Archive for August, 2011

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Books you could never not own!

August 8, 2011

I have been sorting through my bookshelves recently, trying to trim down the number of books that I own. Mostly because the number of books I own was dramatically more than the number of shelves that I own and the floor was beginning to get a bit cluttered.

Mostly I was removing books that I knew I would never read again but while I was doing this I realised that there was a small selection of books that I would always have a copy of on my bookshelves, no matter how small they get.

The first of these is ‘On the Beach’ by Nevil Shute. It is the story of a post atomic society, dying from nuclear radiation. I read as a teenager and haven’t read it again since. It was the first book that I read that made me cry, and I always mean to re-read it, but I can still remember too much about the story to read it again. I think the reason I keep it is to remind myself that books can be moving as well as entertaining.

The second is ‘Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkien. This is my most well travelled book. If I am going somewhere for a couple of weeks and I only have space for one book, it is always this one. Mostly because I always find something new in the language or descriptions or story that I didn’t pay attention to last time I read it. It is one of those books that I can dip in and out of and feel like I am catching up with old familiar friends.

The third is the complete Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, although strictly speaking it isn’t one book, more of a collection of books and I have two different versions of the stories. One is the Annotated Sherlock Holmes – large hardback books, full of footnotes and annotations, beautifully illustrated throughout. They are lovely to read for the background information, but I do find it distracts me away from the story slightly (and they are slightly too large to carry around anywhere). So for reading the actual stories I have a smaller paperback version which doesn’t look as good but at least will fit in my handbag. Again these are books I dip in and out of when I feel like it. Again it is that feeling of catching up with friends when I read them. Often I can remember what is going to happen – but it is the journey that is important.

There are a lot more books that I own that I wouldn’t want to get rid of, but these are three of the books that have stuck on my shelves since I was a teenager and I would never part with them.

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Thinking about Character Names

August 4, 2011

I’ve been rereading my story which was published last week (and isn’t that a wonderful thing to be able to say!). In it there are two main characters – Arthur, and his granddaughter, Eleanor. Only in my version Eleanor was called Ellie.

It is a small change and does not affect the the plot in anyway but I think it is an interesting change and I had to think about why they made the change and what the effect of it is on the story. The story is written from the point of view of the Grandfather, Arthur and by using a more formal name for his granddaughter shows his more formal way of thinking.

I have to admit I do have trouble coming up with names for characters – there are some good site for this from baby name sites like http://www.babynames.co.uk/, sites that allow you to find out the meaning of your surname like http://surnames.behindthename.com/, which is useful as it also give the country of origin for some of the surnames  to the slightly more fun http://www.seventhsanctum.com/index-name.php which lets you generate random character names for everything from a general name to a dark elf name.

But despite all this I still sometimes get it wrong. There are a few useful hints I have picked up over time.

  • Don’t have all your names sounding or looking the same, for example having characters called Sally and Sully could lead to confusion in your reader.
  • Don’t make them exotic unless that is the type of character you are going for and it is appropriate for the genre you are writing in. Ralbatariel might sound interesting but as a writer it is tricky to spell correctly and as a reader I wouldn’t know how to pronounce it.
  • Make sure the name is appropriate for the time period that your story is set. Names go in and out of fashion just as much as clothes.
  • All names have meaning – some more obvious than others. Think about how the name reflects the character or is in opposition to it.
  • Choose a name that you are happy to type lots and lots of times, especially if it is a long story.

When choosing names you also have to consider how the other characters would address that person. Do they need a nickname, and if so would everyone use it. This is what I got wrong with Ellie in my story. Her grandfather was not the type of character to use a nickname so by changing it to Eleanor it better reveals his old fashioned character.