You Name It!

Your Next Bad A__ CharacterCharacter names are the topic of today’s post, for both readers and writers, so jump right in! The other day, I was given the option to check out yet another free book and being the cover whore that I am, I couldn’t pass it up. I skipped the blurb and went right for the “Look Inside” feature. I made it through a good portion of the beginning, before I was even given the young woman’s name.

It was my mom’s name. 😐

Not a popular girl’s name in this day and age, especially for an 18 year old – but there it was. Glaring at me. I instantly started picturing my mom in what I knew to be an Erotic Romance novel and hit the back-button so fast my mouse filed an L&I claim.

As a Reader

I understand that this awkward situation depends largely on your genre of choice. I read a variety, but mostly Erotic Romance. So, there are definite names that will immediately turn me off to a book. Main Characters who have the same name as:

  • Any of my parents (I have 4)
  • My Kids
  • One of my ex’s that I cannot stand
  • A real life arch-nemesis – though I love it when they’re the antagonist!
  • And, depending on the circumstances, my nieces and nephews

That’s a lot of names when you think about it. Which, is why I usually feel fortunate and grateful that writers can be so creative with names!

Both of my kids have uncommon names. It’s very rare that I pick up a book and see my oldest son’s name. I have never seen my youngest son’s name used… as a first name… so it doesn’t have the same ‘scarred for life’ affect.

The rest of my family all have more common names. In the case of one niece and nephew, though, their names are sooooooooooo ridiculously common, that I know a dozen other people by their names and for some reason that makes it a non-issue. It’s like I have mental blockers for them, rather than the names, themselves. (Yeah, I’m a little weird).

More often than not, it’s that one ex-boyfriend situation that I run up against. I can’t even stomach seeing his name in print, let alone spend 1 to 300 pages reading it over and over again, picturing him in my mind, instead of the character I’m supposed to be seeing. A hero with his name is the last guy I’d ever root for, no matter what amazing qualities he supposedly has.

Just. Ain’t. Happening.

I’m probably missing out on some really great stories, but it’s not worth the nausea. Am I alone in this? Are you able to overlook these situations?

As a Writer

When I started writing in my teen years, I used names I wished I had, or that I could see myself naming my kids one day. Now that I have kids, I know better – especially with the kind of books I read and write! o_O

Typically, there are 3 different ways my characters can get their names:

1) It just comes to me and it fits. It might even come to me before the actual plot.

2) I get an idea for a story, and as I sketch that out a little more the character names start coming to me, usually as I imagine them be spoken aloud in dialogue. Actually, some of my ideas begin as dialogue, but that’s a whole other post!

3) The character is from another country and I research names until I find a combination that I like or feels the most fitting. I also do this with foreign sub-characters. Sometimes, it’s just their surname, because their first name has already made itself known.

With my Dark Day Isle series, Tessa’s first name came to me easily, then I had to wait for her last name, but I had to research to find Felix’s whole name.

The name Felix, itself, has been around long enough to have a very wide reach. However, in these modern times, it’s more commonly found in and around the kingdom of Luxembourg. My character happens to hail from Metz, which is nearby and politically linked to Luxembourg. I was excited when I came across the name during my research, and knew I’d found the perfect fit. Yes, I love Felix the Cat, too – stop aging us, gaw! 😀

While there’s no rule against using any name you want, it can be really useful to run a deeper search into a country’s various regions, for they each have their own unique traditional and modern list of names. Just searching for “French boy names” never would’ve given me Felix as an option. It only takes a few extra minutes of research, if you’re looking for something more authentic.

Of course, I’ve had characters whose names came to me first and only afterward revealed that they were of a certain heritage. For example: The main male character in my upcoming novel, Hearthstone Alpha (June 1st!) is Corbyn Bruschard. I didn’t choose his name – he did. I think I gave him a duck face, but he was 100% set on it and since he’s presumably ‘the boss’, I was in no position to argue. [insert exaggerated eye roll here].

Bruschard doesn’t even exist in Google’s world. At least not that I have found. Corbyn and his, ahem–pack–of guys, are Scandinavian, so I apologize profusely if Corbyn Bruschard is like the exact opposite of anything viking – you can take it up with the boss. Personally, I’d just let it go… I’ve met his cranky side. 🐺

Readers: Have you ever found yourself unable to read a book–no matter how enticing the blurb–simply because of one of the character’s names?

Writers: How do you come up with your character names? Is it different for each book? Do you have names before anything else, or do you have to flesh your characters out a bit first before their names come to you?

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#ReadWithMe ♥ Finding My Genre

readwithme3In celebration of National Reading Month, Ms. Felicia is hosting this amazing blog hop for all readers to spread the love and joy of this favorite pastime with the world. If you’d like to join in the fun, please click on the banner above to add your post to the linky list!

The Novel Brick Road

Every reader develops differently, but it seems that we eventually come to a specific genre that calls to us more than any other. Even if we take brief detours, we come back to the one genre that always puts a smile on our face.

My path to Erotic Romance is paved like a game of hopscotch, jumping genres back and forth and crossing wide gaps in random patterns. I’m not counting all the books I read as a kid or had to read for school. I’m talking about when I started taking control of my own reading choices.

It started off innocent enough. The reading bug coming to nestle in my brain, demanding that I find something to entertain it. My mom had a wide variety of books to choose from. She was a fan of Stephen King, Terry Brooks, Ann Rule and V.C. Andrews – I didn’t understand these were all different genres. They were just books! I read Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always and wanted to live in his brain, but it was really V.C. Andrews I became addicted to for quite some time. Luckily, my mom had plenty of her books to feed my obsession.

I went through a phase following this that I call the researching years. I wanted to know things, so my dad and I started going to the library on a regular basis. I love ancient Egypt. I have books and then I have BOOKS, as in large Coffee Table hardcovers spanning every dynasty of Ancient Egypt. I was going to become the next Howard Carter. I was 14. I was also going to be a supermodel, fashion designer and a Marine Biologist. Not necessarily in that order.

Around the same time, I got my first taste of the paranormal from the (now famous) author L.J. Smith and her Night World series, which includes the well known Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle. This was the first author I ever purchased from a book store with my own money. It was a big accomplishment in my life as an avid reader. I had never heard of L.J. Smith before, but I suddenly had options. Lots and lots of options!

It led to more research. With the help of Francis Ford Coppola, I became extremely interested in reading everything I could get my hands on about the truth behind the myth of Dracula and the real life Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia. It eventually led to me learning about the medical condition of Porphyria, which disenchanted my research, so I returned to my fiction. I read Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. My dad never would’ve let me check it out from the library if he’d known what it entailed. A fanfiction sequel of sorts to Bram Stoker’s masterpiece with all of the dirty details a Victorian era Englishman would never dare to write.

On the hunt for new material, I found Anne Rice and never looked back. As much as I loved L.J. Smith, I couldn’t return to what I suddenly realized was very YA in comparison. More than that, Anne opened my mind up to the world at large, sating my inner traveler and historian simultaneously.

I became obsessed again, and only wanted to read Anne Rice… until I couldn’t find anymore of her books and needed another loan – mind you, this was before the wonderful invention of eBook retailers. Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey was placed in my hand with a “You have to read this,” and so I fell headlong into the mind-blowing world of epic fantasy. Now, I remembered, vaguely, The Hobbit from when I was younger and my favorite movie The Last Unicorn. It was a bit nostalgic diving back into this kind of world – only better, because it was at an adult level without losing any of the wonder of magic.

My first book idea was born on the cusp of my 18th birthday, but not yet hatched… more on this later.

Over my young adult years I read a wide variety, even some non-fiction, but mostly it was keeping up with authors I already knew, like Rice and Lackey. Then I ended up with a Nora Roberts book (honestly can’t recall how) and found myself obsessed yet again. I wasn’t alone this time, though. My friends got on the same kick and we had a grand time swapping books, buying new ones to share, putting them on our birthday and Christmas wish lists and discussing them like crazy. I think between just 3 of us we might own almost 75% of the books she’s ever written… okay, maybe 50%. Nora was my first true Romance author and not what I’d been expecting. I had never even glanced at the ‘obvious’ romance books on the shelves with the bare-chested buccaneers and Scarlett O’Hara wannabe’s.

Having children gave me the perfect excuse to return to YA with Harry Potter, Narnia and Eragon… yes, the books, not the movies (though, I love those, too). My oldest also has some of the Immortal Instruments novels, which I’m very tempted to read since watching City of Bones.

Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb unwittingly led me to my first erotica series, though it falls further under the Crime/Detective genre, the sex scenes are explicitly detailed, whereas Nora Roberts’ usually aren’t. I think she sneaks it in every once in awhile.

I went through a stint where I felt left out from a pop-culture standpoint, because I’d never read any of the ‘literary classics’. So, I attempted the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and found it far too dry and boring (don’t hurt me), so I moved onto The Catcher in the Rye, which was entertaining, yet 100% pointless (again no hitting). Of Mice and Men left me emotionally damaged and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a prophetic masterpiece that’s already coming true, therefore should be reclassified as non-fiction horror.

My first BDSM novel was Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. Again, by ignorance. I thought it was just a fantasy. I was deliciously wrong. Later, I found out that Anne Rice also had other pseudonyms… and why. Exit to Eden followed by the Sleeping Beauty Chronicles added to my Erotic-BDSM shelf, Belinda borders on taboo and I haven’t finished reading it, but I think it might be along the lines of Nabokov’s Lolita – don’t quote me on that.

The ability to read an eBook helped open up the Erotic Romance genre for me even further when I became a reviewer for a friend’s reviewing site. It wasn’t long, though, before a new bug burrowed into my brain demanding to be fed – and I started writing…

But, I will save that for the next post. 😉

Are you still reading the same genre you first fell in love with, or perhaps the second? How many genres span your most cherished collection?

Semantics

CerberusI read a really great post yesterday over at David Ben-Ami’s blog Fiction All Day that talked about details; covering the tedious aspect of researching in order to enrich our fictional stories with facts that our readers DO appreciate.  I nearly just re-posted it here today, but it’s so well written that it got me thinking about all of the times I’ve ever run across an excellent book that ended up being highly disappointing, because of the author’s lack of research.

Research!  It can’t be impressed upon you enough!  I’ll even take it one step further and recommend that you always cross-reference your research to make absolute certain you have the correct information.  In this modern age where Google and Bing are constantly updated, new data constantly added to the world wide web, it’s too easy to get incorrect or only partially correct information the first search out the gate.

One of my biggest pet peeves, as I’m sure with everyone, is when it comes to the things I like/know the most.  For example: Myths & Legends.  Don’t tell me Eros (aka Cupid) fell wailing at the roots of the Laurel tree, devastated over the loss of his love, Daphne, when I know for a fact it was Apollo.  That kind of blatant misstep just irritates the ever living daylights out of me.  If what you’re trying to do is put a new twist on an old tale, then make absolute certain the reader knows that from the get go.  Don’t just write whatever you want and then hide behind the excuse of creative license – because readers aren’t stupid, especially when that reader is a writer.

I can’t tell you how many times I have run across this issue as an e-book reviewer.  I’m all for recycling the classics, but do it with purpose, please.  Do it with style and make sure you have your facts straight, and that the reader isn’t going to get halfway through your book before throwing it in disgust, as you paint their favorite fairytale into a wrecked, unflattering mockery.

Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with this quote?

Listen to me, as if I were Sybaris barking with all his heads, at the gates of Hell, I will tell you where to take it. But don’t … don’t open the box! – A.I. Bezzerides

I found this while…yep, researching.  It glared out at me like a bright, neon sign.  Sybaris was an ancient Greek city in Italy known for its inhabitant’s excessive hedonism.  In fact the definition of a Sybarite is: (n.) a person who is self-indulgent in their fondness for sensuous luxury.  It is a synonym for Pleasure, Ecstasy, Gluttony, etc.  It is NOT Cerberus (Greek Kerberos), the three-headed dog that guards the entrance of the Underworld (Hades).

Now, granted, I haven’t read the screenplay that this quote was extracted from (Kiss Me Deadly 1955), so I’m not sure if it was deliberate, all I know is that it’s wrong.  It’s wrong in a way that really irks me, because it’s advertised on Dictionary.com as being associated with the definition of Sybaris.

Which, is why I recommend cross-referencing!  Not that, as a writer, you should get your “facts” from screenplays, but it’s just a great example of how easy it is to find misinformation, even from a trusted source or site. So, please, as a writer, DO worry about the semantics, the details, the facts.  Otherwise, you’re not only insulting your readers, you’re cheating your own stories out of living up to their amazing potential and why would you want to do that?

Get Your Read On

Reading2

The Daily guru’s are calling today’s Prompt “The Great Divide.”  Codswallop!  There’s no division in reading, that’s arithmetic – which I loathe like the dentist’s chair!  Just for that, I’m ‘dividing’ your two-part question!

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction?

Both.  I’ll normally choose fiction when I want to be entertained, get lost in another’s creative imaginings.  But…

When I’m extremely interested in something, I will read everything about that subject I can get my hands on! I find that equally as fun and/or fulfilling.  Not to mention, like most writers, I want my books and characters to stand out, so I research in order to try to find different ways to tell the same ol’ tales.

Now, have I ever found manuals/text books/articles/etc. that I’m ‘required’ to read fun?  Pfft, no!  Most people (aside from Literary students) don’t enjoy the things they’re forced to read, whether it’s for work or school.  My eyes cross, the words blur and my comprehension level drops to subzero.

Reading1

Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?

Uh, hmm….  Well, I guess I started out reading fiction as a child, then progressed to researching.  I spent several years looking for the real Dracula, reading everything I could find on Vlad Dracul III, Prince of Wallachia, aka Vlad Tepes “The Impaler,” while simultaneously researching Ancient Egypt.  Mostly, I think I was driven by the idea of ‘discovering’ the answers to long-standing mysteries. (That was all pre-internet, too, when we used this funny building called a Library!)  In the interim I was breaking up the tedium with fiction books like Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice or The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith.  I saw one as learning and one as relaxing. I know now that that was a wrong assumption.

I will always prefer Fiction because I enjoy reading and writing fiction.  “Read what you write” – oh, I do!  And despite what some people believe, you truly do learn how to write by reading the things you enjoy most.  You learn how to structure sentences and hone your ability to discern styles.  You also expand your vocabulary – a lot!  Just, please, do not tell my kids that they’re learning or I’ll never get them to read again! 😉

I will always prefer Non-Fiction in the form of research, real-world topics that interest me, and genealogy.  “Truth is stranger than fiction” – boy, ain’t that the truth!  I never knew just how much, until I started doing my own family research.  I’ve even shared some of those stories with you all here.

As far as the great divide goes, I say “Read and let read!”  No matter what you prefer or why, reading is a vital tool for entertainment, inspiration and knowledge that everyone should have the right to enjoy.  I don’t really see a point in arguing over which is better, but I suppose if you have nothing better to do, then by all means…

Reading3

…I have far too many books to read, subjects to research and manuscripts to write, myself.  Am I alone?  Let’s find out:

  1. Fictional Facts | From Balderdash To Epiphany
  2. Boring | Gut Honest Faith
  3. Daily Prompt: The Great Divide | VexingPoint
  4. A Song A Day Keeps The Sadness Away #34 | Life Confusions
  5. Non Fiction Is Not Boring, I Repeat – Not Boring | Really Just Words
  6. Daughter Of The Ganges – Asha Miro | Our Gorgeous Chaos
  7. Timeless Pleasure | My Daily Minefield
  8. Fiction or Non-Fiction…it’s all the same | Ryan Erickson Writing
  9. What’s Ur Poison? | Ripples N Reflections
  10. Fiction! | Just Writing!
  11. The Great Divide: Philosophical Non-Fiction | Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides
  12. On Writing | Risingrave28
  13. Adventures Neverending | Mojowritin’
  14. The Great Divide | tnkerr – Writing Prompts and Practice
  15. (NO)N FICTION! | The Undaunted Blue Madness Of My Life
  16. 50/50 split | Designer Sophisticate
  17. No Divide Here | Prairie Views
  18. The Great Divide: Fiction Or Non-Fiction | Awake & Dreaming
  19. Hail Fiction…daily prompt | Saya…D Poet…
  20. The Great Divide, really?? | perferviddreams
  21. The Great Debate | Passion through Poetry
  22. Of Fact or of Fiction | The Lark’s Roost
  23. Why Else? | you ain’t special
  24. Fact or Fiction | A Day In The Life
  25. The Great Divide | A Little Fluff
  26. Longest Reading Queue, Purely For Fun | TyroCharm
  27. I love reading | Life as sirli
  28. News Blues | Lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown
  29. Fact or Fiction | Seeking An Enriching Life
  30. My Fiction: functionally non-fiction | A Nameless Space
  31. This is How I Read! | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink
  32. Stranger Than Fiction | Ginger Musings
  33. Fiction or Non-Fiction? | My Creative Writing Log
  34. Fiction For Me | Tony’s Texts
  35. It’s Not the Genre That Matters | ROUND THE WORD
  36. Fun but not Facts | Takeshi’s Flight
  37. Fiction Rules | Musings of a Soul Eclectic
  38. Fact – Stranger than Fiction? | agonyandecstacy
  39. Give me Fiction or Give Me Facts | Monkebus
  40. Fiction vs. Non-Fiction? Seriously? | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  41. The Great Divide | A Penny For Her Thoughts
  42. Fact or Fiction | Rideo, Ergo Supero
  43. Fiction or Non-Fiction | My Simple Life
  44. Faeries and Fiction | A Teenage (Poet’s) Life
  45. This isn’t Real is it? | The Daily Blabber
  46. NO GREAT DIVIDE | SERENDIPITY
  47. JUST READ | jk109
  48. LOST | A lot from Lydia
  49. “Who am I?” – a bookworm’s introspection | Writer’s Abode
  50. The Great Divide – let’s upload a book | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  51. What Happens to Me | Flowers and Breezes
  52. The Great Divide | Raven Haired Girl
  53. ~Daily Prompt~ The Great Divide | My Book Self
  54. The Bibliophile in me… | Berryduchess
  55. The (non existing) Great Divide | Estelea’s Blog
  56. I will carry your dreams.. | The Wandering Poet
  57. Does it Matter? | joatmon14
  58. The Great Divide | Vintage 1956
  59. The Great Divide | Amanda Ho’s Blog
  60. Non-Fiction Is My Bag | From Slacker To Scribe
  61. No Frictions in Fictions? | Hardethaewoh’s Blog
  62. Choosing Sides – The Great Divide | Thoughts of a crooked mind
  63. I’m more like Archie… | djgarcia94
  64. How To Tell Fact from Fiction – Five Tips | Emotional Fitness
  65. Reeding is Gud! | The Brie’s Knees
  66. Fiction Baby! | Giving Thought
  67. THE GREAT DIVIDE | stream of consciousness
  68. Daily Prompt – The Great Divide | RobertMcQ
  69. Post A Day: Fact or Fiction? | Corinthia Lynne
  70. Over the other one | Pigeon’s Blood Ruby
  71. Escape From Reality | The Sunny Narrative.
  72. The Great Divide | Daniel Gregson
  73. The Great Divide | Life, Lyrics and Lemoncake
  74. Fact or Not-Fact | The Gad About Town
  75. For non-fiction we have real life | Camembert & Chocolate
  76. Page Turners | Thoughts From the Front
  77. the great divide | crystal blue persuasion
  78. Being Fictional! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  79. Fiction or Nonfiction? | Words from the heart
  80. The Best President That Never Was | This Blog Needs A Title
  81. The Written Word | Day to Spade
  82. Fantastic Flights | Barryjack’s Place
  83. The Big “What If?” | A Just Man Is Hard to Find
  84. I read what I read | Willow’s Corner
  85. I ♥ Grammer | wtf Am I On About Now?
  86. Fun of the Fiction | Halfway Amazing
  87. to Fiction or Not to Fiction? | brian writing
  88. The Great Divide | INSPIRING MAX