Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Name Brands

By a stroke of luck, I've had time to read lately. And one of the things I've been noticing is when authors either use name brands or skillfully dodge using name brands. such as saying soda or cola instead of Pepsi or Dr Pepper.

This is something I've been thinking about for a while. Is it okay to use name brands? Is it good to use name brands? As in, does it help your story, or is it unnecessary?

I did what any rational person would do--I turned to the Google Machine. There I found this nice, wow-it-makes-sense article (a rarity) that I thought I would share with you:

What are your thoughts? Are name brands in fiction a good idea?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Cheesecake has to be the best dessert ever. Okay, except for something with a lot of chocolate. But, next to chocolate, cheesecake is the best. Perhaps for the same reason chocolate is so awesome--I'm a texture eater.

By that I mean, I like foods more for their texture than their taste. Not that taste doesn't matter, texture just...matters more. Which has me thinking, we hear a lot about sounds, sights, even smells in writing, but what about texture?

I love when I'm reading something and texture is described. For a moment, I'm even more engrossed in the story, trying to feel the same surface--table, clothing, pathway--as the character. Especially when it's worked in subtly (e.i. without "it felt like" every time).

I gave it a try a few scenes ago in my WIP. So, as something like an example...

I lean forward, resting my knuckles against the edge of the table, the weird texture that always reminds me of hard cottage cheese biting into my skin. Who would make card tables rough, anyway? Don’t people have to write stuff, like scores? Someone should complain.

(Incidentally, does anyone know what kind of table I'm talking about? Yeah, that kind. What are they even good for anyway? My guess is birthday parties. Put the cake on them. That's all I ever see them used for.)

Do you have any good examples of texture in writing? Or maybe another sense you wish writers explored more?


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to use proper writing grammar...or, rather, how to not use it.

Okay, I confess: I use improper grammar. I write run-on sentences and my characters say "I'm good" instead of "I'm well" and are frequent offenders of the "me and ___" phrase.


Because that's how people talk.

Really. Show me a character who speaks entirely in grammatically-correct sentences and I'll show you awkward, unrealistic dialogue (or my cousin Henry). Real humans use local jargon and casual speech--so, of course, if you're going for realistic characters they should too.

For example...
"...some juniors like Julius, some seniors like me and Ariel."
"...some juniors like Julius, some seniors like Ariel and I."
The first one sounds more fluid, more like what I would actually say--and therefore much more natural to me. While the second is "correct," I would choose the first, especially when used in dialogue.

"My ears still ring, either from the file or the ancient copy machine, so I waste no time putting the green car into reverse and stalling (twice) before maneuvering the car onto the main road where my poor driving skills are free to terrorize the not-so-general public, meaning most people are inside, and I encounter few obstacles on the way home."
What's wrong here? It's a run-on. However, in the story, it works, because the main character isn't thinking so clearly and her mind is racing too much for shorter sentences. All of this seems to be happening at once to her, so the run-on works, even though run-ons are a formal no-no.

One trick to see how natural your dialogue is: read it out loud. If you want to test the flow of something, see how it sounds when you read it. Is it something you'd actually say? Try getting someone else to read it too--they don't know how it's supposed to sound, so you can hear how your words sound to someone else.

Any other favorite rules to break?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Name-Calls

Or: On naming characters.

So let's start by saying that I'm not the best person to ask about naming characters. It's one step down on my hatred list from titles. (I suck at titles. Seriously. My second novel? The original title was "My Crazy and Insane Relationship With a Berserker" and the only reason it had even a joke title was because I needed a title for NaNoWriMo and my crit partner suggested it. Then because "My Crazy and Insane Relationship With a Berserker" is WAY too long to use as a document name, I nicknamed it Berserk. It stuck. And that's the story of my title.)

Anyways. Names. With me, not every character has to have a name. My main characters have to have first names, but they don't always get last names til the second or third draft. (Seriously. My main character/narrator in Berserk didn't have a last name til the second draft.) In SMN (my newest book), for a good 20 or 30 thousand words, my main character's best friend didn't have a name at all. (It was a bet between me and my other crit partner. I bribed her into hurrying up and finishing her revisions so I could read her book by letting her name a character in my book.) So for a long time, the character was (Biffle) so I could do an easy find and replace when she eventually did get a name.

KT (the one I was just talking about) is awesome when it comes to names. We play the "name game" when I need to change (sister) or (girl) into actual names and she's helped me come up with a lot of names for this book especially. (No, I'm not sharing her ;) ) I used to use Behind the Name's Random Name Generator quite often, but KT's more fun. Though when I used the RNG, it was quite amusing to mock the names that I found funny. I'm nice that way.

One thing to consider when you're naming characters is their family. With SMN, a lot of the characters have Irish parents or grandparents, so I consider some Irish names, but sometimes (a lot of the time) I just use names I like and don't worry about where the name comes from. 'Cause, I don't know about you guys, but my name has a different background than me. ;) And I'm a mutt anyways, so I'd have to have like 10 names to accurately reflect my heritage...

I also like to use 1000 top name lists for the years the characters would have been born, especially for smaller characters. I think it adds a touch of accuracy to things.

How do you guys name your characters? Any favourite websites or tricks?

Peace and cookies,

(PS. Also. This is late because I forgot today was Saturday because yesterday was a holiday. So happy belated Canada Day, everyone!)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Zoe Has Focusing Problems

Right now, I'm not writing my WIP. I should be, but I'm not. Technically, I'm camping without internet, but I'm writing this on Tuesday night. Let me explain why I'm not writing my WIP.

I have problems focusing. You all write, so do any of you have that problem where you are *so close* to finishing a novel and then you stop writing it? That happens to me. For instance, I'm probably 3/4 of the way to finishing my WIP. For some reason about two weeks ago, I lost the writing bug. I haven't worked on that WIP for a good two or more weeks and I don't even feel guilty. This problem probably stems from my lack of confidence or the possible lack of engaging plot in my novel, but I think it is happening for a reason. I think that the reason I haven't written a single word in Lovely Lies is that I am afraid.

I know I talk about fear a lot on here, but oh my gosh writing is such a scary thing. I know a lot of people who aren't even scared a little bit by writing or the business, but I am clearly not one of those people. So once again, lovely people who read YA Lit Six, I am going to talk about fear of writing and the business.

It is completely normal. The publishing business is so full of negativity and failing and bad stuff that it is totally OK to be afraid of it. But don't be like me. Please, for the sake of your writing and yourself, don't let your fear or writing and publishing stop you from writing. It gets me every time and it doesn't do any good.

Everybody has that one part of writing a novel that scares the hell out of them. For some it is beta readers, for some it is editing, for me it is writing first drafts. I have this huge fear that it will be all crap (honestly, it will most likely be all crap) or my characters will hate me or something tragic will happen to my finished WIP.

So that is why I haven't been writing. I've been hiding from my novel because I don't want it to end and because I am afraid. How do you all deal with your writing/publishing related fear?