Tag Archives: writing

Writing Wednesday: Naming All The Things

Names are hard. Character names are hard enough but naming all the other things – the little things you just know that no one will remember unless you royally screw it up – those are even worse. I like to stick to fictional towns in my writing – there’s less chance of offending someone or getting important details wrong. For consistency’s sake, I’ve been known to make a sketch map of said town with important places marked – and all of those places need names. During the initial drafting, I tend to use placeholders instead of the actual names until the right name occurs to me – little things like names should never keep you from the work of writing.

It happens I was having this conversation with a writer this week so it’s a bit fresh on the brain. For me, naming things is pretty much the only proper use for the phone book that keeps getting delivered to my house. Take the phone book, close your eyes, flip pages with one hand and point your finger with the other, and bam – Diner A is now Henry’s Holler (depending on where you’re town is set – it could be Hollow) and the park with the playground is Karington Point (not actual examples from anything of mine – yet).

There are also name generators for almost everything. Baby name finders are probably used by as many writers as gestating parents. I don’t really have any I prefer, I just Google baby name finder and click a link. The DnD community has a lot of naming generators also which I’m sure helps a great many DMs make their campaigns all that much more interesting.

A few fun generators:

Fantasy Name Generators have several including town name, planet names, and description generators. If you’re really stuck – this site has something that will put the spark back in. Mithril & Mages has a fair number of generators also that I think use actual names in their dataset. Donjon has some that are ethnicity and culturally based (as well as world generators which are very neat).

Happy writing!


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It’s that time of year

I love this season. I don’t get as much writing done until after the last of Christmas is done but I am one busy lady right about now. I’m doing my annual Make Things rush for holiday gifts. For some people, it’s the gift itself that is their love language.  For me, it matters that I make something. Last year, I didn’t do so hot – only for the kids and those weren’t up to my personal standards. This year I have some really great ideas that so far aren’t working out exactly (or remotely) as I expected but what are plans for but to change?

I didn’t manage to win NaNoWriMo this year but that’s ok. I have the start of a story that might be something interesting someday and I had some commitments to meet that I met. There’s always next year and, honestly, I don’t really need NaNo to write a draft anymore and I’m not really active in that community either. If I were, that might be draw enough but, we’ll cross that bridge next October.

On the health and RA front: I’m starting to struggle a little. I’m sure some of it is the weather, some of it is the crafty stuff or the typing but my fingers and feet are not doing so well. I expect some changes at my next appointment in very early January so long as I can get through to January without wicked swelling or ridiculousness. It’s not pain as much as it is a deep, moaning ache that haunts my hands and tries hard to make me miserable. But, I have too many things to make to let a little thing like pain or stiffness get in the way.

RedDog and Fred

Speaking of health crap – we discovered something interesting about RedDog – did you know that dogs can have underactive thyroids? They can and ours does. He’s acting more like his old obnoxious, velcro, cat-dog self than he has in YEARS because of the new daily medication. It’s actually really wonderful (even if it also hurts as he wants to sit ON me and produces his own gravity).

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Writing Wednesday: Genre

I make no apologies for writing genre fiction. The books that changed my outlook, gave me new truths, every one of them was a work of genre fiction. I have read some ‘literary’ fiction and it just doesn’t do much for me in the long form. In short form, short stories, essays, poetry, ‘literary’ work can be amazing and interesting but I’m just not a fan of it in lengths above novelette. This is on my mind today because of a Twitter thread. Nick Mamatas had a lot to say but the comments after say more.  https://twitter.com/NMamatas/status/1067469966180409344

I might turn my nose up a little at things termed “Literary Fiction” but I won’t hold it against you if that’s what you prefer. I know what it is to be looked down on because I prefer my stories to have explosions or magic or machines behaving badly and I would hope that I can be a more welcoming reader friend than that. I will, however, get downright mean when other people start explaining why I’m wasting my time in genre or romance instead of putting my skill to use doing something “worthwhile.” There is a reason I will likely never write certain types of stories and it isn’t because they aren’t in my head or in my wheelhouse, hell, I probably have a dozen or so written and sitting in my drive but I refuse to give certain people that satisfaction.

I was lucky in my various writing classes during my years of schooling that I never had a teacher press too hard against my love of genre. I had teachers who informed me I would never ever make it as a writer at all but I never had one pick on my preferred genres. I had one teacher who definitely preferred things of a more “literary” bent but she never held against me my desire to throw magic or futuristic technology into a story. She did hate my lack of outline though. (Planners and Plotters just don’t understand Pantsers). But, I never went in for the MFA level or even graduate level creative writing, only electives so perhaps that had a part to play also.

For me, books like Dune, Ender’s Game, Neuromancer, the Books of Blood, had far more impact on me than Grapes of Wrath ever did.

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Writing Wednesday: Writing as Therapy

With NaNoWriMo put aside for this year – and just in time too as my edits came in and I would have had to stop anyway – it’s back to regularly scheduled Writing Wednesday! I know a lot of people who write more to process their emotions, their experiences than to publish or share them. I find myself often in the middle which might be why it stings so badly when these pieces of my heart get rejected and rejected and rejected (because all of the acceptances are rarely as impactful for some weird reason). Writing is a thing I would do even if I weren’t driven to share because it helps me get through the worst parts of things. Even when there is no one left in my life who wants to hear what I’m saying, my paper will always take my ink. Paper is never too busy or too uninterested in whatever my current whine is.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend wondering about writer’s block (and methods of getting around it) and I don’t really get block so much as I get too full of whines to create something anyone is going to want to read so I write essays no one will ever see. A few hundred words of my truth that isn’t normally meant to be shared. Every once in a blue moon, one will strike my fancy and I’ll pitch it somewhere. That’s how Beacon came about – my Chicken Soup entry in Grieving and Recovery essay. I have two right now that I’m sending out into the world but it won’t bother me so much if they never see the light of day, the writing of them was for me, the sharing of them is in case there are other people like me.

Sometimes there are stories you don’t even see yourself in until well after you’ve written them. That’s where I’m finding myself with Christmas in Bear Ridge. There is a lot of my own grief in those pages, grief I didn’t even know I was still holding on to. It’s been more than 20 years since my mom died and steadily approaching 2 years for my dad but they are very much a part of this book. It’s been very cathartic for me and I hope it is for someone who reads it also.

I think in some ways, I wasn’t really ready to write this book, to really examine my own proclivity to obsess over the dreams of my parents – the life my mother wanted me to live that is pretty much the opposite of my life or the things my dad wanted for my kids. I’ve done my best to let that go but I haven’t gotten all the way there yet. Maybe this book was my way of starting that process a little bit.


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And I’m stuck

I hit 30,000 words give or take 5 and I’ve stalled out. I’m not liking the direction of the story at all but I’m not sure where it went wrong either. It’s a little infuriating though. Sometimes, no matter how clever, the bones fall apart just when the shape of your dinosaur is coming together you discover you’ve added too many carnivore pieces to your herbivore. bah. I’ve also had a small string of rejections and that doesn’t help. Ultimately, not every idea is going to work itself out. Maybe down the road, I’ll have an epiphany and bam – I’ll know why it went belly up on me.

I have too many irons in my fire as it is though with edits and marketing stuff and other deadlines I’m trying to meet so I’m not really terribly upset by the whole thing. Really, the answer might occur to me in a few days and 2 or 3 really hammering days, maybe I can still finish but I won’t be terribly upset if something happens that I don’t. I know I can finish a draft in pretty short order which is the most important lesson NaNoWriMo has to offer in my personal opinion. I’m not technically counting it as failed just yet but I am limiting my expectations.

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Inspiration from Life

The Scout (with bonus Joe McBride)

Every now and again, I’ll put something in a story that comes from things in my own life. I made an Instagram post about it yesterday but I had more to say than a little dinky paragraph. In my upcoming book, Christmas in Bear Ridge, Toni Bell drives an International Harvester, mostly because her favorite childhood memories all surround that truck with its camper top. My parents didn’t have an International Harvester but they did have an International Scout that they loved. I have zero recollection of that car but I heard a lot about it over the years and my dad always said if they’d had the Harvester (especially with the camper), it would still be in the family.

Sometimes we have things we can’t let go of because of the people we associate with those things. It’s especially hard when we lose those people. I have a lot of those things, especially things that belonged to my parents.

Sometimes, we have to go tripping down memory lane into the past before we can confidently move forward into the future. Christmas in Bear Ridge touches a little on it with Toni but it is sort of that for me too. Not in the story of it of course, but the book itself. This book is the first book in a long time that my dad didn’t take a look at first or even talk through it. For me, the process of writing the book was my memory lane but now I know I can still write a book without him pestering me for the next chapter or making sure I’ve plugged up any little holes in my plots. This book will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. There are a lot of tiny things in the background of the story that are nods to my parents that no one but me will ever notice but I know they’re there and that’s all that matters.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 Update

This won’t be a long post as I’ve got a lot of writing to do today but, for those following along at home, it’s day 5 of NaNoWriMo and while I’m ahead of the game, I’m not exactly sure I’m ahead enough just yet. I know I’ve got edits coming in some time this month and, when they come in, that’s got to be the priority. I’m trying to hammer out this zero draft before they even come in but that means a LOT of double days. Ok, all double days. And yesterday I barely scraped together the daily goal so that doesn’t bode well. In my defense though, I did just get an oven after months of not having one that works properly and I really did have to give it a good testing.

Right now, I’m not completely sure I love the book but I’m still really learning these people and this place and there is an awful lot of potential here. Once the zero-draft is put down, I’ll know better what lines to tug. Frankie is not your average heroine and I’m not sure that’s going to work in my favor but everyone always writes about the maiden and not the mother or the crone (at least in non-mystery genres) and Frankie is solidly on the cusp of those stages of life.

As of this moment, before I start on today’s words, I’m standing at 10930/50000 not too shabby for 4 days work but not good enough if I want to finish it before I have to get to the contracted stuff. I can do this though. Happy writing, if you’re doing NaNo. Happy week if you’re not.

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Writer Wednesday: Naming

Happy Halloween!!

Now down to business. This will likely be the last Writer Wednesday post until December (unless I’m moved to vent during NaNoWriMo).

I am doing the preparations for NaNoWriMo this year – not much of anything, just a handful of names to go with the loose ideas in my head. I’m not always good at naming characters on the fly but it is much easier when working in an Earth-based fiction. Science Fiction and Fantasy? The starting names are almost always placeholders until I figure out the language rules and naming conventions of the societies I’m making up.

What are naming conventions? In short: some cultures have rules for how children tend to be named, sharing family names, diminutives of the parental names, the changing of names at certain special life events. If you’re building a whole world, these are things that must be taken into consideration. In some instances, naming conventions stem from religion – married/maiden names, confirmation names, renaming upon entry to the clergy et cetera. At a certain point in a society’s evolution maybe their names become global vs tribal, as is slowly happening right now.

There are some helpful resources out there available at the touch of Google – baby name finders, fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons name generators, all that sort of thing, searchable by culture of origin, meaning, first letter, number of syllables, and any other signifiers you can think of. And yet, it’s not always enough.

Sometimes a character calls for a certain kind of name but, more often than not, you don’t really find the right name until after you develop the character a bit more. When I really can’t find a good name, I’ll use a placeholder rather than wait for a bolt of inspiration. Sometimes they are very uninspired placeholders like “wheelchair dude” or “skinny priest” or “crazy old bat” but then they’re easy to remember to change them all. Find and Replace is a marvelous function.

When I’m working in non-Earth settings with cultures I’ve made up from scratch, it’s a little bit different. I don’t like fantasy naming engines because they end up with apostrophes and too many y’s. My technique when I’m stuck and haven’t figured out the language yet starts with grabbing a few things out of the pantry, one of which is usually a soda, go through the ingredients and tear apart the words into syllables, rearranging them until I find something interesting. Ferrintal, Hylea, Ketryl, and Acknivar (races, characters, planets) were named this way along with many other things in the world of Guardian of the Gods because that’s a universe I’ve been playing in since 2000 but there are two books in that universe that no one will ever see as they were more about me learning my weaknesses and learning how to make things make sense.

What special naming trick do you use when you’re stuck?

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Three days. Three days until NaNoWriMo and I’ve got a shiny kernel of an idea. I don’t know my main character very well yet and I can’t see anything about this story clearly yet but, it’ll work itself out come November 1st. I know I’m going to have a very limited time for it due to edits on Christmas in Bear Ridge but, you know what? I can find an hour a day and make it work. Writer Wednesday is going to take a bit of a break for the month. I’ll be updating the blog here with progress reports and such but yeah, longer more interesting posts will be back in December.

In other news: I watched the Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. Oh my goodness, it’s been a minute since something gave me all the willies. I wrote something about it for the Geek Girl Project here: The Haunting Of Hill House.

I’ll be spending the next few days figuring out at least my new heroine’s name, maybe some of her backstory. The other characters will form as I go but the main girl, I like to be able to see her in my head a bit when I sit down at that blank document. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and want to follow me, I’m Shade53.

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Writer Wednesday: Prompts and Inspiration

It happens to everyone eventually. They want to write but don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s writer’s block, maybe it’s something a little less frustrating like having too many ideas at once or just wanting to stretch new creative muscles a bit. Sometimes, you just want a new direction and I’ve got a few prompt techniques that I like to use when I’m in need of a little writing yoga.

  1. Tarot Pull – It might help if you have your own deck but you really don’t need it. Google daily tarot card if you don’t have a deck of your own or pull a random card if you do. Use that card’s meaning to create a character or a story.
  2. Unsolved Crimes – there are a lot of them and some of the old mysteries are really interesting. Write a solution for your favorite one. Don’t know any unsolved crimes? There’s webpages for that! 10 mysterious deaths. The old TV show had plenty of them too, here’s a list of 10 of those.
  3. Writing to Market – Sometimes a publisher will put out a new anthology with a very specific idea of what they want. This is doubly effective as there is usually a deadline involved also – Lovecraftian (due dec 31), Forgotten Sidekicks/Unexpected Heroines/Forgotten Gods (due Nov 30)
  4. If you’re on Pinterest, search writer’s prompts and you’ll find a ton of them.
  5. While you’re on Pinterest anyway – do a search for art on a topic you’re passionate about or interested in and tell the story of the images you find.
  6. Fairy tales have long been used to keep children in line, tell a Grimm style tale about some more modern parenting issue.

There are infinite stories waiting to be told a new way, your way. Good luck, happy writing!

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