When life gets in the way…

Have you ever felt like the universe is doing it’s damnedest to prevent you from enjoying the things you most want to spend time on? Ever tried to get on with your to-do list and have a million things dumped in your lap that needed sorting yesterday? Ever felt so sure your body is going to collapse under the strain of illness and life stress, that getting out of bed feels utterly pointless?

I should probably tell you that, right now, my hand is stretching itself towards the sky, giving a little wave and shouting ever so annoyingly “Me! Me! MEEEE!”. Yes, life has well and truly kicked my butt and writing has had to take a backseat for the better part of a year! Yes, you read that correctly. Almost an ENTIRE year! Where is that horror stricken emoji face when I need one?

The last blog post I wrote, was published in March a year ago and, looking back over the year I’ve had, I’m not entirely surprised there hasn’t been a peep out of me since. I’m not going to go into details, except to say: I’ve had plenty of good, happy days filled with fun and the things memories are made of, a few too many busy ones full of challenges and deadlines, and then, a whole truckload of the kind where you just want to go to bed and wake up tomorrow, or next week, or perhaps even next year. Looks like I accomplished the last – at least where any form of writing is concerned!

I’m sat looking out the window and spring seems to be on it’s way. The days are getting brighter and I spotted the first crocuses peeping out between the withered brown strands of last years grass yesterday. The world is waking up from it’s long winter nap and I suppose I’m a little envious of it’s ability to start over, clean and bright and eager. What is it with spring that has me feeling like we’re all due for a fresh start?

We’ve had a bleak and unusually snow-free winter this year. Dark, yes. Cold, yes. But instead of the muffled peace that a good snowfall provides, we’ve had rain and a dreary greyness that has dulled even the most cheerful souls. My kids have been decidedly miffed at the lack of snow filled fun. My dog has taken to hanging his head and venturing out reluctantly for his cold, wet walks. And me? I’ve claimed the spot closest to the fireplace and indulged in an endless stream of hot cups of tea, whilst binge-watching yet another tv-series and knitting away the winter evenings.

With warmer weather right around the corner, I’m allowing myself to hope that soon we’ll be able to plant the herbs and veggies we’ve been planning and set out the garden furniture. Warmer weather means less layers going out, oh and note to self: the need for new clothes for my kids that grow like weeds!

As for writing…. I need to read through the chapters I finished last year and take stock, I think. I have a good friend who’s eagerly waiting for the continuation of a story she fell in love with last year. I have chapters she hasn’t even seen yet and I plan to send everything over to her as soon as possible and see what she thinks. Her feedback¬†has been great and I can’t tell you the effect it has had on my confidence! Once that’s done, I should know at least where I am and can plan what to do next.

So, for now, my focus will be taking it easy so I can get back on my feet again and hopefully back on track with writing. I’m by no means out of the woods with everything that’s been dumped on me lately, but I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to feel broken anymore and give up on the dreams I’ve held onto for so long. Let’s see what happens from here on out!

I wish you all a pleasant spring day wherever you are!

And happy writing!

What’s in a name?

veelosvpr_mg_8859“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare’s famous line from Romeo & Juliet should by all accounts be a golden rule of thumb – and far be it from me to argue with a master! However, I find myself wondering if the sentiment applies to character names? Would your readers relate to the handsome, kind and sensitive male protagonist if his name was Spike? Likewise would your female antagonist, the bane of practically everyone’s existence, pure evil personified, pack as much punch if her name was Chlo√ę?

It’s obvious to most of us that most names come with a degree of assumed characterisation. Anyone who has ever tried to name a baby will know that it’s incredibly hard to find a name that doesn’t also remind you of a former colleague, an ex, an irritating boss, the next door neighbours dog etc. etc. etc. We are surrounded by names and whilst some we find appealing, others make us cringe and wonder “what were his parents thinking???”.

When you’re writing a novel your characters names are often a reflection of their personalities. We want people to accept the inherent personality traits that “belong” to a given name and create an image of the character that harmonises with the one you are attempting to portray in the pages of your book.

So how do we go about this? Well, looking at what the net says here and there, I managed to unwittingly use some of the basic naming rules. There are plenty of articles out there to give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Here’s a breakdown of the steps I took and rules I tried to stick to:

  1. Pick a name that reflects the characters culture, age and personality traits. Do the research and make a list of names that were popular in the country / culture, and decade your character was born in. What do the names mean? Are there cultural expectations connected to your chosen name? Anticipating these factors will allow you to provide your characters with names that feel “real” to your readers.
  2. Avoid hard to pronounce and difficult to remember names. As exotic and appealing as the names may be to you, they may just be too difficult for the average reader to pronounce and remember. Unless you plan to provide a glossary with a phonetic pronunciation guide, maybe pick another name.
  3. Some names are so “famous”, using them would be fairly pointless unless you’re writing fan fiction. If you want your characters to be unique to your novel, avoid names which will remind your readers of others with the same name. Bella, Khaleesi, Bond, Hermione … need I say more?
  4. Make sure your character’s names are indistinguishable from each other. A John, Jack and Jacob all within one plot leave us with a confused reader.
  5. Stick to the naming rules of your genre. Real world characters have real world names. Fantasy characters don’t have to!

At the end of the day your characters are yours and their names are up to you to decide. I found this to be a fun exercise and like naming my children, I found names I fell in love with and that match my characters perfectly! How did you get on?