4 tips to naming your characters

Selecting just the right name for your characters is a challenge for many. It is like naming a child times ten or twenty or even more. Because it isn’t just your protagonist, their sidekicks and the antagonist that needs monikers. It is all the people that populate your make-believe world.

namesOkay so you probably aren’t going to agonize for hours over the pizza deliver guy’s name. Heck, you probably won’t even give him a name (or a back story). But you do need the names of parents, siblings and friends of your main character. Most often it ends up being a long list of characters – major and minor – that need to have a name.

Here are some tips when naming character. (For more information, you can also read my original post on picking the right name for your character.)

1.) Know your character – Especially for your main characters, you need to know them before you can pick out their name. You need to know their age, history and whether they are good or evil (sorry, remember I am a fantasy writer).

Make sure the name fits the culture and time period of your novel (especially true for historical novels). And make sure the name is appropriate for the character’s ethnic background.

2.) Avoid weird or hard to pronounce names or spellings – Shy away from using the cute or unusual spellings for someone’s name unless it plays a role in your novel. Anyone with a hard to pronounce name probably will need a nickname.

And for those fantasy writers, please avoid the temptation to use a random collection of letters and symbols for a character name. Even though your reader probably won’t be reading your story aloud, they will mentally trip over unpronounceable names. You can of course get around this by using a nickname for the character to make it easier for the reader and the other characters.

3.) Avoid names with same sound or are too similar – Stay away from rhyming names (Darla and Karla) as well as a lot of names starting with the same letter (Jen, Jon and Jan). You may also want to avoid names that start with the same letter or same sound – like Phil and Fred. Your best bet is to vary the starting letters and length of names. So Michelle may have a friend named Sara instead of Monique.

4.) Don’t use the name of someone famous – And I am not talking just about popular names that many people may have heard of such as Brad Pitt but also names of people who may be famous in their own field. Just because you have not heard of Dr. Steven Killjoy doesn’t mean that others have and might assume you are writing about their friend or colleague. Your best bet is to Google the names of characters to make sure they aren’t real people.

Places to find names –

  • Baby Naming books or websites (Behind the Name is a good website to check out)
  • Yearbooks
  • Phone books
  • Genealogy records
  • Social Security website (for popular names during other time periods)
  • Film credits (look at the names of crew members for some interesting choices)
  • Try combining two common names to create a new name (Example: Donica can be created from Donna and Veronica)

Wherever you find your character names, just make sure that they fit your character and story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding the perfect place to write

I have written before about finding the time to write (which sometimes in my case is a nearly impossible task). But today, I thought I would talk about the perfect place to write; some place that allows the creativity to flow, a place with few interruptions.

Actually, the perfect place is going to be an individual preference. The perfect place for me might stifle your creativity while your perfect place might be too distracting for me. Having a designated, private spot in which to do your writing can help switch you into “writing-mode” and block out the rest of the world (if that is what you desire). But of course, the most important thing is to write when and where you are able. The trick is finding a place tailored to your style, needs and comfort.

Basic requirements

First, let me tell you about a few basic requirements that I need for a place to write. I need a place where I am undisturbed. I have kids so my best bet is to write while they are out of the house. I don’t even think I could work at a restaurant if the waitress is going to continually check on me. I don’t even like to sit by the window. It is too distracting. But for someone else, sitting by a window may provide inspiration.

The area needs to be well lit and have a clean space for any notebooks or other books. And since I don’t do well with distractions, I need my workplace to be quiet. I know quite a few writers who like to have music on when they write but not me.

For some people (again, not me), it might be easiest to be close to resources you need. And by this, I am thinking a dictionary, thesaurus or even the Internet to do research (though the Internet can be a time waster if you aren’t careful.)

Locations Inside the Home

I know a few authors that type their books on a laptop. They snuggle up in bed (often with a cat) and type away. They are able to spread out their paperwork on the bed and hey, if you need a nap, you don’t even have to get up.

deskAs for me, I use our home office for my writing. I have my own desk and computer and am able to spread out my stuff beside me. No one else is going to want to use my computer, and I don’t have to fear someone coming in and messing with my stuff. But if you share a space or have little kids, you might want a lockable drawer or file cabinet where you can store your materials. There is nothing worse than finding your papers “rearranged” or moved because someone else was using your desk.

Others don’t have a set place and must pull out their laptop or notebook on the kitchen table or while relaxing on the living room couch.

If you share your place with someone else and live in a really small place, finding a writing place may be hard – especially if you aren’t going to get a lot of privacy. Your best bet might be to try someplace outside the house.

Locations Outside the Home

Now the only time I have really written outside my house beyond in a hotel room while on vacation is to write while waiting for my kids to finish an activity. I take my iPad with me to my son’s karate class, and I used to always have a pad of paper with me while waiting in the car line to pick up my daughter from school. For me writing outside the house was more of a necessity rather than my preference.

laptopBut some authors thrive on writing away from home. They pack up their laptop (or notebook) and head to the local café or Starbucks. Or they might find a cozy, quiet nook in the library to write. If the weather is nice, many authors sit on their back porch or go to the park to write.

All of these are perfectly good options. It is just a matter of finding what works for you. And if your usual place is stifling you, then try somewhere new. A change of location may just be what it takes to get your creative juices flowing again. The important thing is that you actually are able to WRITE.

Tips for drafting your author bio

Every author needs an author bio, whether it is for their book, web page, Facebook, author page or when appearing as a guest blogger. The purpose of an author bio is to give readers a clue about who you are and what you are about. Sometimes writing a bio can be difficult, especially for new authors. Here are a few tips for drafting your author bio.

Author BioLength

I suggest you actually create several bios of different lengths. You can use longer ones on your website or author pages on Amazon or Goodreads but you will need shorter ones for your books or for appearing on other blogs. Typically, your shorter bio should be about 75 words (give or take about 10 words).  (The example at the right is 82 words.)

Limit your accomplishments

When writing your bio, don’t list every book or award you have ever won. Focus on a few accomplishments (no more than three) to highlight. Also don’t list every book you have written. You can provide them with your website address for them to find out more about you and your others works and accomplishments.

Keep it updated  

Don’t forget to update your bios as you continue writing. If you are using the same one as when you first became published, you probably need to change it from saying you finished your first book to you are now on book seven.

As you change as a writer, your bio should reflect these changes. And while you are updating your bio, make sure you have included a photo of you, not your dog or your book cover. (This holds true especially for Twitter.) Readers want to be able to relate to you and picture you as a real person.

Contact information  

An author bio is like your business card. It should provide readers with a way to contact you. The contact information should appear at the end. You can use your Twitter, Facebook or email address as your contact info or simply provide your web address.

If you don’t give readers some way to contact you, then you have missed an opportunity to interact with a fan and interaction means everything in today’s high-tech world, even if it is just virtual interaction.

A few other dos and don’ts

  •  An author bio should always be written in third person.
  • Keep the information relative to who will be viewing it and tailor it to that audience.
  • Don’t include “resume” type information such as education and job history, which tends to be boring unless they are relevant to the book you are promoting. (This could be key if you are writing a non-fiction book and want to establish yourself as an expert.)
  • Include biographical information such as marital status, number of children, pets or hobbies as these show you are a normal person and can help readers relate to you.

Hashtags for authors

hashtagIf you use Twitter, you are probably familiar with the idea of hashtags. These are keywords prefixed with a hash or “pound” (#) symbol. They help categorize your tweets and help others easily find tweets about similar subjects. The use of relevant hashtags increases the likelihood that others will see your posts and is a great way to engage a particular community of Twitter users such as readers or other authors.

The following is a list of some of the hashtags for authors or writers. Most are pretty self-explanatory.

For when you are writing

#amwriting – comments from other authors

#amediting – comments from those in the editing stage

#editing

#proofreading

#writingtip or #writetip – writing tips from other authors and editors

#writerwednesday – or more often #WW- used to give a shout-out to writers or suggest authors to follow

#Fridayreads – promoting what book you are currently reading

#fictionFriday

#ff – stands for “follow Friday” where other writers share people or sites to follow

#pubtip – tips on publishing

General book/writing

#book

#novel or #novels

#fiction

#ebook

#kindle

#sony

#nook

#epub

#author or #authors

#writer or #writers

#writing

#Nook

#kobo

#Amazon

#Smashwords

#selfpublishing or #selfpub or #self-publish

Genre-specific

#short or #shortstory or #shortstories

#litfic – literary fiction

#histfic and #histnovel – used for historical fiction

#womensfiction

#scifi

#fantasy

#romance

#paranormal

#horror

#crime or #crimefiction

#suspense

#thriller

#adventure

#christfic

#kidlit

#YA – young adult or #YAlit

#humor

#cookbooks

#mystery

#mysterywriter

#poetry

For promotions

#bookgiveaway

#free

#freebook

#freeebook

#newrelease

#SampleSunday – offering a link to an excerpt or sample of your work

#teaserTuesday – usually a line from your novel and a link to a sample

#excerpt

#interview or #interviews

#bookreview

#blogtour or #virtualbooktour

Other

#novellines or #novelines – when quoting a line from your (or someone else’s) novel

#indieauthor or #indieauthors

#indie or #indies

#indiebooks

#buyindie

#indiepub or #indiepublishing

#booklook

#booklover

#mustread

#readers

Please feel free to comment below and add to this list…