Tip for Choosing Character Names

Thought for the dayWhen I started reading fantasy novels in my teen years back in the 1980s, I struggled with the pronunciation of some of the far-out names authors had given their characters. To get through these stories, I turned names such as Gorggegx in George in my mind and kept reading.

Why fantasy authors feel the need to create strange names always confused me. It came off as part of the genre, I think. When I started writing fantasy stories, I thought about using similar names, but I quickly put it to rest and stuck with names I could pronounce.

Since then, I’ve encountered many odd names in the genre, and I continue to do the same thing: turn them into simple names.

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Writing Male Characters in Romance Novels

REblog“Dominated by women, as both readers and writers, romance still needs strong male characters. So how do you write male characters for romance novels? Author Richard (RJ) Gould, explains.

When it comes to the genre of romance, women dominate. Most romance writers are female, most readers are female, and plots predominantly centre on the female point of view. At this early stage, I should point out that I‘m a male author who writes romance fiction. I’m not unique, but I am a rarity. My publisher, Accent Press, badges my novels as contemporary women’s fiction and several literary agents have suggested I use a female pseudonym. Adopting ‘RJ’ as opposed to Richard is my cowardly compromise. At Romantic Novelists’ Association events, including the annual conferences with up to 200 participants, over 95 percent are women and several of the few males write under a female alias.”

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Character Sheets

Know your charactersIn a recent blog post, I discussed the importance of Style Sheets. Another form sheet equally important is the character sheet. Even if a story has only a handful of characters, a detailed list will help keep them in line and their hair colour from changing from chapter to chapter.

A character sheet is a life saver if a novel contains many characters or is one in a series. During the first edit of Shadows in the Stone, I created one to save my sanity. The story contains 74 named characters. Some of these individuals were mentioned only two or three times, but it was important to keep their individual stories straight, along with their age and the weapons of their choice.

What to put on a character sheet is up to the writer. Personally, I use the following headings.

Name

The full name of the character is written in the first column along with nicknames, ranks, titles and keys to pronunciation (if it is an unusual name). With regard to nicknames, I add a note about who uses them.

For example, we may know a character as Chris, but his mother might still call him Christopher while his best friend calls him Shortie.

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My Library of Books for Writing Fantasy

5x5 fantasy bookA short time ago, Ernesto San Giacomo posted his 2015 Reading List. In the list was Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall.

I commented, saying I had several books about magic, herbs and stones to help me with writing my fantasy stories, but I hadn’t read that one. A list was requested, but I hadn’t gotten around to making it until tonight.

Some of these books are one-time reads, but others I keep on the shelf as references. I can’t remember all the properties of stones and herbs, and I can’t recall all the spells (though I make up a lot myself), so these are keepers for me.

Natural Magic – Spells, Enchantments & Self-development by Pamela J. Ball: This book provides insight to magic and how a sorceress might work her spells. Not every magic-user is the same, so you can take a little of this and a little of that to create a character. This book was okay, worth buying, but not my favourite.

The back cover states: Before there was formal religion there was magic, and to this day there are people who purport to perform ‘miracles’ with the aid of magical powers derived from nature or the spirit realm. These powers are still out there to be tapped into by us. All you need is the knowledge and know-how contained in Natural Magic.

This book reveals: How to become a natural magician, using knowledge gathered over thousands of years by magician and mystic alike. Techniques employing plants, trees, crystals and incense along with meditation, ritual, chanting and dreams. The tools to give expression to your creativity and beliefs. A wide range of methods to bring about positive changes in your life.

The Druid Magic Handbook – Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer: This book speaks of Life Force, the alphabet of magic, the elements, enchantment and Ogham writing. It gives a great history on the druids, which I thoroughly enjoyed and ‘connected’ with. I discovered many potential story lines by reading it.

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Why Everyone Loves Loki

I just spent ten days with three young children on spring break. The weather outside was frightful…at times, so we were cooped up inside most of the week. Besides the usual errands, project writing and cooking adventures, those children of Midgard kept busy watching their favourite movie series of superheroes. They even invited stray children from other households to join them in a movie fest of mammoth proportions.

Between explosions, realm hopping and fighting to save Midgard (for those uninformed beings: Earth) emanating from the livingroom, I heard laughter and impressive one-liners. I discovered the Midgardians sprawled across the chesterfields gripping half-eaten bowls of chips, Cheesies and popcorn not only liked the evil guy named Loki, but they adored him. They thought he was just as great as the superheroes who were saving the planet.

This piqued my curiosity. Why did they love this Loki guy? What did he possess? Charisma? Charm? Awesome power? A brave and loyal steed?

Evil doers were supposed to be disliked, perhaps even hated. Movie-goers are supposed to cheer when the bad guy goes down, but not the Midgardians in my house. They instead cheered him on, laughed at his expressions and repeated his dialogue until it echoed in my head for days later: “Mmm, Brother, you look ravishing!”

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Hands on the Wheel

Many years ago, deep into the forest of my youth, I heard this song for the first time. It captured my heart instantly. I had easily recognised Willie Nelson’s voice, and even though I wasn’t a huge Willie fan (though I did like many of his songs) I fell in love with this tune.

I don’t know why I still recall the moment I heard and connected with it. Maybe it was the circumstances around this song or the simple fact that it rang true in so many ways. It still does today. Maybe it was the melody. Either way when I hear it now, I want to get up, walk out the door with a backpack and hit the road to adventure.

But lets back track. The first time I heard this song was while watching one of my most favourite all-time television shows Northern Exposure. Anyone who faithfully watched this show knows exactly what I mean when I say, “this was one of the very few shows I set my schedule by”. I never missed an episode.

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Honour and ‘your word’

your wordThe Prisoner of War who took ‘keeping a promise’ to the extreme post on Steve Liddell’s Musings on a mad world blog is the first thing I read this morning. It intrigued me not only because of my interest in the Great War and the Second World War but because of its story about honour and holding fast to ‘your word’.

Can you imagine a British soldier receiving leave from a German prison camp to visit his dying mother? And then returning because he promised to do so? Well, it happened. Read Liddell’s blog for the whole story.

One of the themes found in my fantasy novel Shadows in the Stone is honour. The other is ‘your word’. In fact, these two words are found in the opening chapter. Readers don’t learn the power of those words until book two in the series Scattered Stones; they discover more about the price the promiser pays if they don’t keep ‘their word’ in book three Healing Stones.

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