Monday, April 28, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 3-How do you come up with names--for characters, and for places if you're writing about fictional places?

How do you come up with names--for characters, and for places if you're writing about fictional places?

How do I come up with names for characters?  Well, I usually pick out names that I like.  I don't pick out names with specific meanings or come up with complicated names for them.  However, I do want my characters to have unique names.  

It is easier for me to come up with girl names versus boy names. Once, I published an article on Suite 101 about girl names for 2011. (Note: it is no longer on the site).  It gave me a lot of ideas for names for future characters.  However, I should have been researching boy names.  

Coming up with last name is tricky too. I know of your typical last names like Johnson, Smith, Brown, Jones, Robinson, and others.  Maybe I should research other last names in the phone directory or social media.

My stories usually take place in my hometown or in some other town or city.  I stick to setting stories in my hometown because it is familiar.  I wish that I could be more creative in this aspect. Maybe I am making things complicated in this aspect.  I feel like I have to have everything mapped out-a fictional town name, street names, school, workplaces, etc.  For instance, in one story, I had a fictional job training facility in a real city.  

I suppose I could take baby steps in creating fictional places.  It would be nice to have a fictional eatery, bookstore, or neighborhood.

It amazes me to see other authors and others pull this off. Here are a few examples.

  • Gilmore Girls: Stars Hollow was the fictional town where Lorelei and Rory Gilmore lived.  There was Luke's Diner, Al's Pancake World, Kim's Antiques, etc.
  • Sarah Dessen: Sarah Dessen created the town of Lakeview, based on Chapel Hill, and the beach town of Colby.  It amazes me how she can come up with names for streets, schools, eateries, and other landmarks,and it feels so real.
  • Hilman College: Some readers may be shaking their heads as they read this.  I grew up watching The Cosby Show (1984-1992) and A Different World (1987-1993).  I use to think that Hilman College was a real school growing up.  Hilman is a fictional, highly esteemed HBCU-historically black college or university.  This was where Denise Huxtable attended school to pursue her education until decides to drop out to find herself.  I often wonder how different things would have turned out if she would had stayed.
  • Comming to America: In this classic 80's film, Akeem (Eddie Murphy) travels from his fictional nation of Zamunda with his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to the U.S. to find a woman to marry.  I thought that this was a real country until I Googled it.  I know, I know, that sounds silly.  I am glad I didn't mention this in my Geography classes.  
If these creators can make up fictional towns and even countries, well so can I.  Right now, I feel like a really lazy writer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 2-What gender do you prefer to have as a protagonist? If you have no preference, what gender do you most often have as a protagonist?

What gender do you prefer to have as a protagonist? If you have no preference, what gender do you most often have as a protagonist?

Hello, and welcome back to the 30 Week Writing Survey.  I have always written from female protagonist's point of view because it seems easier.  I am more familiar and comfortable with writing about girl stuff.  You would think that it would be easier to write about males or write in the male voice since I have a brother and a lot of boy cousins.  I don't always understand the male thought process, and the activities that they engage in like sports, video games, etc.

Just reading the response to this question makes me feel lazy, so I should challenge myself and write from a male point of view.  I can think of one occasion when one my male characters was the main protagonist in Big Brother, Little Sister: A Short Story.  Teddy is a little boy (bear) in this story, so it wasn't too difficult.  I should just step out of my comfortable zone and try harder.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 1-Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why

Since I was able to keep up with the 30 Week Blog Challenge for the most part, I decided to do the 30 Week Writing Survey.  After all, this blog is supposed to be about writing anyway. So here it goes.

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why.

I have always wanted to be a fiction writer.  I reached a point where I felt that my fiction wasn't good enough to be published.  In 2005, I decided to take a course from the Institute of Children's Literature.  The course focused on writing fiction and non fiction  for children and teenagers.  I thought that I was ready for the big leagues-publication.  So I decided that I would publish one of my stories.   

I sent it to several magazines and was rejected by every single one of them. So I stopped writing fiction and stopped trying to send stories and queries out to publications.  It's sad I know, but I was in school at the time, so I didn't have the time to devote to my writing.

Fast forward to 2009-2010, I started writing nonfiction content for the web.  In 2011, I started writing for a website called formerly Factoidz.  I started out writing fact based articles for them.  In 2012, I was introduced to product reviews.  

Writing product reviews became my favorite project because I was finally writing about something that people cared about-saving money at their favorite stores.  I was given bullet points to focus on while doing research so I didn't have to come up with everything from scratch.  

It was fun doing research and discovering stores and services that I never heard of before.  I was fascinated by how many followers each company had on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. I know many people complain about the uselessness of social media, but businesses heavily rely on social media to promote their products and services.

I felt that I found my niche, and I received more traffic and followers for my product reviews than my non fiction articles around the web.  As an added bonus, I earned more money for my work.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Things On A Friday

  1. In efforts to manage my spending, especially in the area of entertainment (books), I have discovered ways that I can save myself money.  Barnes N Noble allows you to download a sample for Nook apps. This handy provision allows you to preview a book before you buy it.  I absolutely love this because I can preview a book before I buy or check it out of the library.  My time is valuable and I can't just shell out cash on books that I will regret buying later. I have bought books in the past where I thought, I wish I should have just checked it out from the library and I could have saved my money. Also, I have found the latest books at my local library and downloaded the audio version from the National Library Service (NLS) website. This is a service for visually impaired and physically challenged patrons. 
  2. Speaking of books, I have finally found The California Diaries series by Ann M. Martin.  I mentioned this find in last Friday's post.  I have been looking for this series for years. I still own the first two books.  First, I found the series on Amazon and the other day, I found the books on  The best part is that it is available on Nook and Kindle.  I downloaded the samples and three full versions today. I could have purchased a fourth, but after staring at my screen for a while, I decided that it was best to sign out. Sometimes, you have to do that in any situation. Just sign out and close the computer.
  3. Since it's spring and we finally have warmer weather outside, it is time to get up and get moving.  This week, I went out for walks twice.  I haven't felt so good about myself lately, especially when I put on pants. I mostly wear skirts, dresses, and sweats (for around the house). I also feel ashamed that I barely survived two miles on the hiking trail. Over the years, I have learned that there are benefits to walking than just shedding pounds.  You sleep better at night, helps your heart health, and my personal favorite-I don't feel so tight.  I am not shedding the pounds like I use to when walking these days, but I know that it is helping me in other ways.I suddenly feel inspired to write poetry again.  I haven't written a poem since 2005, when I entered one of my poems in the contest.  People, if this contest and site is still around, don't be fooled-it's a scam!  I had received a newspaper clipping with a photo of a woman holding a check. There was the promise of prize money and publication.  I received a letter and a certificate stating that I won with a handwritten note suggesting that it get published in an anthology of some sort.  I didn't hear anything else.  One evening, I was on the computer and I decided to check the website to see if the prize winners were announced.  I didn't get the prize money, but I discovered that my poem was published online.  What?  I had no idea that they were going to publish it online.  I felt misled and I have refused to enter writing contests since that incident.  The sad part is that I know other people who were taken by the contest.  I didn't know them back then, but I wish that I could have talked to them.  Lately, I have been feeling inspired to write something.  Arsenio Hall has been featuring poets or spoken word artists on his show from time to time.  My poetry is not about flowers, nature, etc.  I usually write about real life issues-the poem I wrote for the contest was called Dreamcrushers.  It was about people who put your ideas, hopes, and dreams down telling you that it is silly, or you are being unrealistic, etc. I don't have a copy of that poem, but I can find in the depths `of Google or if the site is still running.  I could  self publish poetry on Smashwords, we'll see. Stay tuned.
  4. And back to the subject of Goodreads to read lists keeps growing and growing.  I decided to download the app, and I was searching through the recommendations and found a few more books to add.  I signed up for the 2014 Reading Challenge.  The nice thing about this challenge is that you can set your own goals.  I settled on 50, to non readers that sounds insane.  To some avid readers, it sounds like a small goal.  To me this sounds reasonable based on the other things that are happening in real life.  According to the counter, I have read five so far, and I have 45 more to go. I'll probably reach 50 by fall thanks to short books and audiobooks.
  5. Lately, I have been craving Starburst jelly beans.  I even Googled to see were they are sold.  I can't imagine myself ordering jelly beans from Amazon or off the Internet.  Will they be fresh when they arrive?  I have been looking for them at the gas stations, but haven't seen them.  I don't need all that sugar, but I want to find before they go out of season.
Have a good weekend everyone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thoughts On A Friday

So my entries have been scarce within the last two months, mainly because of lack of access to the Internet.  A lot of interesting things have happened since February that I have been wanting to share.

Last day of snow....before it melted

At the beginning of February, we had snow.  Our neighbors made snowmen and rode their ATVs around the neighborhood.  Honestly, it sounded like a lot of fun.   I was able to snap a picture before all the snow started to melt.   It was beautiful and it was so peaceful and quiet outside, but after awhile we were getting tired of being stuck indoors.

That Friday evening after most of the snow cleared out, we had an earthquake.  It’s rare that South Carolina gets an earthquake, although we are on an active fault.  The earthquake happened in another town, but other places, including the Upstate region felt the shake.  It was strange for me because I have never experienced an earthquake.  I was in bed watching TV, and suddenly I hear a rumble and the windows shake and it lasted a few seconds, but think nothing of it until I saw the news.  The weather man was pointing at the map and I saw “earthquake” spelled out across the screen.  And for the next few days, it was all people were talking about.  When I was growing up, I thought earthquakes only happened in California.  Well, I was proven wrong.  To be honest, I don’t have a clue what to do if a really strong earthquake happened.   Some say you should get under a table.  I have heard of people running outside.  I don’t think going outside is a smart idea.  I better find out for myself.

I am now a proud owner of a tablet.  It was a gift from a friend.  And it is pretty awesome!  I have been wanting a tablet for some time now.  After the holiday season, I started pricing them on Amazon and other stores.  I had my eyes set on the Nook tablet from Barnes N Noble.  One day my friend showed her tablet.  I was asking her how to download books on it and retrieve files.  I know, I know, for some this is as easy as-I don’t know, tying your shoes.  The very next day, we were eating lunch and suddenly my friend pulls a bag from under the table.  Next, she tells me that she has a present for me.  I was stunned.  I wondered what it could be.  I thought maybe someone bought me another magnifier because they thought the pocket one I carry is too small or some other object entirely.   I anxiously opened the bag, and pull out the box.  I should have been paying closer attention to the box, but I knew that it wasn’t a magnifier.  Then, I opened the box, and before me was a flat shiny object called a tablet.  I turned it on and looked up in disbelief.  To cut a long story short, I didn’t have to buy a tablet now.

Reading books on the tablet is pretty awesome.  I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app, Nook app, and Moon+Reader app.  I have been testing each one out to see which one is the best fit for me.  I like a little variety.  If I want to purchase books from Amazon, I can do so. If I want to purchase books from B&N, I can do that too.

I really needed to invest in an e-reader because I am running out of space to store books and I am tired of my brother grumbling every time he spots a new book under my desk or when the UPS truck pulls in front the house.  I discovered that the California Diaries series by Ann M. Martin is available on Amazon Kindle.   What????  I have been looking for this series in bookstores for years.  I bought the first two books when I was in 8th and 9th grade.  Apparently the plug was pulled on the series, and bookstores stopped carrying them.  Maybe one day, I can Google and find out why?  I am sure that Wikipedia has something on this, but is it accurate?  When I was in college, it was unacceptable to cite Wikipedia as a reputable source.  At any rate, I am working on my Goodreads To Read List, I already see a bunch of books I want to load my tablet with.  I really need to use self control here.  I can't spend all my money on books.

I only planned five, but this is a bonus.  This winter has been the coldest winter in a long time here in SC. After being under blankets and inside all winter, it was nice to finally get out last weekend and enjoy the sunshine.  I was invited on a hiking trip at Table Rock State Park  in Pickens, South Carolina.  I have never been hiking before and never imagined that I would be huffing and puffing my way up a trail.  I don’t know what I was expecting.  It wasn’t smooth sailing that's for sure.  I had to climb over rocks, tree roots, and more.  Other experienced hikers went all the way to the top to see the sunset.  I wish that I could have seen it, but I was too tired to make it all the way, plus I wanted to be off the trail by dark.  Actually, you have to be off the trail by a certain time.  If not, you the rangers will escort you down and you may even get charged a fine-depending on how much time you go over.  I felt so unprepared when I arrived.  Various people in the group had backpacks filled with snacks, water, and flashlights.  I did have sense enough to bring water and a jacket because the temperatures dropped dramatically when the sun went down.  I had a good time, spent time with friends, and tried something new.  It just goes to show, don’t knock something until you try it, and you never know what you can when you actually get off your butt and try.