Learning Languages

Just because a character is learning a language doesn’t mean you need to dump a bunch of information at the reader. By ‘information’ I mean the endless words that are not native to the language the story is in.

I think this is especially true for fantasy authors who may create their own.

Some authors are masters of creating languages, like J.R.R. Tolkien. We’re not all linguistic gurus, though, and we shouldn’t subject our readers to random strings of letters.

Not everyone loves Star Trek enough to learn Klingon, Vulcan, or any number of other created languages associated with it, and similarly most readers will not be pretending to be one of your creatures.

If you’re curious about creating a language, though, go here.

Don’t forget that characters might speak in programming languages or some other math-based jargon. That’s part of the beauty of creating a different world.

Just remember there’s no need to show off all the research you did. The story will be stronger most of the time without it.

Family Relationships

It might have been the introduction of The Speaker for the Dead where Orson Scott Card talked about how each character fits into a family and their relationships within.

One of the characters had six children, and he said each fit into the family in a unique way. It was hard for him because every time two people get together, whether it be in a story or in real life, their character is a little different.

It’s these unique relationships that stretch writers as we try to show the stories that are in our heads. As he explained it, each of those six children and the mother had different facets depending on which other characters s/he interacted with. It comes up to a lot of facets, then slightly more shadings as you combine more than just two characters in a scene.

As I write, I try to listen to the character as I’ve imagined him/her. It helps, but sometimes it isn’t enough to preserve those slight differences with each character. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.

Father’s Day

What do we expect out of a father character? Probably much the same we do in life – someone who lays down the law and is the disciplinarian in our family.

Not all fathers fit this bill. I’m not sure even most do today, but we still carry over the expectation from before.

I didn’t have one of those fathers in my book, The Art of Science. I opted instead to make the mother into the ‘bad guy’ parent, and the father the one who stayed home and nurtured the children more. It didn’t make him less of a parent or a man; it changed his style.

I’m thinking about the next book already. (what author doesn’t?) Maybe this time it’ll be someone more conventional who fills the father’s role.

Happy Father’s Day to the traditional – and not so traditional – fathers out there.

On Naming, Con’t.

The other problem I run into with names, is I am so picky about naming my characters.

For characters I like, they have to have a name that sounds one way and very appealing to my ears. (I can’t speak for my readers, but I’m sure they’ll have their say at some point.) For characters I don’t like so much, there must be names with a slightly different sound, but generally not a name I hate.

I know other author friends of mine use different techniques from random name generators to asking others to setting up polls to see what a character would be like. I’m often one to pipe up with a random name idea, and sometimes I get to see my naming efforts put into action. Names are a hobby of mine, and I enjoy them.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll run out of names. I don’t like to give main characters too similar of names. However, it is a great place to use all those possibilities that I might have named a child if only I could get it past my husband. It might be a personal thing for me, but I didn’t want to name a character in a book and then my child the same thing, so I keep certain names in reserve.

For my latest novel attempt, one of the protagonists is named Allegra. It’s a beautiful name; it’s even with the trends because of the Italian derivation, but my husband hates it – if only because it has an allergy medicine associate with it. Dang pharmaceutical commercials! If not for you – I could’ve had an Allegra! As with all compromises, we’re working toward something else. No one can stop me from having Allegra live on as a character in my book, though.

Well, perhaps a publisher if that were the only stumbling block!

On Names

So many times I’ve been looking at names, and found a book at the library that showed a different perspective.

Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana

The authors go through several different ideas to show how names evolve into what’s hot and what’s not – and sometimes why. I’m starting the section on TV and how we use these names for our children- not that everyone does it, but it influences us. More likely Soap Opera Digest than the TV Guide to pull some random new name.

I find that fascinating. I don’t really watch soap operas, other than a short stint as a teenager when someone was buried alive on Days of Our Lives. It was the first time it had been done, and I was intrigued by it. Then they dug her out and it really just wasn’t as interesting.

Back to the names, though. It seems like it might be interesting to skim the names of Soap Opera Digest and TV Guide to figure out what will trickle down into the general population as the next trend. Makes me wonder what it would take to bring a name in from a character in a book (or even a book-made-into-a-movie) as well.

The main character in The Art of Science is named Janie. It’s not a common name at all right now and it’s supposedly staying out of the norm. At least one of the characters is on the up-and-coming list, guess you’ll just have to read it to figure out who.


How much do you think about names? Still working on a compromise with my husband about the baby’s name, but the subject comes up often for me when I choose characters.

One thing that holds me back is I don’t want characters with the same name as my child, so I reserve names in hope that I might use them for the baby until I realize I’ll never talk my husband into it.

When the subject comes up with other writers, I learn how they look at characters differently than I do. Something in my head has to match the character’s personality with my feelings about the name. (Though this doesn’t always mean I hate the names I give characters I don’t like!) Some use random name generators to get what they need, while others can’t even begin the story until they find the name that fits the character in their heads.

I find myself in the middle. While I work for names early on, most of them come intuitively as the character emerges, and others get changed later if I find they don’t fit at a later time in the writing. Rarely I have unnamed characters in a flash fiction bit – but flash fiction is in a category of its own and sometimes names aren’t needed.

More about flash fiction later.

Have you ever thought about names so much? Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me, or the writer I am, or something that can be shared with others at all.

Books and Movies for 100

My husband and I watch a lot of movies. He doesn’t read, but if it’s a speculative fiction novel I generally try to read it before we see the movie.

Of course we have our favorites, and each has quirks. I find little things annoy me when they change them for no reason in movies.

Like Eragon, did they have to make Arya into a human, rather than an elf?

I remember being very upset that they combined characters in Jurassic Park.

Harry Potter seems to one of the few who escaped major edits in the movie business, but that doesn’t mean they put everything from the story in there. Now and then Hermione gets one of those know-it-all lines that someone else actually said in the book and I shake my head still. Especially if it’s a character who could have been in the scene like Seamus.

As a writer, I’d like to think I’d have the ability to stick up for my story when (okay, IF) it transferred to the silver screen. Novels are difficult because we say so much, but they have a limited time for screenplay.

Is it only writers who are so picky about these things?