Changing a Character’s Name

We’ve all met that one person whose name isn’t quite right. You look at them and think “Jason” instead of “Mark”; or “Carmen” instead of “Poppy”. You’ve also probably met that person who’s name you never asked for, so you give them a name instead.

When I was younger, (somewhere between the ages of 8 and 11- I don’t quite remember) I was in an airport and I met a boy while waiting to board the plane. I talked to this boy with my brothers for what felt like hours; but I never asked his name. Since then, I have always referred to him as “Tommy”. He just looked like a Tommy to me.

A name is a very powerful thing. They can change a way we imagine someone. So, picking a name for a character can completely shape the way a reader imagines the character. When I name characters, I imagine what I want them to look like and how I want them to act, then I look through my baby naming book (it’s a long story) and pick the name that makes my character come to life.

So what happens when the name you picked just isn’t cutting it? What happens when you accidentally type a different name instead of the name you chose for your character?

You change your character’s name.

I am the type of person who obsesses for weeks before setting on a list of names for my characters, so changing the name of a character is not something I do often. So, when I found myself questioning the name Zane for my male main character in Candy Wrappers, I was in uncharted waters, so to speak. I found myself wondering if I could change his name- especially after I announced it to pretty much everyone I know.

I decided that yes, I can change his name. This book is my creative outlet, and it should be exactly how I want it to be; no matter how many thing I have to change. That’s just how creativity works: you can’t always get it right on the first try.

So, I have decided that the former Zane Towne will now be called Ren Towne (still iffy on the last name). And yes, I totally got the name ‘Ren’ from Footloose, not the baby naming book. Sometimes inspiration comes from hot actors.

Changing Zane’s name was a lot easier than I expected. The hardest part was getting around to doing it. I’ve been meaning to for almost a week now. I am lucky enough (lazy enough?) that I haven’t gotten to the part in Candy Wrappers where Ren is introduced, so all I had to do was update my notes and synopsis.

Honestly, I am glad I went through with the name change. I don’t find myself accidentally saying ‘Zane’ like some people thought I would. I feel more connected to Ren, and it makes me more excited to sit down and write Candy Wrappers.

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Writing my First Chapter

For the past two days I have been working on the first chapter of my second novel. As I have said before, my first novel (Keep Moving On) was not written very well. I was participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which meant I had to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It was definitely not easy.

My second novel, Candy Wrappers, has nothing to do with Keep Moving On. It is going to be the first in a series called The Gravestone Chronicles, which will follow Malia Kotter and Zane Towne in their quest to find the gravestone and banish demons from our world once and for all. In Candy Wrappers Malia is going to meet Zane, and learn about the threat of demons in the world; and how they are the real reason behind her parents murder.

I have most of the main plot points figured out, but how to actually start the book is a whole different story. I truly believe that beginning a story is the hardest part. You face the challenge of setting up the plot, characters, and setting, all while keeping the reader engaged.  Just the thought of doing this makes me want to curl up under a rug somewhere and hide.

In the past two days of working on my book, I have written 1,218 words; that is about 2 1/2 pages of size 11 font. I have successfully completed my first scene, which is about 1/3 of my first chapter. In all honesty, I think I would have written a lot more if I didn’t spend so much time online and on social media; however, it is part of my life, and I have no deadline for when I want my first draft to be done.

I have also spent a lot of time staring at my sentences and rewriting them over and over again. I think it is fair to say that I am a bit of a perfectionist. Hopefully I will be able to resist the urge to edit so I can get some new words on the end.

I have some high hopes for Candy Wrappers, and seeing it being written down on a page is very encouraging. I can’t wait to write some more, and see if Malia and Zane want to go along with my plans for them.

Author Q & A- Mary F Allen

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing an up and coming author named Mary F Allen. She is based in New York, and is a book and chocolate lover. She is currently editing her first novel, titled Anam.

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Q: What is the first thing you would want someone to know about you?

A: That I love books and writing. (and of course chocolate!)

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I have been writing for fun ever since I was a child. Only within the past two years did I realize the passion I have for it.

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: I make myself write everyday even when I am not inspired at all. I guess if I had to pick a muse, it would be the characters for my book, lol, they are like imaginary friends who get annoyed when you ignore them!

Q: Tell me about your first novel. What inspired it?

A: My first book is a fantasy novel called Anam. Think Alice in Wonderland meets Lord of the Rings. One of the characters seemed to come into my head out of no where many years ago. I love fantasy books, my inspiration has been all the fantasy books I have read and loved.

Q: If you could only have one type of chocolate for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Milk chocolate, no question about it!

Q: What is your favorite book and what do you like about it?

A: Oh gosh, I dont know if I could pick just one. My favorite at the moment is Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love the details the Tolkien puts into the story and how he makes you feel like you are in the middle of the story.

Q: What criteria does a book have to meet for you to consider it a “good book”?

A: For me to consider it a good book, the story has to hold me and make me care about the characters.

Q: If you could meet one historical figure, who would it be and why?

A: It would have to be King Henry the VIII’s sister, Mary, Queen of France. Because I just finished a book about her by Jean Plaidy. The book made me curious about the real woman.

Q: Is there anything else about yourself you want the world to know?

A: That I love animals, talking to people and being by the ocean.

 

You can find Mary on twitter here: https://twitter.com/MaryAWriter

Author Q & A- Emma Finlayson-Palmer

Today I had the honor of interviewing a wonderful woman named Emma Finlayson-Palmer. She is a writer based in the UK, a mom of 5, and seriously amazing at time management.
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Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you like to do for fun?
A: Writing is what really makes me tick. I spend time every day writing, whether it is a short piece of fiction or part of a novel, I have to write every day or I miss it! I also really love to read. I especially like a good thriller, but I do read an awful lot of Young Adult and children’s books. I try to read books from genres I wouldn’t normally read too.
Q: How long have you been writing for?
A: I have been writing as long as I can remember. My first published piece was on Ceefax when I was about 8 year old, back in the 80s. I knew when I was at junior school that I wanted to be a writer, and idolized Roald Dahl.
Q:  Why did you start writing?
A: It’s my passion, and I feel lost when I’m not working on something. It sounds dramatic, but I feel as though a part of me is missing if I’m not writing.
Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?
A: Just about anything and everything inspires me. Everywhere I go I take a notebook and pens. I’m always listening out for interesting bits of information and conversation. I enjoy people watching to get ideas for characters too. Even dull things such as a paperclip could inspire me. Recently I wrote a thriller short story with a cushion as a writing prompt!
Q: You are the Secretary for the Castlecroft Writers and the Wombourne Writers. Can you tell me a little more about these groups and your role in running them?
A: My role in both groups is very similar, I write down the minutes of each meeting, and email group members with competitions and other interesting writerly information. I also run both Twitter accounts for the groups and organize events such as visiting authors or agents to come and give the group talks.
Wombourne Writers meet in a library, whilst Castlecroft Writers meet in a pub, so both have quite different settings, but both are very friendly encouraging groups. I love attending writing groups and events with writers because writers really are the only people who understand the voices in my head and why they tell me to write their stories!
Q: You also host the Uk Teen Chat (#ukteenchat). What exactly is this event and what goals do you hope to accomplish with it?
A: #ukteenchat is a brand new chat about teen fiction, which starts on Tuesday 16th February 8-9pm. The idea for the chat arose when discussing a lack of things geared up for teen writers with fellow writer Lu Hershey. There is #ukmgchat for Middle Grade writers and #ukyachat for Young Adult writers, but there is a bit of a void in between, which we hope that #ukteenchat will fill.
Q: What challenges do you have being the mother of five children? How do you find the time to write and organize your various groups and events?
A: The challenges as a mother are endless, but my family provide me with lots of ideas for stories. I have four boys and one daughter, and it looks as though my daughter is following in my footsteps after being shortlisted in a writing competition with the National Association of Writers’ Groups last year.
Time is definitely an issue for me with such a large family, and working two different jobs alongside my writing. But I believe if you have a passion for something you will always find some time. I am a nightowl so tend to do a lot of my writing during the evening and late into the night. Organising groups and events has been made easier by mobile phones. Yes, I know they are very anti-social at times, but it’s been very handy to be able to answer emails on the go, and keep up to date with my Twitter notifications throughout the day.
Q: You have told me that you love Zumba. It is without doubt one of the most enjoyable ways to get moving, but what draws you to it? When did you start doing Zumba?
A: I love to dance, but I’m not always the most co-ordianted of people. Zumba provides a place where I can combine my love of dancing with the bonus of it not mattering if I mess up some of the moves, especially as I like to hide at the back of the class! I also enjoy the fact that I can do something I love that helps me to stay healthy, and keep my brain fired up for writing.
Q: You have also told me that you are a bit of a film addict, and especially love Hitchcock, Tim Burton, and Wes Anderson films. What about their films do you like? What criteria have to be met for you to like a film?
A: I have quite ecelectic tastes in both books and films, so I like a bit of everything, but I do have my favourites as listed in your question. Hitchcock is the master of suspense, and created amazing films with limited props and scenes. So his films didn’t rely on explosions and big fight scenes to keep tension going, instead they relied on good storytelling and using camera angles to filter through snippets of tantalising information. My favourite Hitchcock film, in fact, favourite film full stop is Rear Window with James Stewart. The whole film is shot in one room so it really had to have a strong plot to keep the intrigue, but it works beautifully.
I have a love of the gothic and macabre, and downright quirky which Tim Burton does so well. Wes Anderson also creates quirky films with offbeat characters that are often quite unsual but fascinating. I also love the overall aesthetic quality of Anderson’s films with their rich colours, and camera angles. All three directors share many qualities that I love.
You can find Emma on twitter here: https://twitter.com/FinlaysonPalmer
Also, check out her amazing blog: http://finlayson-palmer.blogspot.co.uk/

Beginning a Novel

Today marks the day that I am starting my second novel. Unlike when I started my first novel, I decided to do some research before starting this one. It’s hard to understand how confusing a novel can be to write until you are sitting at your keyboard and trying to pants your way though the first chapter. Needless to say, my first novel was a train wreck.

This time around I decided not to be a pantser. A pantser is someone who doesn’t make an outline, and just writes as they go along. I’m not saying that pantsing doesn’t work (it does- just ask JK Rowling), I’m just saying that it didn’t work that well for me. I ended up forgetting about characters and leaving huge plot holes that pure editing can’t fix.

For the past couple weeks, I have been scouring the internet looking for the best ways to go about plot planning. I have never been much of a planner, even when I wrote essays for school. However, I also don’t like editing, so that puts me in a bit of a pickle; how can I write a great book that doesn’t require too much planning or editing?

The solution for editing is an easy one. There are amazing websites such as https://reedsy.com/ that can get you in contact with professional editors, cover/interior designers, and any other service you need. Then, you can negotiate your own price with them first hand. That being solved, the only problem I had left was how am I going to plan my plot?

In my creative process, I get ideas two main ways. The scenes will pop into my head,  or I talk with my older brother/a close friend. So how do I take these seemingly random ideas and put them together to make a killer plot?

The answer for me was a chapter by chapter breakdown. I spent a good three hours organizing all the little notes I made into a sort-of-legible story line, and went from there. It was pretty easy from that point to fill in the missing points and see what needed more developing.

I’m not saying that my plot skeleton is perfect- it is just a skeleton. I still have a lot of work to do on it, and it will most likely change as I go along. However, the way I did it gives me a great deal more freedom than completely planning out my novel. It allows me to change directions at the end of a chapter- or switch a chapter out completely) if I don’t like it. Being a lover of pantsing, I feel like this plan gives me a good amount of space to let my creativity grow, while still sticking to a story line.

Now, I just need to see if my planning works. I guess you can call this a bit of an experiment. So wish me luck! I’ll post an update about it soon.