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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Outside the Comfort Zone (or, Revealing the Mystery)

So I've been hinting at my new project in the past couple posts, and it's time to come clean. I've been dodgy because this is something new for me, and I'm determined to make it work. I'm about 5K words in (and I have a great outline, for reasons I'll talk about below), and so far, so good. I think. I hope.

Throughout the years, I've been half-joking about writing an old-fashioned mystery, but with a steamy romance component, since romance is how I roll. Lest you think I'm completely off my rocker, there is some precedence for this. Most stage and screen adaptations of And Then There Were None (my favorite book) capitalize on the tension/attraction between Vera and Lombard and change the ending so the two of them can ride off into the sunset together. (I believe Agatha Christie herself even wrote some of these adaptations.) Truth be told, I do prefer the original ending, because the whole book is just plain brilliant, but hey, the romantic in me doesn't mind the changes *too* much.

Throughout the years, I've also half-joked about how I would never write a mystery because I'm not smart enough to write a good one. This is still probably correct, but I'm going for it. There's a bit of a twist at the end, a deus ex machina, if you will, but I'll admit the plot isn't anything earth-shattering. That said, it's *my* plot, and I'm going to make it the best I can.

As is often the case, after thinking about the idea here and there for a long time, most of the details came to me as I was lying in bed, trying to sleep. Usually I start writing if I just have a basic framework, but this time, due to the genre and plot, I wanted a really solid outline before I even wrote the first sentence. For those of you who often make great outlines, mine still probably looks like a mess in comparison. For me, though, it's the most comprehensive outline I've had. (Whether or not it makes the writing process go any faster remains to be seen.)

So there it is. It'll either be amazing or flop spectacularly, but I'm doing this. And to save us all a future post on title woes, I think I have one for this project. I wanted something that indicated both romance and mystery, so for right now, my folders and documents are titled Seductive Suspect. (As I always say, when in doubt, go for alliteration!) And now I can make the tag for the blog! :D

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Name Game, Part 4

Here we are at the final installment (for now!) of this name-related discussion. It was delayed slightly by a nasty eye infection I've been battling for two weeks (boo!) and the first round of edits for Out of Orbit (yay!), but I'm back and in blogging action. But I will blame any typos on my gradually-recovering eye.

One issue I sometimes encounter when writing: when do you name a character? The major and minor ones are obvious. Most of the time, main characters need names. (And yes, I know there are plenty of books with an unnamed narrator, which is why I said "most of the time".) On the flip side, not every single person the main characters meet needs to have a name, especially if their role isn't all that significant. It's the ones in the middle I sometimes struggle with.

Too much extraneous detail can confuse or distract a reader, and we certainly don't want that. That said, the vast majority of real-life people have names (duh) and it's nice to acknowledge that. But do we really need to know the name of every single person we come across? We can probably even argue that you can have a significant interaction with a person without ever knowing his/her name.

Over the years, I've come up with an incredibly basic rule of thumb for myself: for minor characters, only name them when it would be awkward not to. There have been times when either a character winds up playing a larger role than initially expected, or someone takes up enough room on a page that not seeing a name attached to them just looks weird. The biggest example of this in my books is Captain Sampson in Flight of the Dragon Queen. For the longest time, he had no name, and was just referred to as "the captain". But after a while, that wasn't working out for me, and I needed to do better.

There are plenty of people mentioned in Out of Orbit who never got a name. But there was one instance where Jasmine had a long enough conversation with someone that I had to name him. He only shows up in that one part, but the flow just seemed off when he didn't have a name.

Come to think of it, "avoid being awkward" is a great rule of thumb for a LOT of writing-related things.

Next up: I'll finally start talking about my latest WIP (the first chapter of which is complete)!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Name Game, Part 3

Next up in this series - the meaning of characters' names.

Right off the bat, I'll start by saying that though I'm a bit of a name nerd, I don't make myself nuts when it comes to the origin and meaning of names. I didn't even really care about that when it came to naming my own children. Some people do, and that's fine. In fact, for one of my daughter's names, I was even told "Oh, I love that name, but I could never get past the meaning!" (No, it's not Cecilia or Claudia, which, for someone who doesn't pay much attention to meanings, I always remember as originally meaning "blind" and "lame", respectively.) I'm sure there are plenty of writers out there who give symbolic names to their characters based on their meaning, but it's just not my thing.

However, that doesn't mean that I'll go around slapping names on characters all willy-nilly. A lot of times, my characters names do have some significance, even if it's only for me. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but a large number of my friends wound up in the Disintegration series in some way, shape, or form. Some were straightforward: Vlad is, well, named after my friend Vlad. Dr. Zedek, however, is named after another friend's role-playing alter-ego. While the two Vlads share some similarities, the two Zedeks are nothing alike. But hey, I needed a name!

I'll use this opportunity to admit that there have been times where I've TOTALLY named antagonistic characters after people I don't like. Don't get on my bad side.

Sometimes if I'm not directly naming after someone, I'll go for a similar name, or use the same initials as an existing person/character. Like I said, the chosen name may only be meaningful to me and a couple other people, but I like knowing the symbolism is there, however minor. The main character of my new WIP is named Veronica Campbell. Some astute readers might eventually pick up on some allusions with her name (once the book is complete), but for now, I'm not telling. ;)