Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blame it on the Name, for Shame

Names are tricky, especially when you're selecting them for your characters. For the most part you want to select a name that reflects your genre, though there are plenty of exceptions to this rule.

A quick tour of the bestsellers on my bookshelf reveals these finds:
Lavinia and Tobias in Amanda Quick's historical romance, Late for the Wedding
Eve and Roarke in JD Robb's futuristic romance, Indulgence in Death
Lev and Rikki in Christine Feehan's paranormal romance, Water Bound
cult leader Ethan in Brenda Novak's romantic suspense, White Heat
wizard Gandalf and unlikely hero Bilbo in JRR Tolkien's fantasy, The Hobbit
magician Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher's fantasy, Fool Moon
every man David Beck in Harlan Coben's thriller, Tell No One
sleuth Lincoln Rhyme in Jeffery Deaver's thriller, The Broken Window

I've barely tapped the potential of my bookshelf, but you should see a pattern. A name evokes a certain type of character, triggers a memory, inspires curiosity, or even intrigues a reader by its very difference.

Up and coming authors show the same skill. Here are a few that I've reviewed:
down-and-out Addie in Celia Yeary's western, Addie and the Gunslinger
psychic Diana Racine in Polly Iyer's mystery, Mind Games
Deanna and Daws in LK Hunsaker's modern fiction, Moondrops & Thistles
archer Heather in SG Rogers' paranormal fantasy, Tournament of Chance
Edmund and Kiera in Stephanie Burkhart's steampunk, A Gentleman & a Rogue
Kendi and Jackson in Cheryl Pierson's romantic suspense, Temptation's Touch

And, what list would be complete without a few of my characters?
  • intrepid Cleopatra Jones from my mystery series - a gal with the weight of the world on her shoulders
  • birdwatcher & data analyst Hannah from House of Lies - a heroine who's plunged from her safe world into danger
  • reporter Molly Darter from Murder in the Buff, an every woman who rises to the occasion

Some names seem off limits to me. For instance, I wouldn't ordinarily use any of these names for my characters: Hannibal, Cher, Rambo, Hitler, Napoleon, Barrack, and a host of other famous people through the years. I might use their personality types though, or use a famous name as a weight they have to overcome every day of their lives.

And then there's unisex names like Chris. There's a couple I know, Chris and Ward. Ward's the female and I always call her Chris. I also know women named Lloyd and Sudy. Unusual names are common in the south, as are double names like Mary Lee, Betty Sue, and so on. Select names which reflect the genre or give a regional flair for best identification.

In selecting character names, make it easy for the readers to remember them. Give them strong tags and attributes. Make them three-dimensional so readers color in the face behind the name.

How do writers come up with names? Different ways. Name lists. Personal experience. Online lists of names. Yearbooks. Commencement programs. Obituaries. Prayer lists. Phone books. And when all else fails, mix and match author names from your bookshelf!

Please share your thoughts on names. I'd love to hear from you!

Maggie Toussaint
In For a Penny and On the Nickel out now on Kindle

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turkey Trot Misgivings

Holiday season is approaching at warp speed, and with it come various obligations. Some of these are great fun, others fall into the do-I-have-to realm.

Though I'm an introvert by nature, I enjoy hanging out with friends and family. It helps me bring balance and harmony back into my life to not be living and breathing books every minute of the day.

For instance, our extended family's Thanksgiving will be at a sister's house. That's fine, but we'd planned to let her off the hook due to some health issues she's been having, but she overruled us. She gets to do that because she's the oldest.

Along with that pronouncement came the list of food that others were already bringing. Turkey. Ham. Cornbread oyster dressing. Giblet gravy. Two kinds of cranberry sauce. Sweet potato souffle. Squash casserole. Tomato casserole. Pumpkin pie. Tea.

With all that stuff already on the menu, what could I possibly add? Keeping in mind that I'm on a low-carb diet, mashed potatoes are out, so are sweet desserts.

I'm 4th on the sibling totem pole, 4th out of 5, so most of my family is unconcerned that I'm at a loss about my contribution. Oh, and ice and dinnerware are already taken.

So help me out gang. What should I contribute? Tell me some of the traditional and nontraditional foods that grace your Thanksgiving meal.

And while I've got your ear, the ebook edition of IN FOR A PENNY will be free at Amazon Nov 14 to 18, that's this Wednesday to Sunday. Here's the hyperlink: www.amazon.com/InForAPenny-ebook/dp/B008MCSGMM

Now put your Thanksgiving thinking caps on and help me figure out this turkey trot quandry...

Maggie Toussaint

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The PRO in procrastination

Ever noticed how there's a "Pro" in procrastination?

Those of us who procrastinate don't take the subject lightly. We dive into it all the way, fully committing to doing our own thing in our own time.

There's so many of us, we've become a "Nation" of folks who just let it ride. Our national motto is "I'll get to it later."

Later's always better. First, later stretches to infinity, so there's no deadline imposed. Doing something later assumes you'll be fresher or better prepared or more motivated to take on that dreaded task. Postponing an action gives someone else the opportunity to step forward, and let's you off the hook.

Sound familiar? I bet it does.

When something comes up we're not interested in doing, it doesn't become any more appealing with time. In fact, once the task is postponed, it's easier to keep postponing it.

Got a household chore you hate? A work product you've been dreading? A term paper that's due tomorrow? Just thinking about those things is stressful.

Why do we duck out on certain things and not on others?

We're afraid we'll mess it up or do worse than last time.

The process is too complex to understand all at once.

We don't want to do it and you can't make us.

We don't care about the task.

We can't focus on something big; there's too many little things that have to be done.

We don't know how to get started.

It's not in our wheelhouse. The effort won't meet our minimum standards.

As a writer, I have definite tasks I procrastinate. First, I'm always reluctant to start a new book. The characters from the last story feel so real. I want to stay in their world. Second, I can research a topic to death. Once I start googling and opening files, the information flows all around me and leads me new places. Third, writing a synopsis makes me use the editing and creative side of my head at the same time. I worry my head might explode.

It's human nature to avoid pain and hardship and to seek pleasurable endeavors. You can't fail at something if you haven't tried it yet, but the trick is to understand why you don't want to do something.

If you're afraid, work on addressing the fear.

If you're overwhelmed, break the task into smaller steps and reward yourself for each step of the way.

If its out of your area, learn how to do it.

If starting is a problem, trick yourself by saying you're just going to get the tools for the job out.

Before you know it, you'll be motoring along on the road to completion. Commit to your task with a new focus and before you know it, you'll be moving on to better things.

Are you a Pro at procrastinating? Share with us something that you put off. And as a bonus, share with us how you've gotten past that stumbling block.

Happy November everyone!

Maggie Toussaint

In For a Penny, now $2.99 at Kindle
ps I'm looking for reviewers for my In For A Penny