On Naming Characters…
I find names intriguing. Names are one of the first things in life that define us, and yet they are entirely out of our control. As a little girl, I often thought that I would name my daughter Emily, but then I grew up and realized that I had so many other names available to me. Why should I settle for the name that I always used for my dolls?
When naming the characters in my stories, I make choices to fulfill specific purposes. With Jenny (During the Fall), I needed a name that people could instantly connect to with a positive vibe; I have yet to meet a Jenny that isn’t happy and likeable!
Alex…hot, sexy Alex. That’s how I saw him; tall, dark, and handsome. Then my daughter told me that I should change his name because all of the Alex’s that she knew were weird. Oh, but she doesn’t know about my Alex. The basis for my Alex is none other than Alex O’Loughlin. I’ll admit that I have a crush on him. It’s the Australian accent and the smile - oh my! His named conjured up the vision of a male protagonist with a strong personality. One who is certain of his life, yet tenderhearted and romantic.
For the parents, I needed strong names because Jenny and Alex were going to need to relay on them for support, so enter “Ann” and “Bob,” and “Mary” (my grandmother’s name) and “Tom” (ode to Tommy Lee, from Motley Crue). It seems a little strange now to pair my grandmother’s name with Tommy Lee, but it didn’t at the time! Oh, well.
The names of the neighbors, Julie and Ben, seemed to fit nicely together to convey a power couple.
The children are named Nicolas and Jessica. Nicolas is an ode to Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue. What can I say? I love rock and roll! Jessica was named by my son while my daughter was playing soccer. I needed a name and asked him to come up with a cute, little girl name; and Jessica was born.
Aunt Sally came from my need to facilitate an instant connection between the reader and the beloved aunt, and who doesn’t love the name Sally?
So, when I needed names I thought about the people in my daily life and then I reached further to recall names of those who had shaped my life in a deeper way and helped to create the character that I am today! We grow into our names and they become our identity around which we are characterized. Think of the cards or books that offer definitions of your name. Now think about how accurate they are in terms of your own personality traits. Weird that your parents didn't know who you would turn out to be or what type of personality you would have!
My characters could have been named something else, but the reader may not have connected with them as deeply, or does that not matter? Does the name shape the person or does the person take on the qualities of the name?
A view on self-publishing…
I believe that everyone has a book in them; it’s whether one is committed enough to bring it into physical form that makes the difference. The hardest part of writing is the commitment. Other things can easily become more important, and before you know weeks will go by since you last looked at your manuscript. Making the commitment to sit every day or most days of the week will ensure the completion of your manuscript, whether it be a how-to book, non-fiction, fiction or whatever it is that you want to tell the world.
When writing During the Fall, I approached it from the mind of an athlete; it was my marathon. I love running, but I have no desire to run a marathon; however, for years, almost my whole life, I had the burning desire to write a book. So, for me, writing a book became a challenge that I needed to complete. There was no stopping; no throwing in the towel. Quitters do that and if you know me well enough that word is NOT in my vocabulary. I was going to see this book through to the end, no doubts! I kept the writing of my book close to myself; only telling my husband and children, and a good friend who is also a writer.
That brings me to Step 1: Engage support. Join a writers’ group or find a writing partner. Like everything in life, there will days when you will doubt yourself and want to give up, but your partner or group is there to push you, encourage you, and relate to you. They will help keep you honest, and if you are committed enough, you’ll have a completed manuscript in no time…for me that was seven months.
After you relish in your completed manuscript, read it and re-read until you can practically recite it verbatim! I can’t tell you how much I hated reading my story after awhile. It became so redundant to me that I believed no one would like it because the story line was obvious. The story that my eyes had read for twenty plus times grew tiresome and lost the magic I felt when I read it through the first time. The lack of emotion from reading my story through was something that I wasn’t prepared for. Then I hired an editor! Her recommendations and opinions quickly had me re-engaged with my story. Together we ignited the story that is published today.
Step 2: Pay for a Professional Editor. Your editor should not be your mom, a friend or a teacher. Hire an editor who knows the Chicago Manual of Style. I worked with Sue Ducharme, of Equi-text.
I love fiction. I love nothing more than being held captive by the imagination of a writer. I appreciate an author who can grab my attention with the first chapter and keep me engaged until the end. Then after the end, I love it when an author has made such an impact on me that I want to read the book again! Sue helped to polish the story, and I began to view it with new eyes. It was truly a magical experience!
With editing almost behind me, I had to focus on finding a cover designer, and boy did that take a long time to find. Oh, I should mention that up to this point the manuscript had no title! I used the working title, “Jenny.” I compiled more than one hundred titles, but crossed off every one because they just didn’t feel right. In the end, I love the title that I stumbled on the same day I got the final copy back from Sue. The emotions that ran wild through my body were electrifying! The final copy finished and the title discovery in the same day - it couldn’t get better!
Step 3: Cover Design. After endless web searches for cover designers and umpteen emails, I decided to work with Gabrielle Prendergest from Cover your Dreams; a great choice! I love Gabrielle for many reasons, but the most important is that she recognized that I am a control freak and she let me take control when it made sense. With cover art and fonts decided, I had to move to formatting.
Step 4: Formatting. In my opinion, another important part of writing a book is formatting, because if the reader stresses out over reading bad page breaks, run-off words or spacing issues, you’re done. Reading is supposed to be an enjoyable pastime that allows people to step away from the stress in their daily lives, therefore any challenge to smoothly read a book will quickly be put down for one that has been formatted by a professional who knows the ins-and-outs. My main man for that job was Guido Henkel. Love him! Maybe it has something to do with his rocking roots…he’s a guitarist. For those who didn’t know, I’m a drummer and I love the 80’s! I’m a rocker at heart and without my music, and God, I might as well be dead…just saying:)
To re-cap, we’ve covered amazing, risk-taking, committed writing, a writing partner or group, professional editing, cover design; (I forgot to mention that, yes, we all judge books by their covers!) formatting and now ISBN codes.
Step 5: Protect Your Work. A small investment will ensure you own the rights to your works and won’t have to fight to gain them in the future. Bowker.com is where you can purchase an ISBN code. For $35 you should invest in a copyright (copyright.gov) to protect your manuscript if someone ever came forward accusing you of ripping them off. Some say you don’t have to do this step because the manuscript is on your computer and dated and that is enough, and there are rumors that by mailing yourself a copy of your manuscript and not opening it will cover you, but remember I’m a control freak, and I would rather pay now rather than pay to defend my work. If nothing else research it, and do what feels right to you.
Step 6: Use Beta-Readers. Now you’re almost ready, but up to this point only you and your editor have read the manuscript, right? Enter beta-readers. Choose wisely. Again, these should not be your grandmother, mother, sister, or best friend unless one of these special people has the experience that can support their opinions. Look for qualified people who read and edit for work or are opinionated and honest. Most important, they need to have the time to help you. They can’t take months to get back to you. They should look for gaps in the story and/or unrealistic events or storylines; again research what a beta-reader does and pick one accordingly.
And now the end has come, you’re ready to release your work of art to the world. Let me back up for a moment. While your manuscript was being edited, you should have been working on these things:
· begin setting-up your website
· create author accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets
· do your research on self-publishing
The more you know, the better off you’ll be. As with all ventures, there are vultures out there, so be aware! You don’t need a service to self-publish for you. They’ll charge you for things that are within your ability to do for no fee.
Step 7: Upload Your Book. Guido will have you set up to upload to the print-on-demand service you choose; I chose Createspace. I feel that they are the best, but look into the others, which you may like better. I also directly added my e-book to Nook, KOBO, and iBook.
Step 8: Marketing Your Book. Marketing options are endless. Use social media and think about paying for other services, such as paid sponsorships for greater exposure; I used Kindle Nation Daily. The Author Visits (Veena Kashyap) will highlight your book for a week free of charge and they also offer self-publishing packages to help you get out of the gate ahead of the pack; check out Veena's options. I also signed up for an author account with Goodreads. They allow you to offer giveaways and gain exposure to their members. There are endless avenues to investigate and gain exposure, but please do your research and never give away your hard earned money with an overnight success promise. In the end, word of mouth will propel you to more sales and happy readers!
Oh, what about query letters? Well, I never sent one. Remember that I am a control freak! Honestly, now that my book is complete and out for the world to read, there is a small part of me that wished that I had sent a few queries because one never knows what the outcome may have been. There is still a lot of work a writer has to do to promote their book even if they are picked up by a publishing house. There could be changes that a publisher may demand and the title you’ve loved so much, well it could be deleted only to be renamed, and not by you.
Some people don’t have the energy, drive or interest to self-publish, but it was a great experience for me. When I crossed the finish line, I was standing on the beach celebrating the completion of a race that I will run again and again. I won’t do it for fame or fortune, but simply because nothing in this world has brought me more satisfaction; and leaving behind in its wake, the feeling of harmony. I’ve found mine, now it’s time to find yours!
©2014 Cristen M Farrell Photography www.cristenfarrell.com
CHERYL MURNANE lives in a suburb of Boston with her husband, two children, and dog, Mitzi. As a practitioner of yoga, she lives a disciplined life, balanced by faith and family, and she believes that everything happens for reasons we may not always understand.