Archive | April 2013

How do you name your characters?

I began today with a picture of a medieval structure in Santa Margarita in northern Italy. My husband and I were on a cruise last fall, and I particularly wanted to see Italy since I have written an historical romance set in 17th Century Italy. IMG_0010 This fortress stood overlooking the harbor and the stone matched my descriptions in the manuscript. I struggled in writing this, however, because I needed both Italian names and ones used in the 17th Century.

I discovered that choosing names for your fiction characters can be challenging. (and some writers are saying “Duh!” ) Knowing this, I’ve still gotten stuck on names. Now contemporary names for Italian characters wasn’t impossible because I bought a copy of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Charcter Naming Sourcebook. It includes sections for male or female names, including family names, for many different cultures and ethnicities. She also added the meaning of each name and a fourteen-page essay on the ‘Art of Naming.’ But I had to research names appropriate to my time frame as well. I ended up using Aimee, Maria, Portia, Isabella, Santina and Domenica for the women and Henri, Carlo, Piero, Luca and Michel for the men.

In my mystery manuscripts I have used typical North American names and tried to throw in a bit of the New Orleans culture (which was not in Kenyon’s book). We have French, Creole, and Cajun heritages represented in names here, and many have been Anglicized or corrupted, if you prefer.
When I was teaching, students always got a laugh at my Yankee-based attempts to pronounce local first and last names. I grew up in Baltimore, and that makes you a Yankee in the deep south.
We have locals with last names like Roux, pronounced “Roo,” and Boute, pronounced “Boo-Tee.” and of course, Bourgeois, but you probably know that one. How about Gautreaux? It’s pronounced “Go-trow.” I won’t even try Troulliet or Troxclair. Then you can throw in a significant contingent of Vietnamese. It became impossible.

One thing I observed in reading other writers’ manuscripts was that names should be distinct. I recall one writer who gave all the male characters first names beginning with ‘J.’ I couldn’t keep them straight–Jason, Jared, Jack, Jeff, Joshua. It was very confusing, and I think she was persuaded to change them.
Another warning is referring to the same character with multiple names, such as using a man’s first name, his last name only (common in jobs, sports, etc), and then throw in a nickname. The reader loses track of who the writer is referring to.
Obviously, your character’s name have to be considered carefully. Women’s names in romance tend to be softer and regionally appropriate. Yet, a story set in Chicago would be fun with a woman named Dixie or Billie Jo or even Bobbie Mae. Hero’s names should be strong and masculine, although a hero named Kyle or Bruce could be fun, too.

When I’m really been stuck, I’ve taken the New Orleans phone book, blindly picked a page, and stuck my forefinger down. I got some useful, local names that way. My hero in the current manuscript, at this point, at least, is named Jim Oliver, and the heroine is Margaret Angelo. She’s a homicide detective and hates to be called Maggie, which the other cops do to piss her off.

If you’re a writer, tell me how you decide on names for your characters. I’m always interested in unique ways to make these important decisions.

Red Letter Day-First Publication

Today is the DAY. My novella, THE RED HALTER TOP, is out – available on Amazon. Whoopee, Dancing and Singing. Red Halter Top 5 final copy 72 DPI
In the meantime, Spring is almost over in New Orleans. Azalea bushes are finished and returning to big, boring bushes that now need to be trimmed. The one overhanging my driveway especially.
French Quarter Fest starts tomorrow–a three-day food, music and drinking festival on the streets of the Quarter. Here’s a link, if you’re interested: http://www.fqfi.org/frenchquarterfest/ But the bad news is that strong thunderstorms and rain are predicted for this afternoon and into tomorrow. Bummer.
The biggest Spring festival is Jazz Fest – http://www.nojazzfest.com/ This is a ten-day long outdoor festival held at the Fair Grounds, a race track about five blocks from my house. I used to live even closer, and these two weekends tie up the parking, congest the traffic, and from my porch I can hear the sounds of the festival, but not any one musician. There are dozens of stages, big star performers, and it seems like hundreds of food booths and juried crafts for sale. You can’t just show up and try to sell your handicrafts or food. You have to submit samples for their approval. Hopefully, the weather will be better for Jazz Fest. But except for shutting down the huge music stages with all the electrical sound equipment, thunderstorms don’t seem to deter the crowds. See more details here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Orleans_Jazz_%26_Heritage_Festival . Besides the threats of thunderstorms, the other warning about Jazz Fest is that by the end of April, we’re into summertime. It’s very hot and humid.
So after promoting my novella and promoting New Orleans, I am happy to report that I started a new story as soon as I finished that blog about what to do next. https://aliceakemp.com/2013/03/26/how-do-you-decide/. I opened a folder I’d set up labeled “New Ideas” and guess what I found inside? I laughed out loud. There was only one sticky note with a phrase I’d written down from something I read. The phrase was “He loved the taste of her mouth.” And a whole story opened in front of me – the title: “The Taste of Her” is a murder mystery where the bad guy seeks to lick the women he captures and kills. I’m nearly fifty pages into it and having a great time.

What goes on in the Spring where you live? What are you working on? I’m also finishing a quilt for my husband’s niece. Will post some pictures next time.
Have a beautiful day, and if you decide to buy my book and like it, give me a good review and tell your friends. If you don’t like it, please just tell me. (-:

Caesar’s Recovery

IMG_0294
This is Caesar – he’s a 15-month-old British Lab. They look somewhat different from the typical Labs we see with their long noses, but he has the personality of a Lab, especially now that he’s no longer in pain. He had severe bilateral hip displasia. Notice in the picture how he sits funny.
But now he’s good – two FHO surgeries – femoral head ostectomy, where they cut off the head of femur where it has been grinding in his hip socket. Rehab exercises are building muscles back to support the femurs.
While he was recovering from the surgeries, it was necessary for my husband, my sons, and my grandson to carry him up and down the steps to go outside. We live in what’s called a raised basement house, that is, we live on the 2nd floor, and the ground floor is the basement (and 2 rented apartments). Houses in New Orleans don’t have basements underground because most of the city is built on filled swamps.
Anyway, I digress. Carrying a 68 lb. dog up and down steps wasn’t fun, and I can’t do it – bad back. But that’s all over. He’s healed up, although his butt was shaved and is still absent the hair.IMG_0339 But it’s starting to grow back.

These days he’s able to leap up on the couch without any trouble and sleeps there for hours. Another couple weeks of rehab – where they have him walk a treadmill in water and other strengthening exercises, and he’ll be good to go.

What kind of pets do you have? Are they in good health? We’ve got 2 dogs and 2 birds. Only quiet here so long as no one rings the door bell or the parrot runs out of food. If I can’t work in the noise and the mess, I’m in trouble, my friends.
One last thing – be on the lookout for my short story – The Red Halter Top, coming out on with Soul Mate Publishing on Amazon April 10. I’ll post the link.