Friday, October 29, 2010

Naming Your Cats. Er... I Mean Characters

A common question from beginning writers is: How do you come up with names for your characters? (This question is matched by a predisposition to name characters things like Raven, Jet or Hiro.)

There is no right or wrong way to name your characters. Really. But here are a few things you might consider during that creation process.
First. Most people are named by their parents. That means that whatever name the parents of your MC think is cool or apt is the name that they will have. This means, know your MC's background and culture and name him/her accordingly. (Because that's what his/her parent's would have done.)

Second. Names might be descriptive or trendy or just weird. That's okay. But don't pick something just because you think it's unique.

Third. Sometimes names are just a bunch of sounds put together that sound nice.

Fourth. Certain names become trendy, both in real life and in the world of fiction. Be careful about naming your character something similar to an already existing character in a similar world/story to your own. (Especially if the other story is popular.) This does not mean you could never call a character Harry or Edward, but try not to name your vampire hero/villain after another (now famous) fictional vampire.

I have a lot of cats. They all have names. Some of them my husband named. Some of them I named. Let's look at a few of the names I gave my cats to demonstrate how you might go about naming characters.

Rosie was originally called Tiger because she was tiger-striped. But every time I looked at her I thought "Rosie." I don't know why. She's not pink. She's not girly. Nor is she part of the womens manufacturing effort at home. But she's definitely Rosie.

Then there's Nona. A quiet little lady who doesn't get in trouble or have any distinguishing marks (she's solid black). At first I thought of her as "no name" but that seemed kind of rude so I shortened it to "Nona".

When I name my characters I try and look at who they are and where they come from. By the time I get finished getting to know them a name usually pops into my head. If it doesn't I turn first to their cultural roots, then to the characteristics they might have displayed as a baby. (Dark hair, cheerful, whatever.) Eventually I figure something out.

The point is, they are your characters and you can name them whatever you like. Despite my cautions there really is no right or wrong way to pick a characters name. Just let you imagination go. (And, when it doubt, peruse a site like for inspiration.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

That Special Time of the Year

Well, my darling sparrows, it's almost that time of year again. No, not the winter holidays with rampant consumerism, depression and stress. November 1st marks the start of the National Novel Writing Month 2010.

I know I've talked about NaNoWriMo before, but for those who aren't familiar with it here's the overview. The goal is to write 50k words in 30 days (about 1700 words a day) and produce a "novel" in a month.

"That sounds awesome," some of you say.

Yes, it is.

"That sounds stupid," a few of you think.

No, not stupid. Just masochistic.

"Fifty thousand words in one month? Do you think I'm a robot?"


However you look at NaNoWriMo, here are a few reasons to consider participating.

1. Writing with a group can be very motivating. NaNo is basically a personal challenge. But, there are thousands of people all taking the same challenge and plenty of friendly rivalry to go around.

2. NaNo is what you make of it. Although it's called the National Novel Writing Month, the fact of the matter is you can write pretty much whatever you want. As long as it's 50k words or more. Short story collections. Novellas. An epic poem. They all count.

3. Remember how I'm constantly saying you should write every day? NaNo is the perfect time to try it out. Even if you don't meet the overall goal you'll get a better sense of how easy it is to work writing into your every day schedule.

4. You have nothing to lose. Even if you only write 10 words by the end of November that's still 10 words more than you had at the beginning of the month. This is a situation where you will not be worse off if you make an effort.

Still not convinced? Or maybe you're curious. Click on over to and check it out for yourself.

I can guarantee that if you try NaNo you're in for a wild ride. There will heartbreak, tears, joy, anger, dancing and chocolate. And then there's actually writing your novel.

Come join a few hundred thousand aspiring writers and challenge yourself to do more, more quickly.