Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Character Development…

January 9, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Words have a power all their own

Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

Yesterday’s word had me puzzling on how to incorporate it into a blog article. Could I be clever enough? Then life got complicated and I had to leave my train of thought and deal with the situation. So you have two for one today! I’ll let you be the judge on the outcome.

Sobriquet (sho-bri-kay) – Definition: a descriptive name or epitet – a nickname.

In character development we give a lot of thought to our character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellari...

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) in their Magnificent Sea Anemone (Heteractis magnifica) home on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our second word for today is: Symbiosis  – Definition – the living together in close association of two different organisms especially when mutually beneficial.

My immediate thought was two-fold, family and writing life. Most of us have to balance these two sides of our lives, it can be tricky at times but life on the whole is better if we can. From my own experience I know that ‘Mum’s writing’ was thought a bit barmy at first. My family members would notice me frantically typing but had no trouble interrupting me. It took some time for them to understand that the act of writing was extremely important to me and when I was given the space to write, I was happier. Three years down the line, I have worked out a flexible routine and everyone knows my writing is not a passing fad but an essential part of me. So much so that they notice how much happier I am once words have been put to page. The benefits are obvious a happy Mum means a happy home. Getting to this point was not easy but I am glad I persevered.

How do you balance your writing life? Can you share your experiences?

A Necessary Chore…Editing

January 6, 2013
mandyevebarnett


As writers we love to be immersed in our own creations -weaving plots, planning and following story arcs, creating character profiles as well as their trials and tribulations. Our minds are full of questions : What happens next? How would my character react? Is that plausible or believable? Can I improve on that scene? Have I shown not told? Is there too much exposition? Would the reader have enough description to envisage the scene?

Freytags_pyramid_svgGraph – speedofcreativity.com

All these questions need to be answered but not when we are writing the first draft. This initial phase is the most enjoyable part of creating a story. Remember to give your inner editor time off enabling you to create freely and get the basic story line written. Once you have finished, the ‘real’ work starts. Continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming. Where should you start?

Once the story is complete put it to one side and go onto new projects. Leave it for a month or more (I’ve left two projects for nearly 6 months). When you go back to re-read you have fresh eyes giving you new insights. Your revision process may be to correct everything above as you read each page or you could concentrate on one item at a time, re-reading each time giving you a particular focus. This second method does lean itself to sharpening the process as you are not trying to ‘spot’ numerous revision types at the same time. With your editing done let your favored readers have it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any  errors they may find. No matter how many times you or your beta readers go through the manuscript there will always be a word missed, misspelt or a continuity slip up. How do you make your manuscript as good as it can be?

editorImage – Library of Poetry

A professional editor – if you can afford one – is a good investment. However, one trick that may work for you in finding those elusive errors is to read the book from back to front page by page. Another is to read it out aloud to yourself or a understanding friend (a glass or two of wine helps with this one!) A missed word is very obvious with this technique.

When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene.  Deleting these is hard – it is your creation and your words were written through hard work. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed.  They are a writer’s jetsam so to speak, which is my link to today’s calendar word. I had to squeeze it in somewhere!

Jetsam  Definition: unwanted material or goods that have been thrown overboard from a ship and washed ashore.

3187181309_63dba81a50_z Photo by Verity Cridland

These ejected words from our ‘ship’ may float on our hard drives or become washed up in a document folder but wherever they end up they are part of our creative soul and never truly lost. We may pick them up from the shore in the future to use in another piece of writing or they may stay hidden in the depths of our files. No matter which scenario occurs, they are born of you and precious all the same.

As writers we endeavor to produce the very best manuscript or article we can and that is why we endure the editing process. Without this method of correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.

I wish you fortitude in your process to make your work excel and delight your readers.

A Friendly Muse..

November 8, 2010
mandyevebarnett


My NaNoWriMo 2010 begins!

I begin this NaNo with an idea, but also; unusually for me; I have actually written some back story and dabbled with characters names prior to 1st November.  Initially I found this arrested my spontaneity and I was struggling with how to proceed. This difficulty did not bode well on the dawn of NaNo and panic was crawling within my chest.

Just type, girl, it will come. Try to forget what you have written and let your muse guide you. Internal pep talks aside, I was on the verge of that dreaded ‘block’ even before I started. So I took a long walk in the autumn sunshine, met a few walking friends and relaxed my overwrought brain.

how-to-make-a-cup-of-tea-3.WidePlayer

Back home with a steaming cup of tea beside my laptop, I freed my mind and let my fingers type. The words began to flow and I could feel my muse channeling my thoughts. At last the story would be crafted.

On the third day a sudden inspiration – why not write the two time periods side by side? This resulted in frantic typing, the words coming at a frightening pace – would I be able to keep up? Now I am happy with the direction my muse is taking me and true to my ‘twin’ personality (Gemini) I am going back and forth between the two era’s.

One dilemma has been solved whilst out walking and another by a chance glance at the TV. Unfortunately this black box is ever present as I type with my back toward it – but once I am absorbed – sights and sounds fade and I am inside the world I am creating. So deeply am I embroiled that my family has to shake my shoulder to get my attention. I have no concept of time until my tea is cold and I replenish it or when I stretch my shoulders from their hunched position to find the house in darkness and silent.

Writing, for me anyway, is a land deep within my mind filled with adventure, joy and accomplishment.

I hope you too find the awesome power of words – they create, they teach, they record.

Happy NaNo 2010 to those of you participating and happy writing to everyone else in the grips of this very engaging art form.

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