Character Names – How To Choose?

One of my favorite parts of the writing process is fleshing out my characters. It’s also one of the first things I do because I like to spend time with these people and get to know them before I start actually writing about them. Other than figuring out what your character “wants” and how they get it (or don’t get it), you also have to name them. But how to go about it?

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There are several ways to find names for your characters, and these are the three methods I use most. Keep in mind, I write contemporary fiction, so I won’t be touching on how to name characters for genres such as fantasy or science fiction because frankly, I don’t know how to go about it. Much respect to those who do! I can tell you that no matter which method I use, I have a blast figuring out my character’s names!

  • The Basics:

When you get a story idea, you probably automatically have an idea of your character’s basics. Things such as their age, race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background, you may think of pretty quickly. Those things, and many other basics, can help shape your character’s names.

If your character is a product of hippie parents, most likely, his name won’t be Michael. You have a license to get creative with their name. Moonbeam might make much more sense than Michael. That name may be the bane of Moonbeam’s existence, or perhaps he embraces it. Who knows? Names can also be a fun, recurring point in your story!

Here’s an example specific to me. I’m in the process of doing research for my next project. It takes place in 1970, so I had to consider that when naming my characters. My main character was born in 1954, so I did an internet search for the most popular baby names for that year. I knew I couldn’t name my character something trendy, something that sounds very “today.” So, Kaitlyn was out, but Kathleen was in the top twenty most popular names of 1954. I liked the sound of Kathleen, and I think it fits my character’s look, as well as the time period. And in case you like fun facts, I’ve decided to call her Kat! ūüôā

The basics can also help determine a character’s surname. In my mind, Kathleen’s grandparents or great-grandparents immigrated from Ireland, so her last name is Murphy. It’s a popular Irish surname, and I wanted one that was simple and sounded good with Kathleen.

  • Random Name Generators:

What do you do if you can’t decide on a character’s name? Maybe it’s a secondary character, and not as important as the main character, and you’re stuck on a name. Maybe like me, you use photo inspiration for characters and need help with names. I use celebrity inspiration, but I know writers who use stock photos for inspiration. In the case of stock photos, you don’t know the model’s name, and with celebrity inspo, I’d never use the same name for the character. What’s creative about that? Nothing!

Random name generators can really come in handy in these types of situations. There are so many to choose from, a simple internet search is all it takes to find one. Some generators are very simple and just generate a list of names. You may be able to specify male, female, or neutral names, and it’ll give you a list of names. How many names depends on the generator; some will let you choose how many names you want to see.

Other random name generators will let you get even more specific. You can specify nationalities, traditional or whimsical names, and even first, middle, and last names. Whether you need just a little help or a whole lot of help naming a character, there’s a random name generator out there to fit your needs!

  • A Gut Feeling

You know how they say that your first instinct is almost always the right one? If a character name jumps out at you and it just feels “right,” then it’s probably a great character name. As long as the name is correct to the time period and any other social or economic parameters (and if it feels right, it probably already is), then go with it! After all, you are the one who will know your characters and story the best.

This happened with my first book’s main character, and it does make the naming process a lot easier!

And there you have it, the three ways I choose character names. To me, it’s the most fun aspect of character development!

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January Reading Wrap-Up

Writers read. Besides committing to a writing schedule, reading is one of the best things writers can do to improve their craft. To that end, I’ve decided that each month I will share the books I’ve read.

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January was an excellent reading month! I finished 14 books! That’s a high number for me; usually, I only read 8-10 books per month. But, some months are better than others! Here’s a snapshot of what I read last month:

And here’s a little breakdown (most books fit into multiple categories):

7 library books

2 audiobooks

3 nonfiction books

1 short story

1 classic

7 from my TBR

Lastly, here’s what I rated each book. I won’t give a full review of each book (who has time for that?), just how many stars I gave them on Goodreads. Plus, a lot of the time, I don’t know what to say in a book review! That may be an odd thing for a writer to say, but there you go. ūüôā

The Testaments, 5-stars

The Deal of a Lifetime, 4-stars

Keto For Women: A 3-Step Guide to Uncovering Boundless Energy and Your Happy Weight, 4-stars

A Man Called Ove, 4-stars

The Winter Girl, 2-stars

Gunslinger Girl, 4-stars

Three Women, 2-stars

I Wish You All the Best, 4-stars

A Clockwork Orange, 4-stars

The Dollhouse, 3-stars

Design For Dying, 4-stars

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 4-stars

Robopocalypse, 4-stars

Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, 4-stars

And that’s what I read in January! I can’t wait to see how much reading I can get in this month! Aren’t books the best? I think so…

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My Word of the Year

Many people do a Word of the Year each year, but this is my first attempt at it. Why am I attempting a WOTY? Why even declare a WOTY?

There are many reasons to decide on a Word of the Year, but I have one reason. a WOTY can help you focus on the goals you have set for yourself. You can many goals, but you only have one WOTY. If you choose your word wisely, it can encompass all your other goals and keep you on track for success. And one word is a lot easier to remember than a bunch of different goals, right? I don’t know about you, but I always have several thoughts running around in my head, so one word that can bring me into focus certainly cannot hurt!

So, what is my Word of the Year? Drumroll, please!

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Ready? Here it is: my Word of the Year is

CONSISTENT

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It’s not the prettiest word or the most entertaining word; in fact, it’s kind of a boring word. But for me, it holds a lot of meaning.

I need some serious reining in, people! I am always all over the place. I either do things willy-nilly or, I go fast and furious at something, then hit a wall. I feel like I can benefit from structure, a schedule if you will. The three main areas I need help in are exercise, writing, and housecleaning. These three areas take up the most time in my everyday life. I find that I can concentrate on one or two of them really well, but then, the third one gets ignored. I need to divide my time more evenly among all three areas. Also, at some point, my all-or-nothing mentality kicks in, and I think that if I can’t do something well all the way through to the end, then I may as well not bother doing it. That’s a whole separate issue of mine that I need to work on, but I hope more consistency in my life will help.

I’m going to try the following schedule out and see what happens:

  • Monday – cardio for 20 minutes, write for 2 hours
  • Tuesday – strength train for 20 minutes, clean house for 1 hour, write for 1 hour
  • Wednesday – yoga for one hour, write for 2 hours
  • Thursday – strength train for 20 minutes, clean house for 1 hour, write for one hour
  • Friday – cardio for 20 minutes, write for 2 hours

I haven’t made a schedule for weekends because those days are usually dedicated to whatever my kids and husband have going on, and I’m okay with that. If most days of the week have some structure, then I can live with weekends being a free-for-all!

But I’ll see how the schedule goes. If something doesn’t work, then I’ll make changes until I find something that does! Do you have a Word of the Year? If so, leave a comment and let me know what it is!

100 Books I Want To Read

Writers read, or at least they should. I’ve said before that it’s THE best way to improve their craft. This is one case where I’m proud to say that not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk.

I’ve made a list of 100 books I want to read. Many of these will likely be read this year, but not all of them. Typically, I read between 80-100 books per year. And at the beginning of each month, I plan what I’m going to read for that month, but those lists are guidelines and not chiseled in stone. Things happen – I may bail on a book, or a book gets pushed to a different month, or my dog chews up a book. Yes, that actually happened once! So, the same goes for this master list – I may start a book and not like it, or a new release comes out, and another book gets bumped, or danger may befall a book. That’s life for you!

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So, without further ado, here is my list of 100 books I want to read. There are different genres represented and are listed in no particular order:

  1.  The Testaments РMargaret Atwood
  2.  The Dollhouse РFiona Davis
  3. A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer
  4. The Whisper Network – Chandler Baker
  5.  The Bookseller РCynthia Swanson
  6.  The Recipe Box РViola Shipman
  7.  Ragtime РE.L. Doctorow
  8.  How To Build A Girl РCaitlin Moran
  9. ¬†I’m Fine and Neither Are You – Camille Pagan
  10.  Tampa РAlissa Nutting
  11.  Love, Hate & Other Filters РSamira Ahmed
  12.  Heartburn РNora Ephron
  13.  Dark Matter РBlake Crouch
  14.  Ash Wednesday РEthan Hawke
  15. ¬†I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella
  16. ¬†You Think It, I’ll Say It – Curtis Sittenfeld
  17.  The People We Hate At The Wedding РGrant Ginder
  18. ¬†What If It’s Us – Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
  19.  99 Percent Mine РSally Thorne
  20.  Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas РHunter S. Thompson
  21.  Dear Daughter РElizabeth Little
  22.  Attachments РRainbow Rowell
  23.  Olivia Twist РLorie Langdon
  24.  Idaho РEmily Ruskovich
  25. ¬†Sophie’s Choice – William Styron
  26.  The Talented Mr. Ripley РPatricia Highsmith
  27.  The Hopefuls РJennifer Close
  28.  Elsewhere РGabrielle Zevin
  29. ¬†Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty – Diane Keaton
  30.  Sometimes I Lie РAlice Feeney
  31.  Sex Object РJessica Valenti
  32.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings РMaya Angelou
  33.  Little Monsters РKara Thomas
  34.  This Savage Song РVictoria Schwab
  35.  The Hating Game РSally Thorne
  36.  The Girl Before РJ.P. Delaney
  37.  Tell Me Three Things РJulie Buxbaum
  38.  Elizabeth Is Missing РEmma Healey
  39.  Dog Crazy РMeg Donohue
  40.  What She Knew РGilly Macmillan
  41.  Orphan Train РChristina Baker Kline
  42.  Red, White & Royal Blue РCasey McQuiston
  43.  A Man Called Ove РFredrik Backman
  44.  Speak РLaurie Halse Anderson
  45.  Olive, Again РElizabeth Strout
  46.  A Clockwork Orange РAnthony Burgess
  47.  Surprise Me РSophie Kinsella
  48.  Next Year In Havana РChanel Cleeton
  49. ¬†One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  50.  A Study In Charlotte РBrittany Cavallaro
  51.  The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen РSyrie James
  52.  Wedding Night РSophie Kinsella
  53.  A Tree Grows In Brooklyn РBetty Smith
  54.  Hidden Bodies РCaroline Kepnes
  55.  Behind Closed Doors РB.A. Paris
  56.  Conversations With Friends РSally Rooney
  57.  One Of Us Is Next РKaren M. McManus
  58.  We Are Okay РNina LaCour
  59. ¬†I’m Not Dying With You Tonight – Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal
  60.  Remember Me? РSophie Kinsella
  61.  On the Come Up РAngie Thomas
  62.  Nine Perfect Strangers РLiane Moriarty
  63.  The Sun Down Motel РSimone St. James
  64. ¬†Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  65.  I Owe You One РSophie Kinsella
  66.  Lock Every Door РRiley Sager
  67.  The Family Upstairs РLisa Jewell
  68. ¬†The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary
  69.  The Sun and Her Flowers РRupi Kaur
  70.  Meg & Jo РVirginia Kantra
  71.  The Tattooist of Auschwitz РHeather Morris
  72.  The Secret Life of Bees РSue Monk Kidd
  73.  Sing, Unburied, Sing РJesmyn Ward
  74.  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill РAbbi Waxman
  75.  Again, but Better РChristine Riccio
  76.  Star-Crossed РMinnie Darke
  77.  To the Lighthouse РVirginia Woolf
  78.  A Thousand Splendid Suns РKhaled Hosseini
  79.  Waiting For Tom Hanks РKerry Winfrey
  80.  My Name Is Lucy Barton РElizabeth Strout
  81.  Howards End РE.M. Forster
  82.  We Were Liars РE. Lockhart
  83.  Then She Was Gone РLisa Jewell
  84.  My Oxford Year РJulia Whelan
  85.  The Age of Innocence РEdith Wharton
  86.  The Music Shop РRachel Joyce
  87.  Park Avenue Summer РRenee Rosen
  88.  Small Great Things РJodi Picoult
  89.  Opposite of Always РJustin A. Reynolds
  90.  The Safest Lies- Megan Miranda
  91. ¬†A Dog’s Journey – W. Bruce Cameron
  92.  The Nix РNathan Hill
  93.  Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors РSonali Dev
  94.  Genuine Fraud РE. Lockhart
  95.  The Editor РStephen Hawley
  96.  Ghosted РRosie Walsh
  97. ¬†There’s Something About Sweetie – Sandhya Menon
  98.  How Not To Die Alone РRichard Roper
  99.  If Only I Could Tell You РHannah Beckerman
  100.  Every Last Word РTamara Ireland Stone

And there’s the finish line! I’m tired just from looking at that list! ūüôā

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So, what books are on your reading list? Comment and let me know! I’m always open to book recommendations. Happy reading!

 

New Year, New Start!

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Hello, all! It’s my first blog post of the new year (and new decade)! I hope you enjoyed your holiday season and that you’re off to a great 2020!

I know it’s cliche to make resolutions, but I do it every year. Some people don’t bother, and I understand why. To each his own, right? But personally, I love making resolutions. And not because I’m so great at keeping them; in fact, I often fail epically. But to me, that’s not really the point.

I see the new year as a clean slate, and more importantly, a chance to do better. Or at least, to attempt to be better. When a new year is upon me, I take that as an opportunity to examine the areas where I can improve and make goals. I also jot down new things I want to try.

And yes, sometimes not all goals or met, nor do I get around to trying the things I’d like to try. And no, I don’t feel like a failure when that happens. Quite the opposite, actually. I feel like a better person for at least having goals and for attempting them. At the very least, I know I’m a little bit better of a human being because I’ve tried to improve myself.

And isn’t that really all any of us can do? Set goals, go after them, and see what we can learn from the experiences, whether or not we can actually check them off our list?

So, with that, I give you my New Year’s resolutions. This list covers my writing life, reading life, and personal life:

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Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them, so leave me a comment if you feel like sharing!

Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020!

This is my last blog post for 2019, so I thought I would give you a quick look at my year in review, as well as give you a taste of my next writing project, which I will dive into headfirst in January.

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As far as my writing life, I made some great strides this year. This summer, I started regularly posting on my blog. Since early July, I have posted every Monday, with holidays being the exception. I also started my newsletter this year, and it’s so fun to put it together each month! My only concern is running out of material for both!

My biggest writing accomplishment is the two books I self-published this year! A Sky¬†Full of Stars was published in May, and The 12 Dates of Christmas was released earlier this month. I highly doubt I will publish two books in 2020! Maybe just one will be enough. In fact, I’m sure it will be!

In my personal life, I took some enjoyable trips this year. This summer I went to Boston for my birthday, as well as to Orlando for my oldest daughter’s birthday. This fall, I went to New York City with my Mom to celebrate her milestone birthday. Between those three trips, I checked a lot of things off my bucket list!

It seems that 2019 has flown by! I can’t believe a new year is nearly upon us!

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And as promised, here is a little teaser for my next project! I cannot wait to get started on it officially, as right now, I’ve only done a little bit of preliminary work.

ABMB Teaser

I hope you enjoy the last days of your 2019 and that your 2020 gets off to a great start! See you next year!

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December Writerly Goals

I can’t believe 2019 is almost over! The year truly feels like it has flown by. And before I forget, I wish those of you who celebrate it a Merry Christmas! Regardless of what holiday you celebrate or if you don’t celebrate any at all, I hope you all have a great end to the year.

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With the recent release of The 12 Dates of Christmas, I have decided to take a writing break and just enjoy the holiday season. I won’t be doing any writing or editing, but I have set some low-key goals. But before I get into that, I’ll recap my November goals.

One goal last month was to do a social media blitz for The 12 Dates of Christmas, including announcements for the release date, presale, date, cover reveal, and a sneak peek of the book with free access to the first chapter. I did do all that, so I’m considering the goal met. But, I think I could have done a better job. I wish I had done a better job! Between completing the final edits of the book and my regular duties as wife and mom, there never seems to be enough time to get everything done!

Speaking of edits, my second goal was to finish the second round of edits, a goal I obviously met since the book has been released! While I’m at it, I have to give a shout out to my critique partner, Ali, and beta readers, Grace, and Lynne. You three were lifesavers!

My third and final goal last month was to write the book blurb for The 12 Dates of Christmas, which I also completed. November was a really good writerly month for me!

That brings me to this month’s goals, and I’ve already mentioned the first one:

  • Take a writing break
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I worked hard to get The 12 Dates of Christmas out into the universe, and I think that calls for a break! And to be totally honest, with all the extra things going on in December, not to mention the stress it brings, I probably wouldn’t get much writing done anyway. So, I have given myself permission to take the month off and enjoy the season! I’m not taking a total break from my writing life, as I’m still writing blog posts (duh!) and I will be writing my newsletter this month and sending it out.

  • Start preliminary work for my next project
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I already know what my next project is (more on that later!) and this month I plan to do some preliminary planning. I’d like to start on character sketches, explore possible plot points, and prepare interview questions for the person whom the story is based on. For the first time ever, I have to do an interview! I said I’d tell you later about my new project, but it is based on someone close to me. But enough of that for now!

  • Promote The 12 Dates of Christmas

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I want to continue to promote the new book, which mainly means I need to keep up with social media posts and promote newsletter sign-ups. I’m also considering offering the book for free at some point this month. I will also look into other ways of promoting the book. There are a lot of options!

And that’s it…my writerly goals for December. Next week will be my last blog post for the month, and for 2019. I’ll see you then!