Deb's Morning Pages

My Writing Life. One Morning at a Time.


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Names Matter

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What I have in front of me is a handout from my class, Cozy Mystery Plotting Sheet, a file folder of notes and several characters in need of a name. Where do I start? Which comes first, plot before characters or characters before plot? Characters, of course. I can’t fathom plotting this manuscript without all of my characters named. I only need two names. Just two. Should be simple, right? But my hope is that this will become a series and I’ll be living with the names for some time. And the names have to be just right. As I glance through my notes, I see that my sleuth’s bestfriend has several names, none of which I like.

What’s a bestfriend’s good name? Something short? Something that can have a nickname like Mo or Shel or Bon or Liv. Something ethnic? Something exotic? Naming a character begins with figuring out who the character is. I’m thinking this bestfriend is a by-the-books kind of gal. I’d had another impression of her a week ago but as I’ve gotten to know my sleuth better I’m finding out that she needs someone to ground her. She needs somebody around her who will tell her breaking in a potential murderer’s apartment in the middle of the night while the would-be killer is supposedly away (we of course know he’s on the elevator up to the apartment just as sleuth girl enters the apartment) is a bad idea. So I need a name that is short, smart and cannot have a nickname.

So glad I narrowed it down.

I just finished my Cast of Characters section on my Plotting Sheet and everyone is accounted for except for my sleuth’s bestfriend and her former co-worker. Yes, I really did believe a miracle was going to happen and the perfect name was going to pop into my head. Looks like I was wrong.

But, I will have them named by the end of the weekend. That’s a promise.

TTYL,
Debra

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A Sleuth’s Dossier

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My homework assignment a couple of days ago was to write my sleuth’s dossier – vital stats on her, personal background, her occupation, her fears, hopes and desires. As the instructor said, “the story starts and ends with character”. So whether you’re planning to write a single-title or a series, you have to know your characters inside out.

So, what makes a good character?

Believable.

Hands down, readers love to read about characters that they can relate to on some level. You’ll need to dig deep into your character’s life to find the traits, quirks and habits that make her/him believable. Your characters should be multi-dimensional because people are not cardboard cutouts.

Flaws.

How can you not dislike somebody who seems to be perfect? Come on, fess up, there has been a time in your life when you ached to knock someone off their pedestal. (It’s okay, we won’t tell.) Creating main characters who have no flaws doesn’t draw readers to them, instead it pushes them away.

Growth.

During the course of your story your characters should grow. They should learn something and change because of it. In a romance, the hero/heroine will begin with one view of love and will go through experiences in the novel that changes their views and that allows for the HEA. In a mystery, the sleuth begins with one view of the world and during the course of the investigation is changed forever. As a writer, you cannot be afraid of change or your characters will never reach their full potential.

This is the first time I am sitting down and writing a dossier and going through a list of questions, hard questions, about my main character. In the past I viewed it as a step that didn’t need to be done, hey I was creating the sleuth in my head so why did I need to do all this paperwork. I now see the value in doing this extra step. So, I’m off to continue with the rest of my character development assignment.

100×100 update: Day 6, 100 words.

TTYL,
Debra