Naming Your Characters

It’s time to break out the baby-names book! Because your protagonist needs a name, and any old name won’t due.

The go-to option is to name your characters after people you knew. Just remember to, later on, change it to something else! Your book may be published with a villain named Timmy Blankencheck, the kid who pushed you in the sandbox back in preschool.

Somewhere, Timothy B.  is on a flight for business, picks up a book he’s heard good things about, and is surprised to discover that he shares a name with a fictional penguin-murderer.

Don't feel bad. All Timmy's are evil

Don’t feel bad. All Timmy’s are evil

I know several people who have named their villains after a teacher or mentor who didn’t believe in them enough.

(By the way, if your instinct is to name your protagonist after yourself, you might consider reading my post about the Mary Sue).

Method number two for name selection is to name them after characteristics.  I like to call this method “Neil Stephenson-ing” because of his brilliant book Snow Crash, in which the main character is Hiro Protagonist. It’s a little strange, but it’s a strange book.

This can also be called “George Lucas-ing.” Seriously, his villains have the dumbest names: “Darth Vader” “Darth Sidious” “Darth Venamis” “Darth Tyranus” “Darth Maul” and “Darth Plagueis”.

Let’s play a game: guess which one of those villain names I made up. Wrong. They’re all real.

This calls to mind one of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Space Mutiny. Throughout the movie, Mike and the Robots call out new ideas for the muscle-clad meat-head protagonist.

“Plank Manchest!”

“Splint Chesthair!”

“Dirk Hardpec!”

The slightly-more subtle, but still cliche’d method is name your character Cane, Kayne, Kain, or Kanye. This just telegraphs that the character is a villain.

Similarly, be careful with any name that tells us how dedicated your character is. Detectives or Private Investigators named Hunter or Archer or Spade or Skywalker or Arrow or Captain America.

Full disclosure: my first book starred a homicide detective named Archer.

Damn it, FX!

Damn it, FX!

You will eventually have to change the name of one of your characters because you subconsciously named someone after your favorite ninja turtle (this was, tragically, discovered too late for the DiCaprio family).

Anyway, just remember, there’s something wrong with every character name you choose. And nobody use Principle Illustrion. That’s what I’m calling the lead character of my legal thriller.

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The internet is a dick, and not the way you think

It’s come to my attention recently that the internet is really passive aggressive.

No, I don’t mean the people: I mean the internet itself. The technology.

I signed up for a twitter account to participate in a contest. Weeks later, after I hadn’t used it, Twitter emailed me with the message, “Do you know how to tweet?” I couldn’t help but imagine a the implied, sarcistic, “You dumb townie.”

LinkedIn calls itself “the world’s largest professional network.” So when I googled someone on my phone, I got back truncated results from their profile: “John Doe is… the world’s largest… engineer”

I have a facebook now, originally created a few months back to promote my collection of short stories and to prove to people that yes, I do know how to have a “media platform.” I’ve not friended people because there are a lot of people from my past that don’t need to know I’m still alive. Anyway, I scrolled through my feed and after only about 7 posts (each about a line, half about cats the others about trump and one about a cat that looks like trump), the feed ended. I had run out of updates.

Facebook put at the bottom “You’ll have more stories in News Feed if you add more friends.”

“Don’t worry your poor livejournal. I’ll be fine. No it’s fine. It’s fine.”

Duck you, facebook. And your autocorrect that changed my message that was supposed to be “I’ll come along” to “I’ll come alone”.

It’s like Skynet became self-aware and took on the persona of an ex.

“You know, your brother posts every day,” it says. “You’re too busy to instragram your poor world wide web?”

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Dunning–Kruger effect: not knowing you suck

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been on my mind lately.

A quick refresher: People who aren’t good at things struggle to do something simple. And when they accomplish it, they brag, assuming everyone else has trouble doing that task, too.

People who are good at difficult things assume that everyone is good at them, so they don’t brag.

So dummies are loud about their piddling accomplishments, and geniuses keep quiet about sometimes amazing things. Dunning-Kruger.

I am also very good at expectorating

I am also very good at expectorating

The scary part is that D-K is defined by not knowing that you’re a victim. The internet is FULL of loud monkeys. Every teenager shares their sense of accomplishment when they realize they can be terrible.

The obvious solution is “Don’t be a prideful git. Set aside the braggadocio.”

But I’m a navel-gazer, and constantly second guess everything I think I am. So knowing about D-K makes me doubt my accomplishments. For example, is my vocabulary really above average like I think, or does everyone use the word “braggadocio?”

Does everyone else have to double-check spelling of expectorate?

And does everyone else have to double-check spelling of expectorate?

Anyway, tune in to my next post when I tell you about how I set up my very own twitter account. Hang on, I think I hear Mensa calling.

Observations at a Starbucks

I write at a starbucks near my home. Mostly because I enjoy being a cliche’. Also because the baristas are nice to me and know me as “The guy who never buys anything, but puts something in the tip jar anyway.”

But being surrounded by people stokes my creative side. I find it easier to write in a busy environment.

Or, perhaps more accurately, I find stupid things on my computer FAR more distracting when I’m alone.

Some things about my starbucks:

  • Wedding planners meet with clients here alot. Does starbucks cater weddings? Take note, coffee execs.
  • There is a inverse correlation with how much I enjoy a book  and the chance someone will come over to me and gush about it or start a conversation about it.No matter how much I enjoy Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain, a person with a bare ring-finger will only start a conversation with me if they see me reading The Magicians by Lee Grossman. I have major issues with that book.
  • A certain Persian barista has yet to ask me about my time-travelling book