Naming Your Characters

Recently, my husband and I hit the baby name books in anticipation of the birth of our daughter. We made lists; we consulted baby name sites, friends, and family. We considered name meanings and trends in popularity. And, when she finally arrived, we still took a few hours selecting from our narrowed list. Choosing her name felt like an important responsibility, because we knew the name would stay with her for her whole life, could shape her in someway, and would provide insight into who we, as her parents, anticipate that she might become. Names and their origins can have similar significance to our characters, whether real or fictionalized. Here are a couple of things to consider when naming your characters along with examples from well-known writers. Continue reading


Creating Setting: Don’t Neglect the Physical World

When readers first approach a story, they typically look for the following key information:

1. Where are we?

2. Who are the important characters?

3. What’s the initial problem or conflict?

Writers who neglect any of this situating information in the first few paragraphs can leave a reader disoriented, frustrated, and in danger of walking away.

People are accustomed to interacting with the world around them through the senses, and the imagined world of a story is no different for readers. In fact, when the conflict is still taking shape, and the characters and their motivating desires are still emerging, the physical world is often the first foothold.

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Hot Off the Press

Sou’wester has been described by New Pages as “a bright, energetic publication that can be read in pajamas or pantsuits—that is, on many different levels that all seem to work well and function cohesively.” Sou’wester recently released the 2013 spring edition which is a special issue celebrating women writers. I am delighted that my short story, “The Green Cadillac,” appears in this issue. Check them out here .

Combating Character Clutter—Whose Story Is It?

One of the problems with the early drafts of my novel was that I had too many characters. This is a common problem for many new writers. I became so absorbed in each new character I developed that the story quickly became a series of rabbit trails with no clear protagonist. In my workshop classes, peers had wildly different preferences on how I might develop the story and what characters to keep or toss. The reason was because I had failed to choose a direction for the story and to assert the character the reader was meant to vie for. Instead, all of my interesting people where pulling readers in too many directions and exhausting their attention. I needed to focus.

Part of the problem was that I will still in the early stages of the project. I didn’t know what the story was yet. I was just writing scenes with the same characters in them and letting my imagination run wild. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this when a story is just emerging from its primordial ooze. That is important, especially for a large project. You don’t want to edit too early. In fact, it can be useful to check out all the people who show up for open auditions before committing to the select few who will carry the narrative forward. However, eventually, often pages and pages into the process, the auditioning must stop and cuts have to be made. Continue reading

Why Fiction Writers Should Read Poetry

Figurative language and lyricism are essential elements of literary fiction, but  they can be some of the techniques most misused by young writers, resulting in unnecessarily inflated prose.

Recently, VONA faculty at their first regional writing conference, hosted in partnership with the University of Miami Creative Writing Department, held a reading at Books and Books in Coral Gables, FL, where this issue was briefly broached by poet and VONA faculty member, Willie Perdomo Continue reading