How I love television

September 28, 2007 at 2:01 pm | Posted in books, character, Meg, names, television | Leave a comment
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I’m not a big gadget person, but I’d like to send a little thank you out to the individuals who created the DVR. It’s a beautiful piece of technology that has allowed me to return to my prime time television addiction. With two kids, I haven’t watched television in years (except for Lost and The Office– two guilty pleasures I manipulated time for each week once I caught up with DVDs). With my wonderful DVR, I can capture all the time sucking moments of my new favorite shows, allowing me to procrastinate on my rewrites! YEA!

I started thinking about the trends in this season’s new shows (at least ones I’ve watched thus far) and discovered that there is a connection to fiction writing (or maybe I’m reaching because I couldn’t think of anything else to write?). Here goes:

WARNING- SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCH THIS WEEK’S NEW SHOWS

Revenge of the Nerds
I don’t know whose in control of Hollywood these days, but it’s definitely not a former star quarterback. Not with ‘nerds’ or loner guys being the heroes in three new shows. Chuck in Chuck defuses a bomb using a computer virus, Sam in The Reaper kicks a bad soul back to hell with a Dirt Devil and Dan in GossipGirl punches out a popular rich jerk. And they all have THE hot girl batting their eyelashes at them.

So it’s possible, that when you’re creating your heroes, you might want to consider toning down the Alpha male or hot stunt guy, and think about enlisting that likeable, nice guy next door to win the girl’s heart. These three guys are already winning mine.

Josh Swartz reads YA
Ah, the teen drama. Every year there’s a new one and I admit a perverse love of them. 90210, Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill. Loved them all. Now we have GossipGirl, the first teen show I know that’s based on a Young Adult literary series (I’m not including great stories like Princess Diaries and Sisterhood of Traveling Pants because they are movies).

I admit I haven’t read this series yet, so I’m not sure how ‘based on’ the books by Cecily von Ziegesar or how glammed up for television it is. I do know I’m hooked. It’s racy, edgy and the first two shows have more drugs and alcohol than the entire lifespan of ABC Afterschool Specials. Less sex than I had expected, even a virginal BP (Beautiful Person). A good insight into what teenagers are watching, thinking and doing (if you tone down the sophisticated rich stuff- not many teens have elaborate, expensive Sunday brunches with champagne and Scotch, at least not in my home town) if you write YA.

Back story
When and how to reveal the characters’ back-story can be a writer’s nightmare. We want readers to know why characters are doing what they’re doing, but readers don’t want to be hit over the head or treated as idiots. This week, the new shows used different techniques to explain the back-story of characters and they all worked. NBC’s Life inserted ‘interviews’ with key players from Detective Crews’s life giving us glimpses into his past as an officer and felon. GossipGirl used a voiceover of the prep school’s anonymous gossip blogger to fill us in on intimate details of the relationships, activities and drama of the Upper East Side. And instead of the standard prologue or flashback, the writers of the CW’s Reaper informed the audience and main character about the ‘sold your soul to the devil 21 years ago plot’ in a father-son chat. Cracked me up.

Names
In recent weeks, we’ve blogged about the importance of names for ourselves and our characters. I’ve shared websites that have helped me find elaborate names for characters. Jess divulged her anxieties about finding the perfect pen name. And Bria wrote about meaning, connotation and sound of names. Waste of time for all of us. Why? Because maybe names aren’t as important as we thought. Here are the list of names for the male characters of this year’s new shows: Dan, Nate, Chuck (used in two shows), Sam, Charlie, Ben. Boring, boring, boring. Winner of most original name is: Sock and The Devil. For female characters, things aren’t much better: Blair, Serena, Jenni, Constance, Andi, Sarah. Simple is in.

Okay, I think that’s all the epiphanies I have for now. Twenty minutes until the season premiere of The Office. I’ve been counting down since that last moment when Jim asked Pam out for dinner. That’s the problem with television versus books. With the literary entertainment, I can turn the page to get to the next chapter. With television, I have to suffer through months of reruns and wait. UGH!

-Meg

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An agent by any other name…

September 21, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, career, Meg, names, Queries | 2 Comments

So do you have your query written? Ready to send it out, but don’t know where to start looking beyond the name of an agent or editor (here’s my twist on the name topic for this week since I prematurely blogged about names last month in What’s in a Name). I’m here to help. Or at least here to share some links and places I used to research agents and editors.

First, what are you looking for in an agent or editor? (I’m going to refer to these two essential publication people as a/e from now on to save time and space) Do you want someone who is hands-on and will serve as a coach to guide you through your career or do you want a no-nonsense, only business, give-it-to-me-straight kind of person? Do you need to stay in constant contact with your a/e or do you want to only hear from them when they sell your book? These are things that you’ll want to consider as you learn an a/e’s management style.

Okay, so you know what you’re looking for, but where do you start? Here are some links:
A good place to start is: Preditors and Editors has a comprehensive list of a/e. They also post an occasional warning or accolade for the a/e so you can start getting a hint of who to look for or avoid.

Charlotte Dillon has a page full of interviews with a/e so you can learn personalities and styles. In addition, her website has numerous articles on why you need an agent and what to look out for in dealing with a/e.

If you’re a romance writer, The Passionate Pen has a great list of agents that deal with romance.

An agent herself, Kristin Nelson recently shared a list of agents who accept email queries on her blog, Pub Rants .

Believe it or not, there are numerous a/e looking to take advantage. I think there is actually a listing on Preditors and Editors that an agent faked her own death to avoid charges brought up against her. I could be wrong, and apologize if I am, but it amused me. You never know where you’ll get an idea for a new book, but that could be one! Anyway, Writer Beware is another website to check to make sure you aren’t querying a scam artist.

Candace Havens has a monthly online writing class that has included a month of interviews with agents. A great place to learn some writing skills and gain some inside knowledge of a/e.

I’m sure I’m missing tons of other useful links and sites, probably some obvious ones, so please let me know of them! I could use all the help to send out my own queries!

So send out your queries, e-queries, sample chapters and synopses. You’ll never get published if you don’t take that chance. Keep us posted! We’d love you to be our next Honorary Heartlette!

-Meg

Names! And I haven’t even started writing yet

September 19, 2007 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Bria, character, names, writing | 5 Comments
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I love naming characters.

There’s so much to it.  I speak ONE language – this is an embarrassment when discussing languages with my friend who speaks seven and reads nine. PAINFUL. But, my etymological history outruns hers any day with English words.  So you can see why name meanings would be a big factor for me. 

In my YA Fantasy (fingers crossed about the partials that are out for me and Miss Meg) my Heroine’s name is Faela. The hero and the myths of her people are tied to wolves. Naming the hero FAOLÁN felt far too obvious, but I wanted to have the tie there so I played with a familiar name. 

Beyond meaning, is connotation. Most people in America aren’t going to try to name their hero Lee Harvey. Or you might bow to Lucas by calling you’re hero Luke (coincidence?) but really, could you get away with naming your villain Darth? 

Keep in mind where and when your story takes place. Popularity of a name should be considered in this context.  If you’re writing a regency, the heroine should NOT be named Ashley. Name your hero that if you want to be correct, but remember most people don’t understand it as a strong ‘manly’ name. If you’re writing a YA and name your girl Ashley, then remember to run through the connotations again. Zelo.com list popularity of a name for the last 10 years in several countries. 

The sound of the name against other characters’ names should be considered. Let’s face it, Elizabeth and Darcy could never have been Marcy and Darcy. There needs to be a connection between them that’s further represented by the cadence of their names. 

Cadence is big with me as well. Part of my linguistics studies in college was surrounding the idea and I guess it has stuck with me. A friend and I were at a movie not to long ago and I loved the actor, a newcomer to the American screen.

Turning to my friend I said, “I’ve never heard of him, not even in an Irish flick.” At which point my friend asked why he would have been in one.  

Surprised, I responded, “Because he’s Irish.” Like, duh. 

Apparently, he had no accent, but he did have that certain cadence of an Irish native. Being familiar with it, I guess I just heard it as normal and assumed everyone heard it as if it were an accent, because, oh yes, I was right (I don’t get to say that a lot, so please, forgive the nanner-nanner of it.) 

Do you know what your name means? One of my favorite places to play is Behind the Name. It has sorting by name, meaning or origin. You can play with the ‘Random Name Generator’ or create nifty Anagram Names. Check them out.  OR if you’re just looking for some fun with names, check out the blog Spastic Onomastic at namenerds.

Find the perfect name, cloak your character in it, and Go Write.

-bria

The Name Game

September 17, 2007 at 8:50 am | Posted in Jessica, names, writing | 2 Comments
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If you’ve been with us Purple Hearts for any length of time, you’ll know that the three of us are working our way through the writing ups and downs on the quest for publication. I have to say, since I’ve met and started this project with Meg and Bria, I am more determined than before and have found my enthusiasm for the game again. For a while, I do admit to losing it.

And while we’re going to be talking about names during this week’s blog I’m going to take a slightly different turn on the subject. Because when I get published – using the power of positive thinking I dare to say WHEN, not ‘if’ – I plan on using a pen name. And although it may sound silly, I am having a devil of a time deciding on what to call myself.

And I thought I struggled in coming up with just the right character names for each of the people inhabiting my projects!

Here are some of the factors coming into consideration as I mull over the possibilities:

Where would I ideally like my book to reside on the book store shelves?
Well, if my cozy mystery is the book that gets me published, I may consider conjuring up a pen name that would put my book next to those of one of my idols, Nancy Martin. My series tries to emulate hers in having a smart and funny heroine caught up in circumstances beyond her control. A like-minded reader may easily graze from her books to mine if my book is in close enough proximity.

Same consideration goes for whether my YA series idea breaks me in. Or perhaps it will be my romantic comedies that put me on the map? Sigh. How many identities can one woman have?!

At book signings, are there certain authors I’d rather/not sign next to?
What a petty thing to say, I know! But this writing world is a small one and not everyone is as nice or supportive. Once bitten, twice shy. And I don’t want to get close enough to get bitten again.

Even better, how much more fun would the experience be to spend that time near someone whose work you like or personality you enjoy?

Does someone else already have dibs on mypenname.com?
When it comes to promotion and branding, do I want to have to worry that all my web traffic is going to stall at someone else’s web site? Most people look for intuitive web sites when out surfing the WWW. So if I choose a pen name for a name already claimed in its dot-com form, I may lose potential visitors. I believe that a determined reader will eventually find me, but why make ’em work so hard for the outcome?

Is the name fun to sign?
I have decent penmanship, but I don’t have the most stunning looking capital W’s or E’s in my repertoire of signature flourishes. Plus – and dreaming really big here – if I get a long line of people waiting for signed copies of my books, do I really want to have to continuously pen strings containing lots and lots of letters?

And is the name something I will respond to?
I sometimes have this dream where I am at a conference and someone is trailing behind me, calling and calling name X and me not turning around because my given name is name Y and I haven’t ingrained being called or calling myself name X yet. How embarrassing!

Have I done the due diligence to make sure I haven’t named myself after a mass murderer, renowned madam, cursed traitor, or any other famous or infamous person that will cause me more hassle than not?

I know this post gives you all ammunition to say that I must have much too much time on my hands if I’m giving my fake name all this careful study. So I will take those imagined scoldings and head back to the computer to work on that cozy . . . or that YA . . . or that romantic comedy. It’s the only way I’ll ever have the opportunity to put that fake name on my book’s spine!

Hope you will get back to the writing, too!

-Jessica

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