Saturday, February 21, 2015

5 Questions About Writing

Over the years, I have taken classes on writing, read books on the subject, and have taught myself how to create outlines that work for me. All of these things have improved my writing style and techniques, and as a result some of the things I used to do have changed too.

Last week, a former student teacher sent me an email with several questions from one of her students. I thought I would share the questions and answers with you.

Egyptian writing. Photo by Annie Cole

How do you come up with character names?

I really don’t have a specific way of coming up with character names. Sometimes a name pops into my head and I start building a character around it. I also have a “running” list of names in my outline book. When I hear interesting names or see unique spellings I like, I jot them down. I also have a book of baby names and meanings. Knowing the meaning of a name is helpful when I’m looking for character names that will identify something about the character. On-line searches are also good for this too.

I just finish working on the outline for book 3 in the Children of Atlantis series. I’ve been searching for names for my Byssolarians (you briefly meet them in book 2). I wanted many of the names to have ties with the ocean or water.

For last names, I often grab the phone book and skim through it until I find something that clicks with my image of the character.

How do you finish/start a chapter?
It took me awhile to figure this out when I started writing. Is there a set formula? No. Here’s what works for me. A chapter is like a smaller story within the bigger story. It needs to have something of a beginning, middle, and closure, but lead into the next scene/incident. It must carry the bigger story forward. When I start a chapter, I try to get the action moving as quickly as possible. At the end of the chapter, I want to wrap up the scene, but leave some questions the character has to answer, or new information/danger the character has to deal with and that will move the story forward.

Resin copy of Rosetta Stone. Photo by Annie Cole
How do you come up with an opening to the story?
Think of the story as a movie. You want to get the story rolling, without doing a huge info dump. With Guardian of Atlantis, I wanted Raven in the awkward situation of being the new girl in the middle of the school year and then immediately give her more problems to deal with.

As for the info dump, spread what you need throughout the story. You will know a lot more about your story and characters than you actually put into the story.

How do you introduce the main character and make them seem interesting?
Have the main character in a typical situation that turns out not to be so typical, but leave the reader wanting to know more or wondering why this is happening to them.
For example:  Ravens bluish-black hair immediately gets her into trouble as soon as she walks into the school building. Why did the girl make the rude comment? Why is the teacher already picking on the new girl?

How do you deliver the main character’s description?
I try to spread the description out. Instead of telling you Raven has bluish-black hair, I have a student making a rude comment and a teacher taking her to the office for dying her hair. I also let you see some of Raven’s defiance in the conversation she has with the teacher. Don’t dump the info, spread it out in the story.

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