Archive for 'tools'



What’s in a Name?
by Annette McCleave on June 14th, 2011

How much time do you spend selecting the names of your characters? Do they pop into your head and stick? Or do you pour through baby name books looking for the one that calls to you? Or do you pick the names (or variations on the names) of your favorite public figures?

Ever since I was in grade school and sat next to a fellow by the name of Barry Perry (who was never called just Barry), I’ve been fascinated by names.

I think long and hard on the names of my characters … testing first and last together for rhythm, verifying authenticity with the locale and time period, and ensuring the name reflects the personality of the character. If, during the course of writing a book, a character’s personality evolves into something I didn’t foresee when I started, I’ll change that character’s name.

I confess, though, the most common reason for me to change names partway through a book is realizing that I have too many that begin with the same letter.

I use a couple of resources to name my characters: a standard baby name book and a book called Names through the Ages by Teresa Norman. The Norman book breaks names into Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English, French, and American origins, and assigns time periods to their usage. Very helpful for a historical writer. I also use another great book, the Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. This book goes further on the origin side of things, breaking names into 45 countries/places of origin, and also has articles on character naming.

If you don’t have the funds for a book at this moment, you can have a look at a few online sites:

Behind The Name First Names – provides meanings for various first names
Behind the Name Surnames – provides meanings for a selection of last names
Social Security Administration – gives lists of popular names by year

Or if you need more help, check out some of the character name generators:

Behind the Name
Ficticity
The Script Vault

Here’s hoping you have as much fun naming your characters as I do.

Deadlines are my friend…mostly
by Annette McCleave on November 11th, 2008
Currently working on: Outline for Book II
Mood: Optimistic

To start, a big THANK YOU to all the soldiers who’ve risked their lives for ours, both past and present.

On a good day, I love deadlines. After all, what’s not to love? When I look at my deadlines, I get an immediate sense of where I am and how much further I need to travel. A deadline keeps me on target and often fills me with warm feelings of accomplishment.

The problem is not every day is a good one. Indeed, the frequency of not-so-good days is directly proportional to the proximity of my deadline. The closer the deadline gets, the more I panic. I resort to counting out the diminishing number of hours and minutes, my heart beating like the drum of doom. And then my muse goes AWOL. She plops down in front of the TV with a big bag of Cheetos and a diet Coke and wails ‘What’s the point? We’ll never do it!’

Luckily, I’ve been there before–I know exactly how badly she behaves. So I plan ahead. I have a lovely little spreadsheet that I update hourly. It’s nothing fancy, just a simple daily calendar with two sections: Plan and Actual. Regularly checking my planned progress against my actual allows me to turn up the burner before things get out of hand. I work an extra hour or an extra-long weekend to wrestle my muse back under control.

What do I do if LIFE interferes with my schedule and panic-mode hits anyway? Get up from the computer, take a walk. Make myself another cup of java. Eat some chocolate. Or go have a nice hot shower. Some rah-rah self-talk sometimes helps, too. Basically, anything that calms me down is fair game. Panic is my personal evil villain, and I need to conquer him to finish my book on time.

How about you? Got any tools or tricks that help you reach those deadlines with your blood pressure still on the charts? Wanna share?