China’s ghost weddings and why they can be deadly
In 1988 science stumbled upon proof of eternal life – immortality thrived in the form of a minuscule jellyfish. German marine biology student Christian Sommer spent a summer on the Italian Ri…
Source: Immortal Jellyfish
When I was twelve I read a book with angels and demons in it. In the back of the book there was an appendix listing the meanings of the names of each of the characters. I resolved to employ this detail when I wrote my own stories in the future.
Like so many things from that age, now that I’m older they seem stupid in practice. I also thought I would iron my future husband’s clothes for him #purefantasy. My husband irons his own clothes like a boss.
How does one choose the perfect name for a character? One doesn’t. Why? It’s not necessary and it’s not realistic.
I didn’t choose my name. I’m betting that you probably didn’t either unless you had your name changed. Our parents choose our names and often they’re from family names, popular culture, or a random baby book. Sometimes meanings are a consideration — a wish for the child.
It was far easier for me to choose a name by using BehindTheName.com and just picking one almost at random. For Threads of Fate, I wanted it to have an ancient Germanic feel to it, so I narrowed down the names to fit that category. I read up on German surnames as well, but BehindTheName.com also has surnames by ethnicity.
Besides ethnicity, I sometimes use popularity by decade and choose the person’s age. Madison is a newer name and wouldn’t be as appropriate for a 50 year old woman as Cynthia would be.
I’ve picked most of my names pretty randomly from the list. The names don’t have to be perfect. After writing a bit if you don’t like a name, you can always change it.
Here’s a good test — listen to the duck:
This year my husband and I have tried to say no.
As writers in this busy world, it’s okay to say no and focus on our priorities.
I’ve read that our lives should be story factories and that if it doesn’t help build the story it doesn’t belong.
I still need to focus on what’s at hand and finish what I’m working on. Not only do I need to say no to contests and other projects, I have to also say no to myself starting anything new. This is where I stopped NaNoWriMo this to me. I’ll finish that story later but Threads of Fate is the focus now.
Writing isn’t the only area of my life that I’ve had to say no in. Knowing my limits and honoring them are two different things.
When it’s hard to get out of bed, it’s hard to be creative.
Pain comes in many forms. What floors me, and I do lay in the floor in pain sometimes, might not phase you. Sometimes we have no point of comparison to another’s pain. Pain has long been associated with artistry – one has only to look to Renoir and Van Gough.
Keep Pressing On
The pain passes but the beauty remains.
Renoir was one of my favorites before I read that quote explaining why he painted despite his pain.
The time will pass no matter. I might as well muscle through it anyway. When I push through at least I can take satisfaction in knowing I worked towards something.
Pain comes in many forms – sharp, dull, nauseating, and sometimes overwhelming. Knowing my limits is important, and that means I have to know when to stop.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I was young was to not let the well run dry.
If I don’t have enough rest, relaxation, and inspiration then writing becomes a challenge.
Forgiveness Starts In the Mirror
Last night I talked to myself. To be honest, I talk to myself often. I asked questions and then answered them to the best of my ability. What if my project is awful? At least I’ll learn from it. It’s okay if somedays my progress isn’t so great, or if I write crap. It’s not going to be perfect. That’s where drafts and editing come in.
Here’s a great article from Happify about creativity.
What keeps you creative on tough days?
Stephen King said:
We’ve all heard someone say, ‘Man, it was so great (or so horrible/strange/funny) … I just can’t describe it!’ If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.
1 – Writing with Color: Words to Describe Hair
I found this article extremely helpful. It again not only lists hair colors, textures, and styles, but it also notes the terms that are offensive. I would think, however, that words like unkempt and unruly go without saying. When unkempt is used, I think an old homeless man with a beard that house a birds nest.
2 – Obsidian Bookshelf’s How to Describe Eyes
Stale eye descriptions aren’t difficult to locate. Here is a good starting point.
My favorite description of eyes is Tolkien’s description of Treebeard’s hazel pair. He wrote that they were like ancient ponds in a wood reflecting their mossy greens and deep bark browns.
Most characters have dialogue. Make your characters voices feel audible to the reader.
In my reading I have often noticed George R. R. Martin describing heavier characters as jowly. What does a character’s build say about them, if anything ? Is their body being observed by a different character? What does the observation mean? How do other characters treat them because of their appearance?
Quote by Martin. Image by Blackwater Rush.
5 – Writing With Color: Description Guide Skin Color
This article discusses skin tones and comparisons that are not offensive. To sell the most books possible it stands to reason that you’ll want to appeal to the most readers possible. Don’t offend entire ethnic groups.
Several novels I’ve read lately have assumed you know the majority of the characters are white. One didn’t bother to describe the main character at all except to say he’s tall and thin. The second waited until the third act to discuss the physical changes he’d underwent. I had chosen in my naïveté to imagine him differently.
These terms aren’t listed in the article about skin, but I feel the need to rant: don’t describe my skin tone as bloodless, glow-in-the-dark, or paper white. Doing so will vex me, white privelege and all. Lily white also hits a nerve with me. It brings to mind “lily livered”, and feels like I’m being lumped with cowards because of my appearance.
This probably won’t help you describe, but the Pantone chart for human skin tones is intriguing.
The Platinum Rule of Descriptions and the Estée Lauder Lady
The concept that we should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” permeates Western Culture. The platinum rule goes one step further:
Treat others the way they want to be treated.
An older Estée Lauder sales lady at a Peebles department store told me when I was shopping for makeup for my wedding several years ago, “Well, you’re just one pale puppy. We don’t sell much makeup in your shades.” She proceeded to suggest I visit a tanning bed to look better for my wedding and match their products.
My challenge to you is don’t be the Estée Lauder sales lady. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As the writer you are relaying what you behold in your mind’s eye with your standards of beauty and prejudices. Be honest, be evocative, but please ask, “Would this description be hurtful to someone who actually looks like this?”
Some people have dealt with cruelty and micro-aggressions their entire life simply because of the way sunlight refracts off their outer shell. Not all people are thin, tan, young bastions of Western Beauty. That doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful by other standards, different perceptions.
What character description stands out in your mind?
What resources do you use for describing characters?
In Cannery Row Steinbeck describes the early morning light like this:
It is the hour of pearl—the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.
Usually during the “hour of pearl” I’m nursing a cup of coffee and thinking about the upcoming day. How did he see the morning light in this way when I do not?
Writing with beauty seems to require seeing the world with a little more magic and romance than others might find. This post is just about magic.
A sense of magic can be manufactured, it seems, but how?
I suggest chasing rainbows. Watching my kitten crane for a hot pink feather my husband floated above her made it dawn on me that the magic is always there. We just need to stop nursing the coffee, be still, and look for it.
The swelling hush of the cascading water let some of that transcending wonder seep back into my being. We relished this waterfall together and my husband pointed out to me a second rainbow. Busyness had not left me enough for me to take notice of the second one. I had stopped looking.
This second waterfall (Connestee) was new to both of us and has only recently been opened to the public. Walking beside the creek to the viewing area, that sense of wonder and adventure grew inside me.
What’s your method for creating magic?
Now that Camp NaNoWriMo is over, I’m still working on my story. It has been a marathon, quoth someone who has never ran more than 5k. I’m sharing three ways I keep motivated.
To keep motivated I reward, rally, and face reality.
1. Reward – The Light at the End of the Tunnel
With one project last year my husband built incentive for me by offering to take me to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. When I asked myself, “Why am I even doing this?” It was one more reason to justify it.
Sometimes in writing a story things don’t come out quite the way you expected. When this happens, I try to rally my troops, i.e. the resources, be they characters, outlines, etc.
There is a passage in “A Circle of Quiet” where Madeliene L’Engle discusses character development. I can’t find my copy and can’t find the quote online, but she talks about how characters sometimes surprise the writer and don’t follow the outline.
Sometimes as I write a character and gain a better feel, they don’t behave like they should.
Other times I’ve found outlines to have tangents that don’t serve the end goal as well as they should. I save those ideas for later but let the story evolve.
3 – Face Reality – Know Your Limits
There’s only so much I can do in a day before I reach my limit. Once that limit is reached I stop gaining momentum in my work. It’s best to take a break or call it.
If I ignore the goal, I may run my internal well dry risking writer’s block or frustration.
How do you stay motivated?
Bonus: Here’s one of my favorite pieces of advice on writing.
For more advice from well-loved authors, click here.