Name Calling

My goodness. April 22 and there’s snow on the ground. I love snow in the winter, but right about now I’m ready for a robin or two, trees budding and a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze floating off the mountains. Maybe next week. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the white stuff.

What is your process for naming your characters? Names have meaning. Names in themselves tell a story. So I ask you again. What is your process for naming your characters? Here are some things to think about.

  1. Be careful of using too many names in the same story that begin with the same letter or sound similar. Think Tom and Tim or Jim and Jon. It can be confusing to your readers and that’s exactly what you don’t want. Maybe it would better to name them Tom, Peter, Scott and Hoss. You get the idea.

    You really don’t want to have two characters with the same first name and a different last name. I confess. In my book, The Voice, there are two characters – Dr. Barton and Alex Barto. Even though separated in the story by more than 100 pages, the only difference in the last names is an “n”. Too confusing.

2. Consider the time period. Different names have been popular at different times. If you’re writing a story set in the 1800s, you probably don’t want to use names like Paisley or Nova, Masen or Marshall. On the other hand, if your setting is in the present or recent past, these may be the perfect names. Only you can decide. 1800s – try Alice or Henry.

The Social Security Administration has a helpful website. You can look up the most popular names used for a given time period. Just select the decade and click or tap Go. Here’s the link –

Well, it looks like we’re done for another week. Enjoy your time until we meet again next Wednesday!



Plotting the Plot

Here’s hoping this Wednesday’s Update finds you healthy and safe. It’s a beautiful day in Pennsylvania as we prepare for a snowy weekend. Really? Yes. Hopefully, that will be the last of the white stuff for another year. I’m ready for the green.

I have some thoughts for you today on plotting your story. Whether you’re writing a short story or a full-blown novel or something in between, you need to have a solid plot in place. There are many ways to plot your story. I’ve seen anything from three-point plots to seven points and beyond. So let me hit it in the middle with five.

There really is no right or wrong way to plot, but let me share these thoughts. You spend time building your story and character arcs, but if the plot is weak, all else will fail. It doesn’t matter if you write by the seat of your pants or you use elaborate outlines.

For our purposes I’ll refer to the Three Act plot. Breaking our story down into three acts, the first act opens early with a triggering event. There needs to be something to give the story its initial thrust, something to spur on the reader.

I’ve heard it so often, but I believe it’s true. Your first page needs to grab the reader or they will never read page two. Page one is made up of paragraphs. Your first paragraph is the most important, and your paragraphs are made up of sentences. Most professional editors can tell by reading your first sentence if the rest of the story is worth their time. Capitalize on that. Develop a driving first sentence and build on that.

Very early in Act One, you need to build up to an inciting incident or a trigger event. This plot point is the event that sets your story in motion. Confront your protagonist with a problem that leads them into the story events. This indicates impending trouble or circumstances of the main tension in your story.

This brings us to the first turning point. I’ve also heard it referred to as The Lock In. Your protagonist makes a choice to get involved. The protagonist accepts the challenge raised in the inciting incident. S/He or she makes a commitment to solving the problem. S/He lays the comforts of life aside and digs in for whatever might be on the other side.

This brings us to Act Two and the First Culmination. This is a time of recovery for your hero. Perhaps they’ve been shaken off course, but now they regroup and plan what is to happen next. At this plot point, it may also be the perfect time to plant obstacles and problems for your character to face. Perhaps this would be a good place to use foreshadow rather than just telling what the situation is.

Although the protagonist wins a minor battle that wraps up the first half of the story, s/he discovers that he hasn’t been playing the game wrong, he’s been playing the wrong game. This ushers in a twist, and it opens up a realm of challenges the protagonist hadn’t imagined were there.

Act Three begins with the twist. In your protagonist’s eyes, the besetting problem is insurmountable. S/He takes a leap of faith because faith is all that’s left.

The setting is now set for the Final Act Twist, for the final confrontation. At this point, your hero may have underestimated the power or brains of the antagonist. A new challenge is presented and a fight for life ensues. The trick is have your protagonist and especially your readers think the climax has arrived, but in reality, there is one more major battle to be fought.

Without this final twist, your readers may be headed for a predictable ending. Don’t allow that to happen.

That’s it for this week. See you next Wednesday!


No More “C” Word

Back in the beginning of the year when I posted the above picture,I had no idea of what was on the way. COVID-19 has changed the face of everyday life. I don’t see things being much different after the virus leaves. People will be accustomed to social distancing. It will be natural. I can see most intimate relationships being replaced by Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Of course, the economy is changing and will be greatly affected. $11 for a dozen eggs? How far can this go? It may change the face of world currency.

The American church will have a different look. Most people are content to stay at home and watch a service on TV or the internet. When the church doors reopen, few will attend because they enjoy not packing up and traveling to a building. It’s become too easy and is not seen as an important issue although it is.

“C” for COVID-19. I’m going to do my best not to mention it again. It’s an everyday occurance and our senses will become numb to it. “C” is for Change. Change that has and is bound to occur. Change can be good, but it can also be bad. I wonder what we’ll choose?

So as it has been addressed by so many writers, use this time to write. There is a world that you can influence for good. There is a world out there that needs your creativity. There is a world out there that you can ease their stress and pain through the written word – if only for a moment. Just do it!

Oh, but please keep your personal relationships intact. Don’t write to them. Don’t text them. Phone them. Speak to them. Spend time building the things that really matter. No more COVID-19. Bring on positive change for all who call themselves human.

Where Are We Going?

There’s no self pity here, just the facts. I’ve been taken over by pneumonia for the past six weeks or so. That being said, my writing has been somewhat limited.

This post has nothing to do with writing. I’m just asking the question (and only you can answer), where are you going? What have you accomplished that will last after your time on earth is up? Where will you be after your time on earth is up?

In short, I’m going back to the three main questions we all need to answer. First, where have I come from? Second, Why am I here? Third, where am I going? There is something in the human psyche that demands answers.

So I ask again, where have you come from? Why are you here? Where are you going? I’m just asking the questions. Feel free to discuss it in the comments, or email me. I’d love to talk more about it.

Short and sweet – see you next week.