Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

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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.

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First Story Published!

July 25, 2011

I have sold my first story! It was a wonderful feeling to see it in print and quite startling in some ways. The story has had a long journey – I wrote it well over a year ago for a Mslexia prompt for their monthly competition, however I didn’t finish it in time to send it in. On re-reading it I also decided that it wasn’t quite the right style for Mslexia so it languished on my hard drive for several months.

I then started sending out a few stories to magazines, with no success, but it did make me realise that I need to sort out the stories I had written and come up with some sort of system for organising them. As part of this I found all sorts of random bits of writing, some finished some not, including this story. I looked through Dutrope, trying to find a home for it – or at least somewhere I could send it that it wouldn’t be laughed at. There didn’t seem to be anywhere suitable so back to the electronic filing cabinet it went.

Then I came across a blog – womagwriter which talked about a range of magazines that I hadn’t thought about before. After I had read a few I remembered this story and  realised that I might have somewhere to send it.

I read through it again – trimming it down slightly, fixing the wording in a couple of places, correcting mistakes I hadn’t noticed before, which showed the value of leaving a piece of work for a while, as I never noticed them before. I then downloaded and very carefully read the guidelines for People’s Friend. With a covering letter, SAE, and a very carefully printed out story I sent it off to the magazine, and started to wait, (expecting a rejection). Instead, four months after I sent it off, I got back an email sending they would like to buy it! So of course I sent back a delighted ‘Yes’. What I didn’t realise was the time it takes between the magazine buying a story and it getting published. Initially, every week I was there with the latest copy of People’s Friend, looking for my story. In the end I decided that I must have missed it and gave up. I felt slightly deflated and a slightly stupid – I had missed my first experience of being published. I hadn’t told anyone and was quite glad I hadn’t mentioned it. I almost thought that I had dreamed the whole experience.

Out of the blue I received an email saying that it was going to be published in this weeks (23 July 11) People’s Friend. I quickly went out and picked up a copy, flicking through in the shop until I found my story, standing and grinning for several minutes, inconveniencing several other shoppers as I was stuck in the middle of the aisle, for which I apologise!

It was a wonderful warm feeling to see my words in print, beautifully illustrated which I hadn’t expected, although I should have done having seen other stories in the magazine, but for some reason I didn’t expect to see a picture with my story! They had changed the name of the story – I had called it ‘Spider’s legs’ which I have to admit is not the best title. It was renamed as ‘A Kind of Peace’ which works a lot better and gives a better idea of what the story is about. It is an area which I am going to have to work on.

So what have I learnt from this?

  • Publishing takes time – even after the story has been bought.
  • I need to work on story titles!
  • Even if at first you think that there is no where for a story to go to, something will turn up – don’t discard anything!
  • And nothing beats that warm feeling of seeing your words in print