Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Characters: The Feng Shui of Novel Writing

I don't know about you but if I read a book and I don't connect with the main characters, I'll stop reading it. Bad writing? Maybe I'll learn something from reading it. Predictable plot? Its hard to avoid these days. Whiny heroine with no spine? No, thank you. Next, please!

Naturally, when I go to start a new story I spend--literally--weeks getting to know my characters before I jump into the story. They need to be so real to me that if I'm walking through a department store, I can stop and say "Oooooh! Nicole would look beautiful in this dress!" (Yes, it has happened to me before. Luckily, my family has grown accustom to such statements.)

Sometimes I feel like my characters are a little too much like me but other times they couldn't be more different. Like yesterday when I realized my newest romantic hero is a cat person. Seriously, I don't possibly know how a cat person could reside in my head when I'm very much a dog person.

But anyway, to the point of this blog: Naming Characters.

I think it is honestly more painful then editing.  It can take me days to come up with the perfect name. And I cannot start a story until I have it right. On the one occasion I just stuck a name in there at random for my main character, deciding I would go back and change it when I found the right one. But when I found it, the other name was stuck and I couldn't change it! I couldn't put my character through that sort of identity crisis. So I left it as it was and by some miracle, I actually finished that story. But now I can't stand it. I hear the name, and cringe.Which really sucks because its a fairly common name...

If the character's name isn't just right, the whole story feels off. For me, its what sets the tone of the whole book. It disturbs the whole feng shui of the story if it doesn't fit. Honestly, I have stopped reading books because I couldn't stand the main character's name. I'm sorry, but I just can't read a book where the romantic hero's name is Stu. I just can't.

When I'm writing, I always have the hardest time with girl names. They all just sound too... girly. Seriously, I hope I don't have any daughters later in life because I'll probably give them boy names like Owynn or Kodie, or something terrible. There just isn't very many girl names I absolutely love.

My friend gave me a helpful tip recently for  naming my heroine. I thought it was funny that it came from her since she does not write romance like I, apparently, do. She told me to imagine the hero saying her name. If If it sounds right coming from him, its perfect. And it totally worked! Thanks, Mindy! You've solved my heroine naming problem.

And don't even get me started on last names!


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