Thursday, April 15, 2021

Choosing Character Names Can be Fun or Frustrating.

 What's in a name?  Sometimes Character names are easy: sometimes not. Since I've had books set in Germany, South Florida, Burning Man Festival, and my current WIP is set in 1953 Kansas, I feel like an expert on names.

 What I do when I began a novel is create a Word table name chart.  First name, Last name, page  first mentioned, who this character is.  I can sort the table by first name or last name.  The trick is not to have character names that look or sound alike.  You don't want Wayne, Warren, and Warner. Or Mary, Maria and Marilyn.  Nope. Don't do it. If you have ethnic characters they should have appropriate names.  Rich people often have different kind of names than poor ones. Bob Jones vs. Robert Richmond Jones, III.  


 In Festival Madness, I had lots of fun making up Burning Man names (everyone needs one) and hacker names  One. of my main male characters was Wayne. His hacker name is the Locksmith.  He can break into any computer. Makes sense. My female POV character is Emma, who calls herself Dust Bunny at Burning Man.Indian characters are Reena and Raj.  I worked with a very techie guy named Wayne, and Reena and Raj's true story got into the book, too. But these people are all long ago and far away.  Must confess I stole of lot of people and places for that book.


In my German romantic suspense novel, World of Mirrors, I had Americans (good and bad) Germans, naturally, Russians, and even a Vietnamese man.  I called a glamorous woman Romy, after the actress Romy Schneider.  The name must fit the character.  I used the physical attributes of a couple of men where I worked. Name, description, character:  everything should fit together. 

 My recent challenge is my latest book, a mystery although it seems to be turning into a romance but that is a different story. In the novel, tentative title Lizzie Bender Ledoux, I had to find typical Mennonite names, French names, "regular" names, and even names for the pets.

When I begin to write, I start a Word Table to use as a character chart with a column for each topic below.

Since  it's a word table, it can be sorted by first name or last name.

   First Name  Last Name  Who  Page Introduced  Incidentals    

Research may be necessary.  For instance, to Google Mennonite last names. 

                  <Mennonite Names in Pennsylvania>. 

 Right away I hit pay dirt. 

 Something else you need to do is take a look at the most popular names from the period in which you are writing.  Pick a few way down the list, too.  Even animal names can be trendy.  I called the three pointer dogs in my book, "Spot," "Mike", and "Freckles."  The cat is "Callie."  

 These are things that work for me.  Check out the other writers on this blog roll to see what creative ideas they have. 


Skye Taylor

Diane Bator

Anne Stenhouse

Victoria Chatham

Beverley Bateman

Helena Fairfax

Dr. Bob Rich

Marci Baun

Connie Vines

Fiona McGier


Friday, February 19, 2021

Where Do My Ideas Come From? Here and There and Everywhere

What inspires a writer and gives her ideas?  Good questions for this month's bloggers.  I bet we'll get a slew of interesting answers. 

I can only tell you where my ideas comes from.  Shall we start from the beginning?  
Poetry was a genre that intrigued me when I first began writing,  A series of poems from the point of view of creatures who live in the Sonora desert were my first published poemss My parents lived in the Phoenix area, and we often visited the Sonora Desert. 
Here 's a poem from the point of view of the Diamond Back Rattlesnake.  For some reason, I liked writing from the viewpoint of many desert critters.
 The Diamond Back

 My view is of the low things: 

The leaf-cutting ant bearing a spear of green,

The faint imprint of fearful feet,

Red jasper in a dry stream.  

The Navajo weaves a harmony of diamond shapes,

But none so striking as my patterned back. 

Coiling on my rock I prize my symmetry.

The savage sun of summer drives me

To wary sleep under the mesquite. 

The gritty caliche earth against my belly

Is the feel of here. 

The sharp aroma of the creosote bush,

The scent of sun on yucca blossoms

Is the smell of here. 

I wait for the taste of here: 

The timid skittering mouse,

The nervous cottontail,

The old lizard dragging her tail.

Respect is mine. 

The shying panicked horse bucks and screams.

I observe the one in leather boots

Hiking carefully with his stick. 

The humble horned toad,

The bold scorpion avoid me. 

I get respect. 

Sleek, I slither down the gulch

In a rush of silence. 

Above the hum of bees and insects,

A snaky sound,

The gourd rhythm of my rattles disturbs the air.



 I wrote about the Charles River in Boston - My job was an easy walk from  the rivet, and when our offices were suddenly moved to the Boonies, I wrote about saying goodbye to the Charles.
 There's a small herd of HIghland Scottish cattle down the street from us, and one summer I wrote a poem about the calves.  

Calves Together

  That summer, we were calves together in the tall grass.

You came first to brown Mary Anne.

Golden Iris is my mother.

They dropped us in the tall grass.

 We grew together, gamboled together,

Licked each other, slept together,

Lay flank to flank in the tall grass.

The milk we suckled tasted of summer and green apples.

 In the heat of the day we found shade

The rain kept the flies at bay.

We frolicked in the pasture, bleating and kicking our heels,

Calves without a care.

 Glad animal spirits, nursing and nibbling the tall grass.

Drinking from the creek.

Seeking the green shade.

Calves together.



Now we segue to the novels:  What inspired them?  Mostly places:   

The Shadow Warriors: Singapore, Goettingen, Germany,

 World of Mirrors:  the Baltic Island of Ruegen, 

Festival Madness: The Burning Man Festival: and high-tech Boston

Chased By Death:  Southern Florida, Massachusetts, driving cross county,  the Nevada Desert  

Murder in the North Woods: many trips to the North Woods in Wisconsin

A sense of place always informs my work, whether it is the pasture down the road or the exoticism of Singapore. Places inspire me.   Characters come to inhabit the places, and then the characters do stuff that gets them in trouble in that place.  We're off to the races.




Let's see what my fellow bloggers have been up to  this week.  What inspires us may inspire you. 

Skye Taylor

Anne Stenhouse

Beverley Bateman

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Helena Fairfax

Marci Baun

Victoria Chatham

Judith Copek

Rhobin L Courtright