Posts Tagged With: writing tips

Burnout and How to Beat It

Do you ever feel hopelessly stuck in the middle of a story? Or just too exhausted from real life to throw yourself into a fictional one? It’s easy to get burned out, especially if you’re trying to juggle writing with a job, school, family, and the billion other things that will demand your attention. It’s not fun and it’s not easy to have ideas and feel unable to write them, but remember who and what you are: a writer. It’s a title that comes with doing. Not doing something perfectly, merely doing something. Like these things, perhaps.

1. Write Stuff.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just that you are. Do some journaling, scribble down some really pathetic fanfiction, make overly detailed lists of what you did today–just write something! You won’t feel like it, but do it anyway. Nine times out of ten, once you’ve been at it for a few minutes, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the words just like you used to–even if the words you’re lost in aren’t exactly a masterpiece.

2. Write Different Stuff.

Switch projects. Maybe several times. Burnout can easily stem from falling into a rut, whether that rut involves obsessing over a single project, settling into a dull writing routine, or simply getting bored. Trying something new or alternating between several different types of projects (eg. a novel and an essay, or a short story and a memoir) can be enough to reignite your interest and draw you back into your passion.

3. Write Stuff for Yourself.

For me at least, one of the things that stops me from writing is knowing that other people will read what I write and might not like it. That’s stressful and can lead to so much hair-pulling and nail-biting that suddenly writing at all seems rather unappealing. The best way to break that mentality is to write things that are for your eyes only(at least to begin with) and forget about everyone else’s opinions for the time being. Write things the way you would if no one else was ever going to see them and you’ll find yourself having a lot more fun.

4. Don’t Write Stuff.

Sometimes, the best way to get back into the groove is to step out of it entirely for a while. Give yourself a well deserved break. I keep running across quotes from famous writers on Pinterest and Tumblr about how a true writer writes every day or how a writer can’t not write, but I don’t agree. Everyone needs a break once in a while, no matter how much they may love what they do. Parents take breaks from time to time; does that mean they aren’t true parents? Doctors, nurses, and police officers do, too, but that doesn’t make them bad at their jobs. So, why is it any different for writers? If you’re tired, go have an unhealthy snack, read a few good books(fun ones–books about writing don’t count), and come back to your project in a few days when you’ve had a chance to collect yourself.

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Quirky Names: Yes or No?

A while back , during my blog challenge, I did a post on some of the names I’ve used for my characters. Reading through the list, the first names are innocuous enough–if a bit on the unusual side–but the tenth is…well…undeniably odd. If you’ve read the post, you’ll know that one of my characters is called Squeaky. That isn’t his real name; he was dubbed that by my protagonist because of a certain falsetto quality of his voice and the fact that she was cranky over him trying to kidnap her. However, he’s known as Squeaky throughout most of the book, with his legal name only being mentioned once in passing. Why? Because…

1. The quirkier the name, the clearer the picture.

For minor characters especially, you want to be able to devote only one or two sentences to characterization before moving on with the main characters’ story. Picking a name that says something about the character–whether it points out a physical trait(as with Squeaky), an ethnic heritage, or just plays on name connotations–is one of fastest ways of getting your point across without going into too much detail.

2. Remember me?

Some of the most famous fictional characters in the world have quirky names. Sherlock Holmes, Professor Xavier, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Xena, Spock–all quite unusual. It’s a part of what makes them memorable, and can serve to help your character stand out from the rest (not that you should rely solely on that, but still).

Conversely, if you have a crowd of oddly named characters and leave your main character with the only normal name of the bunch, that works, too. It certainly seems to have worked for Rowling.

3. Tonal Quality

The names you choose can help set the tone of your entire piece. Quirky ones, in particular. A ridiculously pretentious moniker adds to a period piece. An obscure(but not too obscure) ethnic name enhances an exotic setting. A giggle-worthy nick-name can pull together the elements of a comedy beautifully. And so on.

                                                                     However…

                                                 On the other side of the matter:

1. If your name is Kanjjdighw, you may be trying too hard.

There are limits to everything, and this is one area where the line between okay and not-okay is paper-thin. A name that’s so unusual it becomes unbelievable is definitely in the not-okay zone. It’ll annoy your editors, alienate your readers, and drive your spellcheck berserk.  As writers, we tend to get a bit obsessed with being unique, but it has to stop somewhere. It’s better to have a dull name in a great story than a name so odd no one pays attention to the story.

2. One thing is not like the others in this picture.

Sometimes a quirky name just does not fit. Trying to shoehorn one into a drama or a serious piece of historical fiction is seriously wrong, and your readers will know it.  You don’t have to go completely the other way and name everyone John Smith, but throwing fistfuls of fun, irreverent names at a sombre novella won’t do it any favors.

3. All things in moderation.

If used sparingly, quirky names can be lovely. If used too much too often, they can lose their punch and make your work sound like you were spending a bit too much time thumbing through baby name books. Realistically, not everyone in an average group of friends/acquaintances/enemies is going to have an intriguing name. A variety of names–from the outrageous to the everyday is typically your best bet–that all fit your particular story is your best bet. Besides, the personalities are the important bit, anyway.

So, where do you guys stand on quirky names? Discuss in the comments!

 

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Titles, Handles, and Monikers

Names are vastly important. Every time you sign your name to an e-mail, you make an impression with the words alone. Your name may be a rock-hard Western creation or a frilly French confection, but it makes an impression, whatever it is. People automatically start assigning personality traits based on their assumptions, and suddenly, they feel as though they know everything about you simply from what they’ve deduced from your name. It can be quite amusing.

They do the same thing with characters–perhaps more so than with real beings, since they can’t ever see the characters. Therefore, as writers, we have to be infinitely careful in the handles we bestow upon our darlings. And that little fact is one of the banes of my existence. Naming characters is ridiculously hard sometimes! Ridiculously! First names are one thing; those usually pop up fairly easily. My main character came about as an extension of my name (since she was originally my role-play character), the love interest was titled with my favorite English gentleman name, and one of the main secondary characters was named after a favorite literary character. Easy. But there are a lot of other elements to consider besides finding a suitable first name, and most of them are far less simple.

1. Last Names A last name can make or break a character. Most of them make a statement of some sort or another, even without jumping into the meanings behind them. Give your charrie a last name of Wayne and what comes to mind? The ultimate cowboy? A hooded crimefighter? Both strong, powerful, solid images. That’s what’s going to project onto your character. But name them something a bit less admirable…Hitler or Moriarty, for example. That’s also going to project onto the character. And unless you want them coming off as an evil psychopath, then be careful whose name you choose. Perhaps Google them before making a final decision, just to make sure there aren’t any serial killers or terrorists or otherwise disagreeable personages by the same handle.

2. Meaning Honestly, I don’t think meaning…ah…means…much. The average reader isn’t going to have the slightest inkling what “Colton” or “Cassia” mean, and I doubt they’re going to care. You don’t want to put too much stock in name meaning when choosing one for your beloved character. While it can be fun to have a private author’s joke within a name, it isn’t necessary to drive yourself nuts trying to find a name that means cheerful for your chipper character and a name meaning doubt for the skeptic and so on.

Of course, in some instances, the name–and its meaning–figure into the plot itself. If my family were ever the subject of a story, the name would kinda have to be brought up, considering how well it represents us. It means either “of the lion” or “horse thief” and no one knows which. And knowing my family, it could go either way.

3. Originality 

Cassia Echo Rembrandt = Good

Akkjhgnbnhgnuik = Bad

‘Nuff said.

4. Impressions and Irony As I said above, impressions are everything, especially for your characters. The names should match the characters and give the reader an accurate impression of who they are from the first moment. Think of the great characters of film and fiction. Hercule Poirot. His name is like reading one of the books that feature him. You can almost see the brilliant, fastidious, proud, little Belgian just by looking at his name. Indiana Jones. Definitely all- American, apparently a traveler as signified by the place name, and probably a no-nonsense chap, judging by the solid last name. See what I mean? It matters.

On the other hand, a little irony can be fun, as well. Name the roughest- toughest woman in your book Fifi or something equally ridiculous. But, personally, I think that works better with secondary characters than with your protagonists. Also, too much irony, and it begins to feel slightly absurd.

5. Nicknames These can also be useful, as well, though they obviously don’t work for some characters. While “Indy” has an even more adventurous feel than Indiana Jones, I think Hercule Poirot would fly into a utter fit if someone called him “Herc.” Whatever works for your character. Nicknames are good as a quick way to show familiarity between characters, as well as a simple way of showing if a character is a loose, casual person or an uptight soliderly type. They have a billion different uses. Experiment!

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