Spotlight on Writing

Naming Your Characters

I absolutely love and loathe naming characters. Think about all the time parents spending picking, arguing, voting, and vetoing names for their kids! It is not any different for writers. A name can help or hurt a manuscript.

The first part is trying to find a name that is familiar, so readers can relate. Yet, the name must also be unique to prevent readers from finding it “boring.”

The second part is matching the name to the characters’ lifestyle, age, and how readers might perceive the name. It’s like the devils on your shoulder, GOOD and BAD.

GOOD: Name her Alice, everyone loves an Alice.

BAD: Alice  sounds like she would be my grandma.

GOOD: But your Grandma Alice is the best.

BAD: Yes, but she is still my grandma. I don’t want to date my grandma.

Although part one and two look similar, they are different in their own right. You would not give a Greenlandic name to a Oklahoma man who has no family connections with Greenland. Another example could be Rose. Rose might be perceived one way by a large group of readers, which might hurt or help make your story. If the reader doesn’t believe that Rose is a 10-year-old skateboarding champion then you lose the connection with the reader.

I do a detailed amount of research on the names I use, making sure the origin, etc. would be a good match for my characters. My favorite tool to use for character names is Baby Name Origins.

Spotlight on Writing

3 Books I Turn to for Writing Assistance

As a writer, I think it might be mandatory to have your thoughts all over the place. Always thinking and looking for new themes, plots, and characters. Because of this I often find myself struggling to remember key elements in writing. When I’m writing I focus on the story, not the structure. Yet it’s always good to have a bit of a refresher course on the basics. I have three go to books on my bookcase. I turn to these books to assist in strengthening the weak parts in my story, to refresh myself with the writing rules, and gather inspiration.

The three books I find the most useful are: The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb; From Inspiration to Publication, Editors Pamela Glass Kelly and Mary Spelman; Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul.

In The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children (2001) each chapter goes into extensive detail and numerous examples to assist the writer in examining their current work in progress. The warning boxes in nearly every chapter highlight key components for writers to remember. Chapter 14, Point of View, provides the most in-depth information on point of views I have come across in any book.

I refer to From Inspiration to Publication (2002) when I need to feel positive about the final touches of my manuscript. This book is a perfect quick reference guide and gives writers the inspiration they need to make sure their story is correctly organized and structured from first page to submission and then some.

What I love best about Writing Picture Books (2009) is all the questions which arise about your story in nearly each paragraph. The advice flows nicely from page to page like a cozy inviting breeze. It brings out the critical thinker in a way which does not make the writer feel like their story is wrong, but how to improve it to make it the best. While Writing Picture Books focuses solely on picture books, while the other two books, a writer can pull bits and pieces to support any story.

Despite these books’ publication dates they remain vital for writing. Understanding the craft, and having the proper direction in which to navigate will enhance every story. The idea, the spark comes from you, but the strength of good writing comes from knowledge and practice.