Thursday, 18 August 2011

Name Salad - How to name your character and make a mess while you're at it!

So often, in fantasy books especially, we meet characters whose names sound like they were just made up. While some of them are probably derived from mythology, literature, or are in fact, clever anagrams of people the author knows and dislikes, you can bet your beetles that some of t hem are made up and used because they sound pretty

Names like Frodo, Bilbo, Sabriel, Katsa, Ged, Kest, Elphaba .... (I could go on) might mean something to the author. For example, "dumbledore," is old English for bumble bee, and thence became the name of the humming, benevolent wizard Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. And whether you're writing fantasy or not, if the names work for your character, it doesn't really matter where they come from.

So with this in mind, here's a way of coming up with original character names. (Well maybe not that original, there are only so many syllables in the world and whilst trying this recently, I proved that by pulling out my own name. What are the odds?)

Write your name on a piece of paper. Now cut it up into the syllables that make up your name. For example;


You get the idea.

Use any name you can think of. Make up some syllables for good measure. I find that EL, ESS, KA, DO, GO, IG and SAL make for good combinations. You can even use words and don't forget to use all the vowels!

Toss the pieces together to give them a good shuffle and then start picking out the pieces of paper as if you were playing Scrabble. You don't HAVE to take them at random.

Some good names I came up with include: Elpha, Rhymael, Esmira, Malukai, Kimru and Thora.

If it doesn't work first-time, keep adding syllables and letters. You're bound to come up with something epic eventually. Write them down in your journal, or save them in a file labeled "Character Names" on your computer. Nevermore shall you christen your characters "X", "BOY", "HORSE" or "insert evil-sounding name here."

Sunday, 7 August 2011

When the Lightbulb Strikes

My imagination is pregnant again... and with one screaming-to-be-written-book toddler and another half-edited ink-and-paper teenager... I don't know how I'm going to handle this.

I got the third idea while I was in the shower, now I'm sitting here, dripping wet, (but decent, you'll be glad to know) having typed up the bones of a possible new novel.

If there's one thing I've learned this week, it's that when you get an idea, write it down immediately. No matter where you are or what you're doing, WRITE IT DOWN. (maybe with the exception of driving)  You may tick off a lot of people, but you'll be glad you did it when you finally get to sit down with it and start planning. Ideas are fragile and become hazy, just like dreams. After even an hour, the quality just isn't the same.

A friend of mine recently gave me the tip of writing ideas on the back of till receipts while at work. I usually go home now with a back pocket full of illegible notes on scraps of till paper.

If I really can't stop to jot something down, (because I'm scaling the wall of a ruined castle, and to falter would meant plummeting to my death, no joke) even speaking it aloud (at the risk of being committed) can help you internalise the finer details.

Now to dry my hair! If anyone else would care to share their ideas on this, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

You Might Need

A pen - obvious? Well not necessarily. You could be using a typewriter, a laptop, a chisel... whater your method, there is nothing like a nice, portable pen for taking notes on the go, which, once you start doing, you will begin to get a constant flow of ideas, hopefully.

A notebook. Use one. Don't let yourself get bogged down by having many different notebooks for poetry, stories, your novel, placenames, interesting new words... just one hardy notebook. You can get nice ones that have dividers in if you're so inclined. It doesn't have to be fancy. Keep it simple, but for the love of caffeine make sure its durable and small enough to throw in your bag, because it is your new body part. Yes, take it everywhere, because the one day you leave it at home, will be the one day you have a wonderful idea. It happened to J.K. Rowling. She planned Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on a napkin.

A folder. Look, you will want to at some point, but trust me when I say, NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY! Put every loose page, every quote, paragraph and doodle into this folder. You'll be glad you did. Put your Author's Profile in here.

And that's it. That and your imagination. That's all you need. Forget about fancy pens and netbooks and a vintage typewriter. All you really need in the worse case scenario, is a napkin and an eyeliner pencil.
That said, you may now see my unnecessarily beautiful desk.

What Kind of Writer are You?

It was only until I did this exercise with the workshop kids that I realised, I never actually asked myself this question. Actually, it's several questions. And these questions have a habit of breeding like rabbits. Indeed, people should use the phrase "breeding like rabbits" when they could say "breeding like questions."
   That was a tangent. Note to self - good writers avoid those, or where they cannot be avoided, they are removed in the editing process. Note to self #2: Write a blog entry on editing.

Creating a writing profile will not only help to get you started, but it's a good way of tracking your progress as a writer. It's also a nice thing to look back on in a few years' time and cringe at - affectionately.
   Take a large piece of coloured paper or card, and a chunky marker. The louder and more garish it is, the more expansive you'll be making it, and the less likely you are to lose it.
   Write your name in the middle, draw three large rings around it. Fill the first ring with the genre/s you are interested in writing. For example, Crime, Horror, Fantasy, Romance.
   In the second outermost circle, write down all the positive words/phrases you associate with your writing. i.e. your strengths. E.g. Descriptive, fast paced, well drawn characters, humour, expressing emotions, explosive beginnings, good plots etc. Most people find that this is the most difficult part to do. Why is it so hard for us to admit to what we're good at? But we find it so easy to criticise ourselves! Someday we will all learn to recognise out strengths as well as our weaknesses. Until then, ask your friends, family and teachers to tell you what you are good at. You deserve to know. Take it, and pin it to you like an imaginary badge. Shine it up and look at it whenever the dreaded block descends. Let it remind you that you are a writer and you are damn well going to keep on writing.
   So where was I? Ah yes, the third circle. Here is where you are going to mention the things you could improve on - areas for development. Notice my language here. I did not say, the things you absolutely suck at. I did NOT say the mistakes that will hold you back from ever being a successful writer. I said ... development. Because even Shakespeare could have learned an extra thing or two. So be honest with yourself, but don't be too harsh. You are capable of much more than you think. So here you might say...pacing, because while you write great, engaging openings to your stories, your endings might be very rushed, because you're tired, it's 3am and the thing has to be finished by 9 in the morning - or you're just fed up with your story. Then discipline might be your area for development. I said that mine was dialogue. I want my characters' conversations to seem more real, and natural. I also said sentence structure - so that not all my sentences begin with, "she", "he" or "they".
   If you have room left (you may have to squeeze it into the corners) start thinking about new ventures you want to try. For instance, I would love to write a murder mystery. Or a memoir. I want to write more poetry. So I forced them in in tiny, cramped writing.
   That done, you have begun your author's profile. Keep it, look back on it often. Add to it, this probably will mean moving on to another page. Now you can use this profile help you pick what you would like to work on next. Tick off each area for improvement once you feel you have mastered it.

Hello World!

Wotcher! I am new to this blogging lark but happy to jump right in, so let's get started little voices in my head shall we? Well majority rules so, I'll begin.

   The Author's Teaparty is a blog about... yeah you guessed it; BOOKS.

   I read books (as you do), I also write them. I think I know an awful lot about books and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. So I started up this blog to share all my writing triumph and spectacular failures with you, my lovely (and currently non-existent followers).
   I run a fortnightly writing workshop for 10-13 year olds and co-run a creative writing club for adults as well, so any ideas, techniques or anti-writers' block weaponry I come across, I'll post here, for you to try out and to enjoy.
   Did I mention I read books? I also sell them (and smell them - if people tell you they've never smelled a book, they're lying. We all love the smell of book glue, but it takes the strong among us to admit to it). So if I'm feeling very verbal about a particular book, I'll be posting a review here. No ranting, I'll keep it short, sweet and hope you find it  entertaining and useful.

   Thanks for lighting on this page. I hope your mouse takes you back here soon.
   Maera Black