Saturday, November 27, 2010

What's in a Name?

We have a great reprieve for a few days. This one's a subject I really enjoy as both a reader and a writer. As a reader, I find myself doing this when reading other people's books, i.e., thinking of what I might have selected as a name for a particular character if I would've written the story myself. As a writer, just getting my brain working, and finding the names coming at me from every which way I turn.

But what are some other ways a person can come up with a name? Let's see what Linore says. Here comes another writing tip for you folks.

Naming Your Fictional Characters

by Linore Rose Burkard

Do you struggle to find the right name for a character when writing? Is there such a thing as a "right" name? And if there is, how do you know when you've found it?

The answer to these questions can only be subjective, but here's my personal take on them, as well as some of my favorite ways to find names when I need them.

First of all, I think most writers do struggle at times with naming one or more characters. If you've never struggled with this, be grateful. If you have, it probably means that you had a good idea about the sort of character you were naming, and you were smart enough to recognize that not just any ol' name would do.

When I am in need of just the 'right' name for a character, I usually use a stand-in or temporary name until I find the right one. (The temporary name isn't important, so use whatever you like, but I would avoid going with "Character A" and "Character B"--these are cardboard-flat names and won't help you envision your character at all.) If you get really stuck on what the "right" name should be, it may help you to do some further brainstorming about that character. The better you get to know this person, the easier it will be to settle upon a name that feels right.

One of my tricks is to search catalogs with lots of models (both male and female) until I find a face that really matches my idea for a person. Once I have a face, I can usually decide upon a name.

Some writers use baby name books, but I don't find these helpful until I have a face in mind, first. I also find that movie credits sometimes contain wonderful names. I never borrow anyone's full name, but I find both a first name and a surname that I like, and combine them to get that "just right" name for my character.

Each writer really needs to find what works for them. Secondly, is there such a thing as a "right" name? A "wrong" one? Again, this is partly subjective, but in some cases, such as with historical novels, it is more a matter of being period-correct.

Some things to consider when choosing a name are:

     a) Will it make the reader stumble each time they encounter it? Some historical novelists choose names
that are period-correct but impossible to pronounce unless you "know" that period. Don't make reading your book a chore! Find a name that is both correct for the time and place of your novel, while also going easy on readers. If you must use an obscure name, or one that has an obscure spelling, use another character to let us know exactly how the name should be read.

     b) Check that the name was in existence for the period you are writing in. Many authors check to see if the name was popular during a given period, but this is not necessary in many cases. The fact that it existed is technically all you need to know; however, when naming a Puritan, you wouldn't want to try something like "Crystal" when names such as Mary, Patience, and Charity were really the vogue. If you were trying to emphasize the singularity of a character, the difference between him and her and the average person of the world they live in, then a very different-sounding name might be just right, however. So, the story-line plays a part in naming.

     c) I'll never forget this lesson from T.S. Eliot: He wrote a heart-tugging poem called, "The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock." Say that name aloud! It is anything but romantic, anything but what one would associate with a love song, and the poem indeed conveys Prufrock's utter inability to "sing" one, even when opportunity and desire are there. Eliot named this character carefully. The awkward name emphasizes the pathos of the character. Can you do this in your fiction?

It's not by accident that romance writers try to choose pretty, or exotic, or smooth-sounding names for their heros and heroines. Give a girl a pretty name, and it's easier to see her as attractive. Give a hero a strong name, and it's easier to see him as strong.

Interestingly, you might want to choose the name for your villain as carefully as for the hero or heroine. A villain often disguises him or herself as a hero or heroine, at least for some portion of a book, and until they are found out, a beautiful name will go far to fool the reader. Conversely, an uncertain name, one that is not particularly evocative or attractive (think: Clark Kent) can be used to de-emphasize the real hero or heroine until they are revealed for their true colors later in the book.

There's also the idea that evil can appear beautiful, and a lovely name for a villain can make for fun reading. In my book, The House in Grosvenor Square, the good-looking villain's name is Lord Wingate, or Julian. Neither sound ominous, but "Julian" has a sort of mysterious air to it, which I think supports the character's persona.

You shouldn't need to obsess over naming a character, for it is much easier to get a "right" name than a wrong one. Only historical novels can objectively be accused of having a "wrong" name--either for their time or place--but do try to fit the appellation with the person. Get something that fits. Give a pretty girl a pretty name, and a hero a strong name--unless it is part of their appeal or story that they have a "wrong" name and triumph anyway (such as in the Johnny Cash song, " A Boy Named Sue").

Above all, have fun naming your characters! Find a method you like, whether it be an internet search, a baby-name book, movie credits, or any other source, and have at it. Experiment with different names for the
same character if you're just not sure, and see what sits best with you. Eventually, you will find the "right" name for each character, and your book will be stronger for it.

(And speaking of names when you write or daydream or plan babies, or get a new animal friend, how do you come up with yours?)

© 2010 Linore Rose Burkard
The House in Grosvenor Square
Before the Seasons Ends
The Country House Courtship

Friday, November 26, 2010

How Do You See Him?

What's that old saying? Good things come in small packages? Well, I found mine just in time to move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season. Just a sweet email from my boss telling me my newest devotional book will be out and about in time for the Christmas holidays! Now that's a good thing. And an exciting time for me.

I just wanted to give you a peek. I took that cover picture myself a while back. That is just north of beautiful downtown Brookings, Oregon. Nothing like a narrow road on a narrow bridge where you can stop and think about life. Something we should be doing all the time. A place where you can think about the decisions you make each day and how they affect not only you but the world around you.
That's how it works for me anyway.

I See God on the Narrow Road is just a little book of reminders about the paths we're on in life and the choices we are making each day. Check it out and read more about it when you pop in at Amazon or Barnes n Noble or the Kindle site in the days ahead, and you'll learn all about it.

Keep it in mind when you are looking for stocking-stuffers. Won't you?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forgiveness, Relationships, and Thankfulness

November is one of my favorite months of the year. It reminds me of the importance of being thankful for my friends, for my family, for a home, for those I've been privileged to meet, and the importance of having the Lord in my life. 

For the next few days, we'll be hearing from LoRee Peery, who has graciously accepted our request to share with us how she perceives not just the month of November but those two wonderful concepts that we hear about during this time of year: thankfulness and forgiveness. 

Forgiveness, Relationships, and Thankfulness
By LoRee Peery

When Shirley invited me to blog this week, she suggested I talk about forgiveness and thankfulness. I immediately thought how relationships are tied to that topic. Without a relationship with Jesus Christ, how can we appreciate the impact of forgiveness and being thankful?

One of my problems as a writer is that I find so much to say, it’s difficult to focus and stick to simplicity of topic. My mind was flooded with verses when I opened my Bible for applicable words. When I’m on a search such as this, I get lost in His beautiful promises, assurances, and blessings.

Forgive, relation, thankful.

Wow. I’m humbled anew to realize my inadequacy. Yet, my Lord sees me as righteous. See? I went off subject.

A reader commented after reading Moselle’s Insurance. “One thing I love about your story,” she said, “is the theme of forgiveness.” To celebrate God’s forgiveness and second chances, Moselle and Eric get married over the Thanksgiving holiday. That scene comes out in the second and upcoming Frivolities book, Rainn on My Parade.
The number one thing I’m thankful for, and strive to reveal through my characters, is the undeserved forgiveness I’ve been granted by my Lord.

Over the years I’ve fought depression a time or ten. During those times, I’ve listed things I’m thankful for. It doesn’t take long into the list before I discover God has pulled me out of the dumps. Many of those blessings listed are the people, family, and friends who are part of my life.

He is so good! His grace covers all my shortcomings, as well as those of the people surrounding me. Thank You, Jesus!

I am so thankful to have a new relationship this holiday season. And, oh my, forgiveness plays a big part in this true-life story. November 2, I opened a letter from a cousin I had never known. His birthmother was my father’s sister. God has unfolded this story, this new relationship, at His given time.

Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus poured out redemptive love while He hung on the cross – enough to cover the sins of the world. He forgave me much. I should be able to forgive others.

We are meant to work with others, and according to 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, each of us has a spiritual gift to enhance our working together. God is sufficient. He supplies all we need to fulfill His will and His work. He works in us individually, and through our relationships. We can’t push His work. He does it in His own time. Can we work, either alone or with others, effectively if we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts?

I can look at my life, the past and the present, and I know He holds my future; and see His hand in every aspect. He never lets go. And something else about Jesus, He commands us to love one another (John 15:12). Pretty hard to do without forgiveness involved.

The blessing of forgiveness transforms into harmonious, loving, prayerful, thankful relationships. That’s the kind of life that brings glory to God.

In Jesus, I have peace. My belief in forgiveness doesn’t mean I dance around with no cares in the world. I get stressed over what life dishes out with the rest of humanity. But deep down, my faith colors my world with the peace of His love. His love involves others, He colored their world too! Be thankful we’re not in this alone. Whatever we’re mixed-up in, we’re in it with someone else.

Not one of us is perfect, we mess up. I need to remind myself that Jesus died for others in the same way He took my sins to the cross.

Exhibition of life is grace personified. Sometimes it’s hard not to speak “Christianeze” —you know, those little expressions we get so used to saying. None of it is cliché to true believers. We cherish those ways of saying our thankfulness for the forgiveness granted when a sinner repents and a new life in Christ begins.

God’s timing plays into every aspect of our lives. I firmly believe that had I not put forgiveness into active practice in a close relationship, and dwelt on thankfulness rather than a circumstance, I would not be a published author.

I hope you don’t feel “preached to.” I wish you all the ability to ask for, receive, and grant forgiveness; and joy beyond measure as you reflect and fellowship. We are not in this world alone. Our world is filled with relationships. And relationships are a picture of forgiveness and thankfulness. Blessings to you as you celebrate THANKSGIVING with your friends, family, and loved ones.
Reflection Question for you

This is not the place to confess, but if a person in your life came to mind as you were reading, would you please pray about that individual and your situation? We are in the season of being thankful for our blessings, which includes the blessing of relationships, often based on forgiveness.

copyright 2010 LoRee Peery
author of Moselle's Insurance
Graphics by Julia Bettencourt
 Be Blessed This Thanksgiving from all of us at A Pen for Your Thoughts.
We would love to hear your thoughts this week too.
Congratulations to Melissa Marsh of Lincoln Nebraska. You have just won an ebook from LoRee. I hope you enjoy it as much as we appreciated having you here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How would someone write about a girl addicted to horoscopes?

Jenness Walker lives in South Florida with her beloved website designer husband and almost-as-beloved laptop. When she’s not writing suspense on her own or brainstorming fun stuff with Tracy, she loves to read, decorate, and dream about her next road trip. Double Take, her first novel, was a Carol Award finalist. Bliss, her first co-authored novel, released this fall.

SDC: What made you start writing, Jenness?

Jenness: I’ve always loved to read and come up with stories, so writing was just a given. So much so that in first grade I thought my story was a shoe-in for first place in a contest my teacher had. (Um. I wasn’t. But that just started me early on dealing with rejection. )

SDC: That kind of answers my question about how long have you been writing.  How do you find your subject matter?

Jenness: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember but I guess you could say I got really serious in my senior year of college when I completed my first novel.


Ideas just come to me—from something that’s said from the pulpit, a song on the radio, people-watching, articles, dreams, whatever. I keep a file of the random things that come to me and often tie them together to form a more complete idea.

SDC: When did you sell your first book or article? Tell us the circumstances that brought it about.

Jenness: I had been submitting short stories to magazines through most of high school as I took a writing correspondence course. I finally sold a romantic short story to Grit in college. That was really fun to me, not only because it was my first sale, but because my dad used to sell Grit papers when he was a kid. That made it even more special.

SDC: How do you handle rejections and have you had many?

Jenness: Oh, yes, I have quite the collection. It was actually encouraging to keep them, because I could look back and see my writing must be improving as the letters grew progressively nicer. 

Though some rejections sting quite a bit more than others, I’m pretty laid back about it. I know I will always have more to learn and that God will open and close doors as He sees fit. So if I just keep writing and trying to improve my craft, things will go according to His plan.

SDC: What do you think is the deep rooted reason that you write, Jenness?

Jenness: Novels speak to me. I’m passionate about them and have been touched by messages woven into many that I’ve read. I’m a shy person. This is a way of reaching out, expressing my heart, and I hope that my words can point toward Christ.

SDC: What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Jenness: My dad restores pianos. My grandpa restores furniture. My sister-in-law paints and is an amazing decorator. And I love finding unique furniture or décor to fix up. I think it would be amazing to open a cute family shop, selling things that we’ve restored or repurposed.

SDC: Wow! Those hobbies and interests can become subject matter all by themselves! What are you working on right now?

Jenness: While Tracy and I wait to hear back about one project, I’m trying to finish up a story that’s very close to my heart. It’s a darker women’s fiction story, but I pray that the darkness makes the glimpses of hope and faith that much brighter.

SDC: Do you put yourself into your books? If so,how? If not, what do you do to pull out your individual voice?

Jenness: There’s a bit of me and my friends in each story I write, although the characters or situations are more inspired by rather than modeled after anyone in particular.

It is often said that you should write what you know. I don’t think anyone wants to read my life story over and over again. But I think putting myself and my experiences into what I write is what helps me find my voice.

SDC: Tell us about the book you are planning to share with us. And please give us a reflection question that will get us to think from deep within.

Jenness: Bliss is the first novel I co-authored with Tracy Bowen. It’s light-hearted women’s fiction that began with the question: What if a girl was addicted to horoscopes but they led her into disaster every time she followed their advice? We had quite the journey with Indie, our heroine, as she searched for bliss and found that her path was not charted by the stars, but by the Maker of the stars. It’s a funny story about finding faith and your true self, and it has a great cast of quirky characters, along with a hunky boat captain.

As Tracy and I worked on the story together, it made me think quite a bit about the motivation behind Indie reading her horoscope throughout the first half of the novel.

Question for the viewers to think about: Where do you look for guidance—yourself? Other people? The stars? Or do you strive to know the heart of God and look to Him and His word to lead you?

SDC: Great insight question. I look forward to seeing what people write in. Thanks so much for being here, Jenness. Where can readers find you?

You can find Tracy and me at  and on Facebook. I also have a personal website

Readers and writers, please look above at the question. What would you say to that?
(I look forward to drawing one of your names in a few days.)

Congratulations to  Anne Payne  of Vale, North Carolina. Be watching for your book. I'm sure it will be greatly enjoyed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Grace and Faith and Maybe Even That Secret Formula

Everyone wants to learn about Grace, and especially that faith we all want to see come alive.

But to learn a little more about the Grace you see in the picture at your right, you might want to read Ms Bridges' various sites online.

I've learned myself this week that Grace Bridges is of Irish descent and lives in New Zealand. That's unique in itself.
At a young age, Grace taught herself to read and enjoyed reading the Narnia series at age five then a few years later (okay, so maybe a lot of years) received her Bachelor of Arts at Auckland University and then a Graduate Diploma in Translation Studies. Also during her high school and university years the Grace we're learning about today entertained notions of musicality and was involved in the Elkanah Music School for a number of years. 
Some of the songs she's written were recorded live and rough with her band.
Now, Grace keeps busy as an Independent Publisher. We will be learning about some of her own books while she joins us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. 
SKC: Weclome, Grace. What book or project would you like to tell us about today?

GB: Legendary Space Pilgrims was born out of a very vivid dream a couple of years ago. If Pilgrim’s Progress happened in space, this is what it might look like. On a planet that has never seen the sun, a harvester hears a Voice from beyond. It's time to leave the oatfield. Mario and Caitlin escape the mind control of Planet Monday, following the Voice to unknown worlds where wonders and challenges await. Have you got what it be a legend?

SDC: I think all of us do. What inspired you to become a writer of inspirational books?

GB: Most likely all the reading I’ve done. A book with true depth always had a greater impact on me than the ones that were only entertainment. I love it when a good book blows my mind, and this is especially true of science fiction for me. The universe is a very huge place, and anytime an author helps me to comprehend just a little more of that hugeness, it expands my thinking to understand God a bit more, too, and reading becomes an act of worship.

SDC: What encourages you to continue?

GB: Good friends, supporters, beach walks, and because it’s fun. Plus that tantalising possibility that I might someday write something truly mind-blowing. LOL.

SDC: Hey. That's a dream most writers have, I would imagine. Are you in any ministry groups online? If so, tell us about them and how they minister to you and you them.

GB: I don’t know if you’d call it that, but there is the Lost Genre Guild which is a group for writers of Christian speculative fiction, i.e. science fiction and fantasy. There is lots of support there as we discuss various issues, cheer each other on, and swap critiques on manuscripts. They are awesome, and we have the weirdest discussions about faith and fantasy all intermingled.

SDC: What is your GRACE secret to writing a good book?

GB: Have FUN! If I’m having trouble writing a particular scene, often the reason is because I’m bored with it. And if I’m bored, it’s safe to assume the reader will be bored too. So that’s when I change it around, throw something different in, skip over the boring bits.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t let life get too busy! Peace within is a must for writing.

SDC: I agree with that. But unfortunately that is what too many of us do. What plans do you have for 2011? And what reflection question would you like to ask our viewers for this month of Thanksgiving, in order for me to draw a winner of your book?

GB: A little travelling around the South Pacific – love those tropical islands, and they’re not far from New Zealand – and a whole lot of writing. I have three novels under construction, and I hope to have one of them ready for publishing next year sometime, as well as a few more short stories.

(The question for the viewers.) Have you ever had your mind blown by a book, in a good way? Of course I’m especially interested in the effects of science fiction (it can’t be just me, right??) but perhaps you’ve had it happen in another genre too. I’d love to hear about it! How did it expand your thinking, and did it change the way you think about God?

SDC: Interesting question. Grace, we want to thank you so much for joining us! I understand you have a free book offer. Fill us in a little more on that before you go, and please tell the readers about it and how they can find you on the web.

GB: Well, anyone who wants to is welcome to an ebook review copy of my book – or indeed any of the other books I publish. They are all listed at my website . For this post I’ll be offering a choice of my two books Faith Awakened or Legendary Space Pilgrims, in print, to a lucky winner if we get enough comments. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook, and blog at  (personal),  (spec-fic book reviews),  (spec-fic news) and once a month or so at . Oh yes and I have lots of videos on my YouTube channel – from photographic travelogs to book trailers and much more:  You can write to me at the contact page on .

SDC: Let's relook at the question Grace has for us from above. Have you ever had your mind blown by a book, in a good way?  How did it expand your thinking, and did it change the way you think about God?


Congratulations to Ann Lee Miller of Gilbert AZ