently heard/read of that famous British Army quote, from the Revolutionary War. It bothered me, or more precisely the story behind the quote’s meaning did. It angered me. Not because atrocities of that nature didn’t happen, or still don’t, but because it had occurred so freely on American soil. So, I envisioned being a mother with a young daughter to protect, and from that place of desperation, “Revolution” was born. And, in fact, it may become a full novel someday. 😉 Revolution
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Falling off the Wagon

Yes, I have fallen from that bumpy, rickety novel-writing wagon! It’s not such a far fall, really. It’s quite easy to accomplish when you’re not holding on. Just a small bump in the road or a tree blocking the way, that’ll do it. I could list a zillion real-life reasons: kids, my first dental crown (ugh!), keeping up with cooking, cleaning, and household duties, this blog/social media, kids, and kids. However, the reasons are but glorified excuses. I should’ve been holding on, keeping at least a pencil in my hand or a finger on the keyboard.

So, for ten days or more, absolutely nothing has progressed in my current novel. My characters are frozen in time, trapped, awaiting the keystroked words to come save them, carry them forward. Thankfully, I’ve developed the awesome habit of outlining, and with the help of many, many Post-it notes, their story is safe and ready for the telling.

I felt a pang of guilt last night when unwrapping my nightly morsel of Dove dark chocolate. It revealed the following message: “Keep the promises you make to yourself.” Yeah, I had promised to write every single day. But then, I have to allow myself some softness. Because looking at the myriad of excuses, I did accomplish a lot of somethings—just not writing. Although, I did write a little poem. In the end, I suppose we all have to decide what to do with the time we are given. (I think I just re-worded my favorite Gandalf quote!) 😉

Today is a new day, and I will begin again!

“Man starts over again every day, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.” ― Emil Cioran

Fight the Fear

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I took that sage advice today. I spent the morning and afternoon at a writer’s workshop. Although I’d attended a similar event a while back, and enjoyed it, I was in a nervous frenzy, having ongoing debates to cancel. Turn back, go home! These thoughts also seemed ridiculous, considering I’d stayed up past midnight waiting for the online registration to open weeks ago.

My angst was stemming from the workshop’s description: a writing workout to “tap into memories for inspiration.” That last bit had subconsciously echoed through my thoughts all week, causing my heart to race. Belly to flutter. The fear of disclosure petrified me. I’m an introvert, peacefully quiet and shy. Reticent. It takes a lot to reveal my own deep thoughts aloud. So much easier on paper! How could I possibly open up to a room full of strangers in such an intimate way?

Thankfully, through positive thoughts and fear-pulverizing quotes, I pushed through the week and didn’t cancel. I’m happy to report that I even arrived for the workshop on time, with a full two minutes to spare. And, as is often the case, reality never measures up to expectations.

I loved the writing workout workshop! The teacher was excellent. The prompts were varied and didn’t necessarily need to originate from one’s own memory. Best of all, there was no forced sharing or reading required. Perhaps, this is why I felt comfortable enough to read aloud. A little piece of flash fiction. When it was all said and done, I’d spent over three total hours writing. My hand ached, while my mind was numb, as I drove home. I was content. And I’d conquered the day.