Saturday, June 21, 2014

Characters Have Minds of Their Own (And This is Why You Should Listen To Them)

     Let's get our facts straight. We, as authors, create creatures, plots, settings, plants, even entire WORLDS, but we're only controlling about half of the story. Who's governing the rest of the book, you ask? I'm pretty sure your MC and just about all your other characters want to have a word with you.

     No matter how much you might not want to admit it, only sometimes are you in complete authority over your characters. Seriously! They're fictional people, and yet they still manage to make things go their way. Guess what? That's not a bad thing! In fact, that's one of the most useful things about being a writer, because sometimes our characters have way more sense than we do.

     Let me tell you a story (don't groan, this is gonna be awesome). As I planned my second book series, I got so excited about my one character, because he was finally going to reunite with his friend, save the world, and have a better life than before. In fact, I was totally planning for him to be a main protagonist. Apparently he didn't like that idea for some reason, because the next time I turned around, he had turned into one of the villains. I still feel betrayed about that - I mean, sure, I now have fun writing him as the villain, but I had planned such a GOOD FUTURE FOR HIM. *clears throat* Okay, sorry about that outburst. Point is, what I had planned hadn't mattered because he didn't listen anyway.

     Once you get to know your characters very well, you have this sort of sixth sense about who they are. You know how they feel, talk, and act. You know what they wouldn't do or say. The weird thing is, we still try to force those unnatural actions and phrases onto our poor characters. The good thing is, our characters usually won't let us get away with it.

     Have you ever been writing something that your charrie says or does, but it just feels - wrong? Yup, that's your beloved fictional friend, tugging at your mind like "Hello? Remember me, the person who knows what I would or wouldn't say? Why aren't you listening to me?"

     Let's say that you have something really funny and witty for your main character to say in a scene. It's so hilarious that you can't even believe that you came up with it! But the problem at hand is that your MC is neither funny nor witty. In fact, he's a quiet, shy thing that has never cracked a joke in his life. What do you do? You have two options: either scrap the sentence entirely (yeah, it's hard, but it's necessary), or, if you really want to keep it, give it to another character to say (if you have a wisecracking best friend, that's usually a good choice).

     If you are constantly having your character saying and doing things that their personality would never allow them to do, then the reader won't be able to get to know the character because they're always changing.

     However, if you allow your characters to help steer the story (even if it means that a scene or two turns out differently than you want it to), then I guarantee you that they will stay consistent. Staying consistent is not the same as not developing. Your characters should grow and develop over the course of the book, but they should keep their initial personality. My next blog post will be about how to keep characters consistent while letting them grown and expand - and I'm gonna use Captain America to do it. ;)

     It's your turn! Have you ever experienced a time when you were trying to force your character to say or do something (and your character gladly steered you away from that)? What were you trying to make them say/do? How did you correct the mistake? Do tell!

Friday, June 20, 2014

How To Come Up With A Great Name For Your Character

     We've all been there as writers. You have just outlined this amazing character - you have their charming personality, looks, and favorite color planned out. But wait - you don't have a name for this character! And you just know that a name like Sally or Bob won't cut it. You need something extraordinarily unique. But what?

     There's a lot of ways to find that perfect name for your anxiously-awaiting character. 

  • Baby Naming Websites. Baby naming websites are an author's best friend. I'm being totally serious. You have hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of names, their meanings, and their origins at your disposal. Pretty cool, right? Often you can look up names that mean a certain thing (for example, my efforts to find names that mean "wolf" have led me to one of my most favorite names, Faolan), or you can peruse the names alphabetically to find one you like. Be sure you let your family know why you're on a website looking at baby names, though, or things could get awkward quickly. 
  • Think up names. Never underestimate the power of your own mind. Observe names of people you know or of characters from tv shows you watch. Use them. I actually used what was supposed to be a temporary name for one of my characters just so I could start writing about him and inserting him into scenes, and he ended up growing into the name so much that I never took it off of him.
  • String a bunch of random letters together. Jumble up some vowls and consonants, arrange them in a way that you think looks pretty, and voila! You've got some kind of unique fantasy name. This actually is one of my favorite ways to create names, because it's fun and you end up with a nice-sounding, cool-looking title for your character. Really, all you've got to do then is decide how you pronounce the name and then present it to your character.
     Okay, so now we've been over some satisfactory ways to find some nice namesakes for your fictional friends. There are some things you should consider while choosing a name, however. It's not always as easy as picking out the name and then slapping it onto your MC (that is, Main Character). Here are some questions you might wanna ask yourself during the choosing process.
  • What does the name mean? You don't always have to look at this aspect. It may not matter to you, but sometimes it's really useful. You can look at the meaning of a name to determine if it fits your character. For example, your MC might be smaller than most children/teens their age, so perhaps you would pick the name Tino (which means "small" or "tiny" in Italian) for said character. Probably the best example I can think of right now is the names from The Lion King and The Lion King 2. The lion ruler of the Pridelands, Simba, has a Swahili name that literally means "lion". Zira's name means "hate", which is fitting, considering she has kept so much anger and bitterness inside her against Simba and his pride. 
  • Does the name fit my character's status in my book? This sounds more confusing than it is. Basically, if your MC is of a royal bloodline, don't name him something unrefined like Joe (not that I have anything against that name). If he is a prince/king, name him something along the lines of Jonathan or William. If your MC is a princess/queen, name her Genevieve or Cassandra. However, not all names have to be more than five letters to be a stately name. Sometimes simple, although elegant names work well too (Ex: Susan, Rose, or John are all suitable names for royalty). 
  • What does the name mean, if anything, to my character? Whether the name you choose means something specific in our world, you must also find what it means to your character. A name I chose for a character means "lioness", which fits perfectly with her personality, but in my book it is supposed to mean "princess". Was your character named after a relative or someone that their parents knew (Harry Potter naming his kids Albus, Lily, and James)? Does their name mean something specific in their world? Did their parents name them this name because of circumstances surrounding the character's birth? Does a rebellious character's name mean "trouble" where he lives? Figure this out, because it's likely that you'll end up mentioning it in your novel.
     In short, names are important parts of your characters, and it's okay if you spend a long time trying to figure out the perfect alias for a character, whether major or minor. You wouldn't be the first. 

     So, how do YOU like finding names for characters? What are some cool names that you have found (whether on the internet or in a book or tv series or movie) that you really like? Got anything else to add? Do tell!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Writer

     Hello! 'Tis I, your friendly neighborhood writer! Okay, chances are that I don't live in your neighborhood. But I'm friendly! Except to my characters.... but more on that later.

     Here's A Little About Me and This Blog You Stumbled Upon:

1. My name is Kiara. Hiya! *waves*

2. I am fourteen (going on fifteen) years old.

3. I'm a writer! Which I kinda established up there when I said I was your...friendly...writer....friend. Yeah. I don't have anything published (YET), but I'm always writing and I am currently attempting to write a novel. Emphasis on the word "attempting".

4. I made this blog to give aspiring authors like myself advice on all areas of writing. I will also gladly discuss anything and everything about books.

5. I have never met a dragon, but they are one of my favorite mythical animals and I'm hoping that if I DID ever meet one that it wouldn't eat me and we would go on some grand adventure together, later parting as unlikely friends.

6. I'm starting to run out of stuff to put in these things....I was hoping you wouldn't notice.

     Soooo, here I am! I'm so excited that you are checking out my blog right now, and I hope that you continue reading the posts that I put up. Always (teehee Harry Potter reference) feel free to comment and talk with me! I promise that I'll answer.

     If you would like to find out more about me, check out my Pinterest account:

     I have a writing board with prompts and inspiration, as well as plenty of other random fandom boards and lots of Tom Hiddleston (hey, I'm just warning you what you're going to get). Follow me on my Pinterest, follow me on here, and comment below with any questions or if you just want to say hi!