Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

Here are some great suggestions for coming up with great names for your characters.

Shannon A Thompson

2 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release! I’m feeling pretty supercalifragilisticexpialidocious about it all 😀 [And definitely not sleeping due to excitement] And I have one more announcement!

Minutes Before Sunset will be available as an e-book through Barnes & Noble and Amazon for $6.99 on May 1st! Please help spread the word :] The first day of sales is often the most important, and I really appreciate everyone who’s helped (and encouraged) me on here, Facebook, and Twitter. 

I’ve also received an author review for Minutes Before Sunset: “An exciting mixture of paranormal, romance, and page-turning action. Can’t wait to see book 2.” – Raymond Vogel, author of Matter of Resistance, a YA Science Fiction novel.

And the first chapter was published in The Corner Club Press yesterday! You can open an online version of it by clicking here. And congrats to the founder, Amber Forbes

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At what age do boys become dudes? It’s way earlier than you think.

It’s potentially a wonderful philosophical and developmental question. When exactly does a child progress along the path of maturation to become an adult? Is it based on having achieved some level of cognitive development?  Perhaps it is based on crossing some chronological gateway, an age when we magically convert from boy to man? Or perhaps it is based upon having completed some rite of passage?

My toddler today helped me postulate that the progression from boy to man (or as I will refer to it from now on: dude) begins at the moment when a boy begins to seek a girl’s attention, and thinks that doing stupid things in public is necessary to attract said girl’s attention. Evolution to dudeness begins so early. My dude has only recently edged past 2 years of age. He has never been overly fond of the swing on the playground. He certainly tolerated getting lifted onto the kiddie seat and pushed a few times, but he would clamor to get off within a few swings. Until this afternoon.

We were playing around in the park when a little girl, perhaps no more than a year older than he is, was hefted up onto the baby swing. My boy’s head immediately snapped up from where he was industriously filling in a hole in the sand some other kid had fastidiously dug out moments before. His eyes were suddenly different. He dashed the twenty meters separating him from the only other toddler’s swing seat in the park screaming “Papa, swing!” at the top of his lungs. I obligingly lumbered along and plopped him down into the seat.

I pushed him gently, no further than his usual tolerance would allow me to. “Papa, higher!” he chirped.

What? I actually had to ask my wife for a confirmation, since I could not conceive that he even knew the word.

“Papa. HIGHER!”

Sure, kid. Whatever. I gave him a stiffer push, sending him soaring up to about chest height.

“PAPA! PAPA! HIGHEEEEER!” He insisted stridently.

Huh? I then noticed that he kept peering over to the right at the little girl. Her dad was pushing her a little higher than I was pushing my boy. Sorry, my dude. He was most definitely deep into dude mode at this point.

He was rapidly returning from the far point of his oscillation. He began screaming as the seat touched my hand: “Pa…” The words cut off as I shoved harder than I ever had shoved my little dude before. Careful what you ask for, kiddo. He soared on mighty scything arcs that reached ever so slightly above my head, giggling and chortling gaily all the time. Every time air resistance threatened to lower his apex below that of his companion, he would instruct me to give him another boost.

This swinging stuff is harder work than it looks. I eventually started to tire. Thankfully, the little girl’s parents thought it was time to get her home to toss her in the bath. She had not made it five steps away from the swing that my little dude began to think that swinging was no fun anymore. Off he went.

Yep. Biochemistry at its finest.

Meet Atom Bot

Atom Bot. Likes long walks on the beach, a romantic tuneup, and bashing evildoers.

Atom Bot. Likes long walks on the beach, a romantic tuneup, and bashing evildoers.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to focus my wandering mind by doodling during meetings or other events that need my mind to be focused for a prolonged period. These doodles usually end up in a notebook, but tonight they are on my computer thanks to a good phone call, and a conveniently handy graphics tablet.

Atom Bot spilled out on the page with a variety of other nonsense, but the basic shape eventually caught my eye, so I quickly refined it and added some colour to make him pop. Not too shabby. I guess I should make more calls.

Blackbird Interactive has got my attention now

I’ve been hiding in a cave for the past little while and missed any news relating to a game design company in Vancouver called Blackbird Interactive. Something popped up on Twitter about a cool trailer for an upcoming free to play real time strategy game called Hardware: Shipbreakers.

Boing! I have no real idea what these games are about. I can certainly surmise that this is a case of Salvage: Code Red in space, but the trailers still don’t reveal a whole lot. When the pedigree of the makers is taken into consideration (some of the folks who made Homeworld), then this is probably something worth paying attention to. They still seem to have their touch. Simple colour palettes with simple, yet incredibly aesthetic imagery, and clean visual design have made for a beautiful set of trailers.

I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more from BBI.

Selling articles through fear: please stop now

Gizmodo put up an article titled A Slo-Mo Mouse Eye View of a Barn Owl Swooping In For the Kill Is Terrifying . I’ve included it here below for ease of reference.

Terrifying? Really? I don’t think I heard any of the people appearing in the video once refer to the owl or the footage as anything that instills fear. How about: “beautiful”, “graceful”, “amazing”, “wonderful”, or any other positive adjective that can be found in the English language? Trying to paint the clip in terms eliciting fear is disingenuous and most likely very far from the producer’s mind when they made the video. What it does is tap into the concept of trying to catch the audience’s attention to generate views through gripping a primal, visceral aspect of human psychology.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a different article on the same site from the day before, by a different author: Get a Terrifying, First-Hand Look at What It’s Like to Ride a 15-Foot-Tall Bike. There it is again. Terrifying. I’ll let you be the judge of whether this video is terrifying:

There certainly is cause to feel a certain trepidation at first, maybe some butterflies in the stomach, but we soon see that everyone is having fun. Being so high up gives a new point of view on the world and hopefully brings a little joy to all involved. I can certainly question the biker’s wisdom by choosing not to wear a helmet, particularly with some of the hazards encountered en route (cars deciding to push around the traffic wardens and the kite string incident), but none of these qualify as sources of terror in my book.

Indeed, let us explore the definition of terror for a moment:

terror |ˈterər|
noun
1 extreme fear : people fled in terror | [in sing. ] a terror of darkness.
• the use of such fear to intimidate people, esp. for political reasons : weapons of terror.
• [in sing. ] a person or thing that causes extreme fear : his unyielding scowl became the terror of the Chicago mob.

The hostage crisis at the school in Beslan in September 2004: tragic and terrifying. A pack of zombies trying to claw my door down at midnight to munch on my brains: terrifying. Climbing 300 feet up a sheer cliff when you realize there’s an avalanche coming down the mountain at you: terrifying. Flying in a plane when someone looks out the window and asks: “excuse me, but is there supposed to be that much smoke and fire coming out of the engines?”: terrifying. Finding out someone has brought to life a T-Rex and has now accidentally set it loose through your back yard: terrifying. A global crisis where the inhabitants of a planet blindly savage its natural resources and pollute its environment in a bid to enrich the few at the cost of the health and safety of the entire world: starting to sound pretty scary. A bird swooping gracefully through the air to get some food : not so much. Some dude pullinga circus stunt in the street: Um. No.

Our society is fixated by the use of superlatives. Everything has to be more extreme, more awesome, more epic than the last. If it is not, we have been conditioned to believe that it must be worthless, and definitely not worth our time or money. I know the phenomenon of using fear to market items and ideas has been around for a long time, but when fear is used this blatantly and with such negligent frequency to qualify menial or even positive aspects of life, it loses all of its meaning. It devalues the events which do indeed qualify as terrifying by diluting them in a sea of lesser issues that are lumped in by them. We become  hypersensitized to fear, and learn to be afraid of everything, taking dramatic actions to protect ourselves from the dangers we perceive to be lurking everywhere, rather than embracing the unique and exhilarating opportunities that life holds for us.

That, or come up with new adjectives that allow us to provide much needed context and contrast to the upper tier of emotional reactions. If that’s the case, I’d like to coin the term “übspazrificating” for the media to start talking about really scary things. That should help them sort their priorities out and use the word only when it is really needed.

You heard it here first, folks.

On toddlers and sarcasm

Sarcasm. It turns out kids just don’t quite get it.

Our son was fresh out of the shower, cleanly bundled in his pajamas and sitting on my wife’s knees as she was brushing his teeth. He suddenly began to wriggle his nose and make funny faces. Before either of us could react, he smeared his gooey goobers all over her forearm.

“Oh, thank you for wiping your nose all over my arm, dear.” She announced glumly.

Smoosh! He smothered his nose across her sleeve another time.

“Thanks. I really needed that.”

Sluuurop! A trinity of slimy streaks adorned her arm.

“Gah! I don’t really mean it. Stop wiping your nose on my arm!”

The puzzled look that washed over his face was priceless. It almost screamed “But mommy, I’m just giving you what makes you happy!”

I guess we’ll need to keep working on the concept of sarcasm

Feeding the Beast is harder than it appears

Feed at your own risk

Feed at your own risk

“Hey kiddo, what do you want for a snack?” I ask as the time to feed the beast inevitably lumbers around.

“Snack!” He replies, a wide smile beaming.

“I got it. That’s what we’re going to do, have a snack. But what do you want in it?” Clearly, he hasn’t figured out that I need explanation as to what individual components he desires that I put into the conceptual container that is a snack.

“Snack!” He repeats just as excitedly as the first time.

“No, no. What. Do. You. Want. To. Eat. As. A. Snack?” Maybe if I go slower he’ll understand.

“Snack!” His mouth drops open and his eyes sparkle.

I take a deep breath, and scramble to find another approach. “Do you want an apple?”

“Apple!”

Success. I’ve got a decision. I reach into the fridge and pull out the shiniest, reddest, and most delicious apple I can find. “Non. Pas ça!” Not that. Say what?

“But you just asked for an apple, why don’t you want it any more?”

“Pas ça!”

I can’t hope for much more clarification, so I rummage around the bin looking for something else to appease his hunger. The once chatty toddler is rapidly transitioning to something darker, brooding. His lips begin to pout, his brow furrows, and he tucks his chin down to his chest. Absolutely frightening. When he gets this way, it does not take much to push him over into a ranting tantrum monster. Must find a solution quickly, or risk unleashing a horror that I will be hard pressed to deal with all afternoon.

Aha! “Do you want a banana?” I offer hopefully.

“Banana!”

“Pas ça!” freezes my movement as I pull the banana from the bowl on the counter. Gah!

“How about an orange?”

“Orange!” His voice is strangely chipper has he calls out the last. I may have found what he is really looking for.

“Papa! Pas! ÇA!” He emphasizes each word with increasing vigor.

I am at a loss. Why is he not happy with any of the items he appears to endorse a heartbeat before? I kneel down to look at him straight in the eye. “Hey, guy, what do you want for a snack?”

“Snack.” His voice is even, but there is a slight quiver at the end, foreshadowing an imminent explosion.

“Are you repeating everything I say?” I ask.

“Re-peet…say.”

Oh, boy. This is going to be a long day.