Thursday, April 29, 2010

Naming Characters Pt. 2: Naming Resources

Sometimes I get the name and the character at the same time. More often, however, I have to go fishing. Here are some of my favorite resources.

SSA Popular Baby Names - A database of top baby names from the U.S. Census dating back to 1880. You can search by year and view up to the top 1,000 names of that year.

The Baby Name Treasury - This book hosts a ridiculous sum of names. My favorite feature is all the lists at the beginning. Categories range from the top names by state to Jazz artists to celebrity names. - You can Google "baby names" and get a huge list of sites. This is just one that I tend to favor. It has a nice collection and it's easy to search. It also has top lists in different categories.

Medieval Names Archive - This site lists names that have come off of actual official documents. It also lists surnames.

English Surnames: Meanings and Origins - A long list of the most popular English surnames.

18th and 19th Century Nicknames - Lists some out-of-the-box names for that era.

Greek Surnames - An extensive list.

Eighteenth-Century Women's Names - Not extensive but still useful and insightful.

Faire Names for English Folke - Women's and men's names from the late 16th century.

Regency Period Names - Pretty extensive. Not as user-friendly as some of the other sites I've mentioned, but it was one of the few reliable pages I found for names of this period.

What are your favorite suggestions/resources for character naming?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Naming Characters Pt. 1: Choosing a Name

I've read a lot about character naming on Twitter recently so I decided to blog about it. I love names and naming characters has always been fun for me. I'm kind of a name collector. I keep a database of names I like and several resources for naming at my fingertips.

When it comes down to choosing a name, I tend to go by my gut feeling. Often a name just feels right for that person. However, I do take some other things into consideration that may also help you name your characters.

Age - When was the character born? Certain names or styles of names come and go. Look at lists of popular names from his or her birth year.

Culture - Every culture has its own set of favorites and naming patterns. If the culture is not your own, do your research to accurately name your character.

Time Period/Genre - Different times, different names. And some genres (sci-fi and fantasy for example) cater to more unusual names or naming styles.

Pronunciation - Say the name out loud. Is it a struggle to pronounce? Will most in your audience know how to pronounce it?

The Name Palette - Look at the big picture as well as the individual you're naming. Are the names cohesive but different? It's like a color scheme. You want colors to coordinate but not necessarily match. Write out the names side-by-side. If things look too identical, consider swapping some of them out.

I keep a list of potential names for each character. Names that seem to jive, I use on a trial basis. I'll call the character by that name, write it out with different surnames, and let the character live with that name for a short time.

So where can you find names to try out in the first place? Stay tuned for part two and a long list of naming resources.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Top 5 Favorite Mysteries

I am a mystery girl. I come by it honestly through my mother. She always read Agatha Christie books, and we would spend every afternoon watching reruns of old TV shows like "Murder, She Wrote" and "Magnum, P.I." I have always gone straight for the mystery section at the library. And regardless of what I intend to borrow, I inevitably come out with a mystery.

I've come up with a list of some of my favorites. Some of these are listed as the series; I couldn't pick just one. If you like intrigue, danger, romance, and adventure as much as I do, head to your local library and borrow one today.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - War, murder, family secrets, and legend come together in this late 19th century novel. This is one of the books that started the genre as we know it today. Formatted as a series of letters, a few different characters present their take on the story. You might think this would be confusing but Collins is a master and you never miss a beat. Don't let the size of the book scare you off. You'll fly through it.

The Kathryn Swinbrooke Mysteries by C.L. Grace - Medieval murder mysteries top my list (just ask my sister). This series follows a female physician in Canterbury, England, in the 15th century. The hot (yes, I said HOT) King's Commissioner, Colum Murtagh, joins her in solving a variety of murders, including my personal favorite, a double poisoning. Kathryn has her hands full avoiding death, keeping Colum in line, and keeping the rushes on her floors clean.

The Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles by Susanna Gregory - Another medieval murder series, this time taking place in the university town of Cambridge in the 14th century, but also starring a physician. Gregory weaves some intricate plots that kept me guessing, which is why I got hooked on them. Matt makes an interesting sleuth. He's book smart, not quite so street savvy, and a little bit of a wimp. But he's intelligent and always manages to flush out the killer. His buddy Brother Michael is a loose monk who adds a nice balance to Matt's more serious nature.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe - Technically a gothic romance it involves a lot of mystery so I'm adding it here. The heroine is not quite as strong as we like them in the 21st century, but the story is packed with intrigue, danger, unexplained happenings, and scary gothic Italian castles. Really, people, it doesn't get much better than that! I will warn you that the first half of the book is the set up to the main plot so it requires patience. It was the late 18th century so we'll cut Ann some slack in that department.

The Tommy and Tuppence Series by Agatha Christie - By far my favorite Christie sleuths, it's a shame she didn't write more books with them. She did, however, write loads of short stories featuring the duo. Christie weaves mystery with some spy games in these War time books. T & T make a cute pair, and a fearsome couple if you've killed anyone lately.

If you're on Goodreads, follow me to swap recommendations and reviews.

What are your favorite mysteries?

Amy =)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Music as Writing Inspiration

Like a lot of writers, music plays a large role in helping me develop my story ideas. Music sometimes inspires characters and situations and plots as well as keeping momentum on ideas already in progress. Certain songs just resonate with certain ideas and I can't tear them apart. Nor would I want to. The music drives me on even when I want to hurl my laptop out of the window. So as a way of introducing my novel-in-progress, I've added the top songs to my playlist that influenced the development of my main character, Imogen Bell, and kept me excited to keep going over the last year.

Imogen is a bit spunky, a bit feisty, upbeat and energetic, and a little idealistic - all qualities reflected in these songs. Listening to them and picturing Imogen helped me solidify her personality, and each one represents a different stage of her development. "The Only Difference Between" by Panic! At the Disco was especially influential at the beginning. I was still trying to figure out who Imogen was and this song just clicked with her. I'd listen to it over and over while I walked, working out ideas in my head. Now these songs are forever associated with my good friend, Immie.

Take a listen and stay tuned for more about Imogen Bell and other cast members from my upcoming novel.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Celebrating Finishing the First Draft

A little over a week ago, I finished the first draft of the first novel I'm writing for publication. My main character came to life in May 2009 and I have had quite the year of developing and plotting. So to celebrate my little victory, I went to Boston, Mass., on Wednesday with my sister and hung out on Newbury St., the prime shopping center in the city. We ate lunch at a cute bistro, did a little clothes shopping, and enjoyed the blossoming spring weather. I came home energized and ready to get back to writing!

How do you like to celebrate your victories?

Amy :)
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