I was excited about meeting the visiting author, but worried about his reaction to the 25 pages I’d submitted. Would he like my work or would he gently hint about shelving the novel? After some preliminary small talk, he got right down to business.
Yesterday, twenty of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant for a workshop with award-winning author J.K. Coi. Having written several novels in the urban fantasy, contemporary and paranormal romance genres, Coi is best known for creating compelling characters that “leap off the page and into readers’ hearts.”
Some of her tips…
- Strong characters will offset weak plots.
- Allow your characters to have flaws. There is no tension or growth in a perfect character.
- Keep in mind that believable does not translate into realistic. Inject an element of fantasy to entertain the reader.
- Make your character so unique that they couldn’t be dropped into any other book.
- Feel free to make tweaks and twists that readers will appreciate, but not throw them out of the story.
- Avoid cliches but respect reader expectations. If you must deviate, add humor or provide an appropriate back story.
- Character-driven books have depth and are more memorable than plot driven stories.
- Give your characters complicated relationships.
- Secondary characters are there only because they have a purpose. They should not be more interesting than the protagonist.
- Use other characters to reveal the protagonist’s blind spots.
- Figure out the intricacies of the characters before starting the novel.
“How attached are you to the name Anna May?”
Sandy Isaac’s question took me and six other members of Guelph Write Now by surprise. While I appreciated the many critique suggestions I had received, I wondered about Sandy’s question. Anna May is the villain in my cozy mystery, A Season for Killing Blondes, and I wasn’t prepared to change her name. Along with her two sisters and cousin, the Godfrey women all have double names: Anna May, Carrie Ann, Jenny Marie and Melly Grace. I had given much thought to the double names and I didn’t really want to change any of them.
Sandy noticed my hesitation and explained her resistance to the name. Said quickly, Anna May becomes “anime,” a style of animation often featuring themes intended for an adult audience. Two of the other members nodded, while five of us merely shrugged. But Sandy’s concern raised several questions in my mind. How would my readers respond? Would they make the same connection as Sandy? Would Anna May’s name suit or hinder her villain status?
A well-chosen name sets the right tone for the character and, in some cases, may even suggest certain physical, emotional or psychological characteristics. For example, James Bond flows well and suggests excitement and wealth, while Scarlett O’Hara conjures up images of plantations and Southern belles.
Some writers devote considerable time to the process. Short one-syllable names like Jane Eyre suggest direct and well-grounded personalities while longer, multi-syllabic names like Anna Karenina and Armand Gamache are often associated with more complex personalities.
I have a personal preference for certain names, in particular the apostle names, Luke and Paul. Patricia Anderson, one of my readers, pointed out that I had used Paolo, Paula and Pauline for three characters in the novel. Definitely overkill. So, I changed Paula to Belinda and Pauline to Karen.
After the critique session, I decided to research the meaning behind the names of the five principal characters of A Season for Killing Blondes:
Gilda—golden (appropriate for a nineteen million dollar lottery winner)
Sofia—wisdom (questionable choice for the expedient cousin)
Carlo—warrior (works well for the chief detective)
Roberto—bright fame (suitable for the well known local lawyer)
Anna May– Anna means favored by God and the middle name, May, is often used for girls born during the fifth month of the year. (I might have to reconsider)
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This afternoon, I joined several other members of Guelph Write Now for our monthly meeting at Lucie’s Restaurant in south Guelph. I look forward to meeting with other writers and talking about our respective writing journeys.
Lots of discussion and advice floated around the table as we discussed the pros and cons of social media, ebook covers, our WIPs and Fifty Shades of Grey. Organizer Cindy Carroll provided us with three prompts and we wrote spontaneously. Afterward, we shared out stories and commented on the different interpretations of the prompts.
We also enjoyed the delicious coffee, tea and desserts.
Last evening, seven of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant for our April dinner meeting. We are celebrating the second anniversary of Guelph Writers Ink.
A bit of history…
After completing Dennis Fitter’s creative writing course, a group of us decided to meet on a monthly basis to discuss our writing journeys. We came up with the following mission statement: We will inspire and encourage each other to write on a regular basis. Last year, Cindy Carroll and several members of Guelph Write Now joined us.
Lots of discussion and advice floated around the table as we discussed epublishing vs traditional publishing, agents, manuscripts and social media. Patricia Anderson, Linda Johnston and I have decided to bite the bullet and start tweeting before the next dinner meeting. No more excuses!!!
Congratulations to Linda Johnston–winner of the door prize.
A reminder…Dennis Fitter’s book, Mexico City is now available.