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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 10:11             10,892 subscribers          June 3, 2010
MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION: See the bottom of this newsletter for
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THE EDITOR'S DESK, by Moira Allen
        A Letter from Nigeria, by John Conclive
FEATURE: The Name Game: When Good Names Go Bad, 
by John Robert Marlow 
COLUMN: Free Stuff for Writers - On Writing, by Aline Lechaye
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf

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A Letter from Nigeria
I'm offering something a little different in this issue: A letter
from a writer in Nigeria.  But first, a few words on how this came

Several months ago, I received an e-mail from Nigeria, asking for a
"favor:" he needed help, he said, in buying some books on writing. 
Now, with apologies to the writer, over here, if one looked up
"e-mail from Nigeria" in the dictionary, it would probably say,
"see 'scam'".  Most of my correspondence from that country consists
of heart-felt appeals from warm-hearted "Christian" ladies who have
decided I'm the perfect person to share their wealth--if I'd just
provide a wee bit of assistance and, of course, my banking details.
So I confess that my initial reaction was a bit curt, if not rude.

A few more exchanges, however, convinced me that my correspondent
was sincere, not only about his desire to acquire books on writing
but about his desire to become a WRITER. (Actually, that's wrong;
he is already a writer, as his story will show!)  We then began a
lengthy process of determining just what books he could acquire on
a limited budget (made more limited by shipping costs).  We finally
settled on a selection (to which I added a book on literary fiction
from Glimmer Train that I stumbled across in a used bookstore), and
soon an envelope of cash arrived.

The books were duly purchased, and I then had a long discussion
with a postal clerk, who would not let me send them the "cheaper"
way (in priority envelopes), because this required me to tape the
envelopes closed (and they also bulged alarmingly, which apparently
meant I had "changed the shape" of the shipping container).  We
settled on a flat-rate box.  My experience in delivering the
package, however, cannot compare with my friend's experience in
receiving it!

I wanted to share this story for two reasons.  First, it is a
reminder to those of us who can confidently assume that if we want
a book (and have the funds to buy it), we can simply stroll into a
bookstore, or click a link on Amazon.  Not every writer is so
lucky! Second, well, I wanted to share it because it's simply FUN. 
And so... Enjoy!

-- Moira Allen, Editor


A Letter from Nigeria - by John Conclive

The books are here. I could not believe my eyes. The postmark says
May 4, 2010, but it was yesterday I saw the slip. When I got it, I
had to approach confidently the clerks in the counter. When I
showed a choleric lady who was recovering from a fit of anger the
way bill, she directed me to the parcel office, somewhere I have
not been. A man sat near a half-door that must be opened for me to
get into this strong-room. There was a guest book to sign but when
he saw the slip with me, he knew something good might come and
asking me to sign the guest book might make my rapport with him too
formal for him to ask any favors. So, in the most flattering way I
can think of, he excused me the observance of that protocol. I
passed through a walkway sided by a mesh-covered structure housing
a large generating plant, a pall of silence that created the
fiction I was walking through a graveyard falling over the place.
Flowers with sleepy foliage stood stolidly around, occasionally
lifted by the morning breeze. I thought I have missed the way when
I turned the bend and saw a beehive of activity in the distance.

The man I was introduced to had tribal marks on his face that made
any facial gesture turn him to a Cheshire cat. He was the one to
handle my matter. He looked more like the few civil servants here
who are contented by the adjusted civil service salary structure
that they might not bother much with peanuts outside their monthly
income. But I can't imagine a civil servant here getting so content
that, where he is given free rein, won't exploit the least
opportunity to extort someone who needs his assistance. Unless he
has undergone a divine transformation. 

While he searched through the files on the table, shuffling carbon
copies of waybills from file to file, I looked up and saw a warning
that said I had the right to sue him if he requested any money from
me aside the duties I had to pay. A custom officer, I thought his
presence was really misplaced, came behind me to ask him in the
bossiest manner the waybills for the day, trying, I guess, to let
me know that he had some power over the clerk. When we got talking
with this clerk, I noticed he was a Christian, for I saw in the
backdrop of stationeries, Gospel tracts and pamphlets and a copy of
The Treacherous Alliance, but he had not told me that he was. He
boasted that the parcel had a tracking system so I shouldn't have
thought that it can get lost on transit or be tampered with. Within
this interval I had thrice picked up the carbon copy of a waybill
that was always blown away by draught from the standing industrial
fan that sounded like a banger [jalopy] when it whirled the

Before me, someone opened a pack that looked much like mine only it
was big enough to house two microprocessors. He brought out some
unidentified objects and pounded them on the man's working desk,
huffing and puffing that the $16 they asked him to pay to clear the
parcel was too much. It came to me that, contrary to expectation,
anything could be sent through the postal system and it will get
across provided it was registered. But I got so discouraged when I
went out to the fašade and saw the postmen on a rummage sale of
what had been the bulk mails of clients. I had once asked a postman
where they got those packages to auction to the public and he said
they were mails that their owners refuse to claim over time, but I
just couldn't believe that. I saw books on physiology, engineering,
Gospel tracts, valuables that missed the recipient because the
postage was not registered. I felt disheartened. I remembered how
Fisk University sent me a brochure and it never got to me. Over the
counter, a woman was proudly showing a friend a NAFSA scholarship
brochure she had bought for her daughter from the auction sales,
wondering aloud to her friend why the daughter so needed the piece
of information when she could not see anything important about it,
boasting in the manner most civil servants in the lower rung of the
administrative ladder boast of large families and daunting

The man with tribal marks received the waybill from me, wrote some
unintelligible codes on it and took it into a room abutting on a
very large hall with parcels sitting in large sacks. When he came
out, he was carrying a white box with so much red and a cartoon
sketch of a bald eagle's neck in blue, the unmistakable emblem of
the United States Postal Service. The red-white carton, taped all
over with figures and letters scrawled carelessly on the cardboard,
smelled of ink and Maryland. 

The postman looked at me uncertainly. "Have you collected a parcel
here before?"

At the moment, I was too biased to think that he had any other
motive for asking this question than to extort me. I remembered I
had collected a parcel in the office when my brother-in-law
traveled to London and came back shouting all over the house that
the book I asked him to buy cost as much as hundred pounds, which
was about half the travel allowance the company that sent him on
training gave him. He was not surprised at a book costing so much
as at me knowing such a book. I am coaxing the title into view now
but it still lies in disjointed pieces in my brain. I remember the
publisher as R. R. Bowker, and it seemed it was something of a
directory where writers could find a market for their works. You
know those good old days when anything written about Africa
attracted British publishers. Now they place all of us in the same
footing. I am not intimidated by that, anyway. He couldn't get the
book, my brother-in-law that is, but detailed one of his British
friends to buy me the Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith I ordered
along with it. Incidentally Scott had offered to represent me (I
still have a copy of that letter in my collection) and I had dreams
of getting rich like Norman Mailer and Margaret Truman when the
package arrived and it wasn't the literary giant's book but some
how-to stuff for insurance men which had confusingly taken the same
title. I could not contain my anger. My brother-in-law insisted I
should apologize for throwing tantrums, saying I ought to have
appreciated the gesture first before looking for anyone to blame
for the mistake, that it wasn't Neil's fault, because, after all it
was Writing to Sell I ordered and that was what I got.

"Yes," I said to the postman, implying that I might not be a
greenie he can fleece if that was what he had up his sleeves. He
pushed an open notebook to me and pointed to a column I should sign.

"Make copies of this" he said handing me the waybill, "and attach
it to a copy of your ID card."

The identity card he wanted was not the one the post office issued
me but my official ID which, luckily, I took with me. I paid
roughly $3 which I questioned and which the man took time to
explain as the cost of all parcels received by the office. He let
me know the difference between a parcel and other classes of mails,
what I understood as registered packages compared to other
categories of mails that may exist. 

But Moira, thank you: it cost you so much of a fortune to ship! And
thank you so much for the psychology stuff that is a guide to
characterization. What I just do is to look for where my characters
belong and form a canvas on which I can paint almost everything
about them. Nancy Kress is out there to tell me what they can do
and what they cannot. I am having so much fun, though distantly,
because of my choked schedule. God bless you, Moira. Without these
titles, my writing would have been immeasurably poor. 

Getting to the security post, the janitor (we call them 'security'
here) looked at the parcel longingly and said, "My friend, can I
see what you have with you?" 

I placed the maximally secured box on the counter. I don't think he
saw the priority mail on it or he would have been more curious as
to what the content was. He rolled it around for a while, I guess,
trying to find a doorway to seeing what was inside. He looked down
slyly at me, not knowing if to ask me to declare the content.  

"Where is the waybill?"  

He looked away as I retrieved it from where I stashed it between a
copy of 1984 I was reading and used to secure my ID and other
documents that might be needed to clear the parcel. He had wished I
didn't have it so we start the bargaining from there. I proffered
the frail paper at him. He pretended he didn't see what was in his
view and kept swirling the box on the counter. 

"So what do you have for us?" he asked finally. I searched the
envelope and found the equivalent of 75 cents in our local
currency, handed it to him. I noticed that he was surprised I could
give him as much. Then a woman whose presence I didn't even
remember to notice, and whom I felt might be against me being
extorted, for her dress looked homey and sanctimonious, reminded me
that, as a sign of respect, I was excused from signing the guest
book which was, I noticed, her own way of showing appreciation for
this forced show of generosity though she might probably not share
in the windfall, which goes to show how much Nigerians appreciate

So, Moira, the books are here and so I am. I think my book will
take a new shape now though I've tamed my writing speed to a canter
because our school just scheduled our exams to start by 14th of
June, against my wont. I now write 250 words a day. I also see how
much I have to read. 

Thanks so much for the Glimmer Train. I am happy to hear the
writers' experience though comprehension is still a little distant
for one who has not experienced American Standard English at first

God bless you, Moira! I don't think I will ever forget this
contribution you have made to my career as a writer. I don't think
I will be able to repay you as God would. I sincerely believe that
God has put a treasure in your sack!


John Conclive is the pseudonym of a Nigerian playwright and
short-story writer. 
Copyright (c) 2010 by John Conclive


CHILDREN'S WRITER Read by most of the children's book and magazine
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THE INQUIRING WRITER: Using style guides, by Dawn Copeman

Before I start I need to apologise to CJ Hines for misspelling his
name in the previous issue - sorry.

Last month AP wrote "I am trying to get started in nonfiction
writing.  Some of the guidelines I've looked at state that I need
to know Chicago Style, others AP.  I come from Australia and want
to write for international markets; which style should I learn and
how do I set about it?"

Well, from your lack of replies it seems that no-one knows!  I must
admit, being a Brit, that I too found the use of style guides to be
a real pain when I first started out - so I ignored them!  I simply
modified my style to match that of the publication I wanted to
write for; in that way I would be emulating their style and not
ruffling any feathers.  

I did do some research, however, and found that the AP style is the
style used by most American newspapers and magazines, whereas
Chicago is used by book publishers.  

This month we have two questions on a similar theme. Marcia wrote:
"When referring to a well known song, poem or quoted saying from a
known person, does the writer have to give credit in a special
way?" For Example:  'I remember an old song that told us to
accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.' Or 'Bob Hope
said he was an accumulation of all his years of living, not just
today's age.' Or
'Today is the first day of the rest of your life!'"

Similarly Sable writes: "I am starting out in the romance genre and
have a story that utilizes song lyrics. One character recites a
verse to make a point. I have seen other work where song titles
have been used, or instances where the entire song has been
reprinted but there is no indication that they got licensing
permission, or if the
songs were public domain. Do I need to get permission to use the
verse?  Note: I credited the singer directly in the novel and will
also (when done) list that the lyrics are not mine." 

Can you help Marcia or Sable? If so email me with the subject line
"Inquiring Writer" to editorial"at"writing-world.com

Until next time, 


Copyright (c) 2010 Dawn Copeman


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New Bond Author is American
Following the success of Sebastian Faulkes' Bond Novel "Devil May
Care" two years' ago, Hodder and Stoughton have now asked US writer
Jeffery Deaver to write a new Bond book. This is the first time
that the quintessentially British Bond will be written by an
American. The book should be launched in May 2011. For more on this
story visit: http://tinyurl.com/38q2wxh

Children's Book Publishers Using Environmentally Unfriendly Paper
According to a report by Rainforest Action Network, many children's
books are being produced using paper from endangered rainforests. 
The group took a random sample of 30 books and found that 18 of
them contained fibers that came from either tropical hardwoods or
acacia pulp wood plantations. For more on this story visit: 

Facebook closes satirical author's account
Argentinean author Juan Faermann, who has written 'Faceboom' - a
satirical look at the world of social networking - was surprised to
find that his Facebook account was closed without warning by the
company. The account was closed shortly after Faermann's book was
launched in Europe. The author's account was closed for over a
month and this was causing some controversy in South America. The
account was only re-activated after press in the US started to get
interested in the story.  For more on this story visit: 


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Reporters Wanted For Red Bull
Red Bull Reporter has joined forces with Dave TV to offer a very
special assignment giving aspiring reporters in all four
disciplines the chance to report on each regional heat of the Red
Bull X-Fighters Jams Tour and the London Final at Battersea Power
Station, and get their work showcased on 
http://www.redbullreporter.com and on the Dave TV website 

This summer Red Bull X-Fighters Jams will stop in four cities
across the UK to give the crowd a taste of what will be going on in
London Battersea on August 14th.  The four tour stops are:

-       Newcastle on Saturday 26th June
-       Nottingham on Friday 2nd July
-       Brighton on Saturday 10th July
-       Leeds on Saturday 17th July

So, the search is now on for 8 reporters, who will make up 4
separate teams - 2 with a photographer and writer, and 2 with a
filmmaker and presenter. The selected applicants will be partnered
up with another Red Bull Reporter to cover one of the regional
stops of the Red Bull X-Fighters Jams tour in the UK.

Following the tour, the most creative reports from two of the four
teams will be chosen to cover the final at Battersea Power Station
on 14 August. The final will take place against the awe-inspiring
backdrop of Battersea Power Station to a crowd of 30,000 people - a
sensory overload and a coveted gig for aspiring reporters to write
about, snap, shoot or present at.

Check out the dedicated assignment page for full information on the

Windows 7 Tutorial Writers Needed
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Windows 7. They want to offer quality, not quantity.  If you are
interested in working with the team, drop them a message at
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articles published on the site.  View website for more information.

Greetings Card Company Needs Verses
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congratulation, thank you, and friendship cards and they are giving
YOU the opportunity to write them. They pay $50 for your verse.
View website for contact details.


WRITE YOUR MEMOIR: The Soul Work of Telling Your Story from
Findhorn Press. Allan Hunter has been teaching writers the secrets
of authentic storytelling for decades. Unblock and be inspired
again. For more information go to: http://www.allanhunter.net.


FEATURE:   The Name Game: When Good Names Go Bad 

by John Robert Marlow
Names are a source of much unnecessary confusion. Even perfectly
good names can be poor choices when they mix with the wrong sort --
which, oddly enough, can themselves be perfectly respectable in
different company.

One character, many names                                          
This situation arises when a single character is referred to by
multiple names. One of the manuscripts I edited featured a
detective as the main character. We'll call him Robert Boone.

Sometimes he was Robert, other times Bob. He was also referred to
as Boone, the detective, Detective Boone, the officer, Officer
Boone, the heavyset detective, the burly officer, and so on.
Boone's boss -- call him Lieutenant Enrique Gonzales -- was
referred to as Enrique, Lieutenant Gonzales, Gonzales, and the
lieutenant. All of which made it virtually impossible -- in a story
filled with cops -- to figure out who was doing what. In another
work of ten volumes, the lead character was consistently referred
to as Ann, Annette, Annette Brand, Andy, Captain Brand, and the
captain -- the last three of which could easily be mistaken for
male names. 

As authors, we know exactly who we're talking about, and so we
might read the story a hundred times and never see a problem. The
reader, on the other hand, tends to associate the character with
the name used when that character was introduced. When the same
character appears with a different moniker -- particularly after a
multi-page absence -- the result is often confusion.

Whatever a character's full name or title may be, pick one name for
general use, and stick to it for the duration of your story. It's
okay if (for example) his children call him dad, his wife honey,
and his employees' boss. He can even have a nickname (but only
one!) used by a close friend, let's say -- but in those instances
where you as the author refer to him by name, you should always
refer to him by the same name. As should, with very few exceptions,
the characters in your story.

One notable exception to this rule occurs when you're deliberately
concealing someone's identity from the reader, or from another
character. In that case, you might refer to him as Evil Burt in
some scenes, and "the thin man" in others -- until you choose to
reveal that "the thin man" is none other than Evil Burt himself. 

In fact, if Evil Burt is using an assumed identity -- again for
purposes of deliberate deception -- you might also refer to him as
Richard Thoroughgood in scenes where he's using this identity.

Other exceptions to this rule are and should remain incredibly rare
-- as when a character suffers amnesia and then regains his former
identity, or one twin is masquerading as the other.

Many characters, similar names                                     
A somewhat less common occurrence, this one still crops up often
enough to deserve mention. Though the potential for confusion
should be obvious, a number of authors give the same name to two or
more characters in the same story. In fact, the ten-volume epic
mentioned above included four if not five sets of brothers
(including a pair of twins), two Harrys, two Johns (one a child,
one not), and four Claudes. There was also a dog with its own name,
but whose nickname was Claude. It's enough to make the reader's
head spin. Again, this is a case of the author -- a good author at
that, with an interesting tale to tell -- being perfectly clear on
everything, yet failing to realize that things do not appear so
clear-cut to those approaching the story for the first time. 

Similar names can also be an issue. You wouldn't, for example, want
characters named John, Don, Ron, Lon, Juan, Jake, Jack, James,
Dick, Rick, Liz, Lisa, Bree, Dee, Lee, Jim, Tim, and Kim in the
same story. And yet I worked a manuscript with characters named
Chan, Chang, Cheng, Chin, Lee, Li, Liu, Zheng, and Zhou. Often,
several of these folks were referred to in a single paragraph.

Occasionally, they were in the same room together. The story's
concept was very good; the execution, confusing.

You even have to watch out for dissimilar names that are different
forms of the same name: Dick and Richard, John and Jack, Bill and
William, Bob and Robert, Elizabeth and Liz or Beth, for example.

Take care to give your characters names that are not only
different, but distinct from one another. If possible, have the
different names start with different letters as well. (This is
particularly important when writing screenplays; perhaps because so
many more people read them before they're finalized -- upping the
odds in favor of confusion.) 

This rule can occasionally be bent: Fathers and sons with the same
name, for example, or siblings with similar names. The trick is to
refer to them by different names in most instances. If father and
son are both named John Mulholland, one can go by the nickname
Jack, or the younger one can be John Jr. or Johnny -- or the older
one Mr. Mulholland, and so on. Still, this is usually best avoided,
unless confusion or uncertainty is part of the plot -- as when (to
borrow an example from William Morris Executive Story Editor Chris
Lockhart) a handkerchief with a monogrammed W is found, and the
plot revolves around figuring out which of three women with that
initial is the owner.

The man (or woman) with no name                                    
For reasons I find mystifying, some authors simply refuse to name 
particular characters -- or choose to delay the naming interminably. 
This doesn't mean every character has to have a name, or even that
significant characters need to have proper names. But (for example)
the main character's secretary cannot be repeatedly referred to as
"his secretary." Nor can an important character be referred to only
as "the man." 

Such phrasing is both awkward and distracting, and very quickly
crosses the line to annoying. Once your readers start wondering why
the heck you don't just give this guy (or gal) a name and so make
their lives easier, you've lost them; instead of being carried
along by your writing, they've turned against it.

Any character who is significant or who appears with some frequency
must have a name, or something approximating a name. If there's a
good reason to avoid giving him a conventional name -- and keep in
mind that, most of the time, there is no such reason -- then at
least use something descriptive and memorable. Who, for instance,
can forget The Fugitive's "one-armed man?"

Relatively insignificant characters are another story. When dealing
with these -- a waiter, a cabbie, a wino on the corner we'll never
see again -- it's perfectly acceptable (and preferred in Hollywood)
to use generically descriptive terms such as, well, waiter, cabbie,
and wino. This lets the reader know that these are minor characters
who won't be demanding a large amount of attention. (In Hollywood,
it lets professional "readers" know that they needn't write up
character descriptions on all of these people and track them
through the script -- which gets very, very annoying when you
realize it was a complete waste of time.)

Familiar characters, familiar names                                
When you're in a room with your best friend Lisa, and she's the only 
one you're talking to -- do you start each sentence with "Lisa...?" 
Of course not -- and neither should your characters. Nevertheless, 
many authors will write scenes like this:

        "Lisa, what you think I should do about Ferdinand?"
        "Are you sure the child is his, Margaret?"
        "Of course I'm sure, Lisa."
        "Do you want to have his baby, Margaret?"
        "I don't know, Lisa."

There's no one else in the conversation. Often, there's no one else
in the room -- yet the characters continue to address each other by
name. This makes no sense because a) each character knows who she's
talking to; b) each character knows when she's being spoken to; and
c) real people just don't speak like this. 

You and I might have an hour-long discussion without either of us
ever saying the other's name, except perhaps in greeting. Happens
all the time. Dialogue like the example above doesn't happen at all
in real life, comes across as amateurish and artificial, and should
be avoided at all costs.

Having said that, there are a few exceptions. Situations where one
character is mocking another, for instance, or being deliberately
patronizing or excessively formal. In cases of extreme formality,
it's likely that last rather than first names would be used.

Another exception might occur when one character is mad at another,
and uses the other character's first name as a way of maintaining
emotional distance.

Awkward names                                                      
This covers character and place names that are hard to pronounce, or 
for which the correct pronunciation is not immediately obvious. This 
is most often encountered in works of fantasy and science fiction.

There's really no reason to subject readers to difficult or awkward
names; it slows the read, breaks the flow, and swiftly becomes
annoying. This is doubly true for works with two difficult names,
and probably four times as true for those with three such names. 

Yes, those Welsh names may sound magnificent when spoken by a
native -- but few of your readers will be Welsh, and rest of them
won't have a clue as to how they should pronounce or read
"Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch." Even
the locals call this town "Llanfair" to avoid wearing out their
tongues and pencils.

The solution is simple: avoid character and place names that are
awkward to read or pronounce. If you absolutely must use one, give
it a "short" version or a nickname, introduce the shorter name
right away -- and use it most if not all of the time.

Exceptions: Names that cannot be avoided because you're using them
in historical context, and scenes set in one-of-a-kind locations
that are vital to the story but happen to have clunky names (in
which case you can employ the short/nick gambit mentioned above).

He said, she said?                                                 
Names of uncertain gender (Robin/Robyn, Jay, Jackie, Terry, Terri, 
and Sam -- sometimes short for Samantha -- come to mind), or names
which are uncommon enough to cause the reader to wonder whether the
character is a man or woman should be avoided. Generally speaking.
If no other name will do, make it immediately clear that the
character is male or female. 

Don't go on for pages without settling the issue. Don't go on for a
paragraph. In fact, don't go three sentences without nailing this
down. Any initial misperception on the reader's part means that
reader will later have to reorient himself to the character. The
more important the character -- and the longer his or her gender
remains uncertain -- the more radical the reorientation. Wooing the
reader is a courtship of sorts, and you don't want to wind up
playing The Crying Game.

Exceptions would be those rare situations in which you want to
conceal (or render uncertain) the sex of a particular character, or
present them as androgynous. More often, but still uncommonly,
you'd want to actively mislead/deceive by having the character in
question introduce him/herself with a name strongly associated with
the opposite sex.

Famous names                                                       
It is nearly always a mistake to name a character after a well-known
person (real or fictional). There are several reasons for this:
it's distracting, it makes the reader think about the famous person
instead of your character, and it might just get you sued. (The
practice is, however, extremely common in Indian cinema; not sure
that's relevant but thought I'd mention it just the same.) 

And then there are names that have become so strongly associated
with particular individuals that it's difficult for most to read
even the first name without immediately thinking of some real or
fictional person: Adolf, Napoleon, Neo. Unless you (or your
character) want such an association, it's best to steer clear of it.

The best course is to give your characters names you've not seen
elsewhere. This will help ensure that they are free of outside
associations in the minds of your readers. (After all, not all
famous people are well-liked.) Ideally, you want to establish
strong and memorable characters that are associated with your work,
and not with someone else or someone else's works. What comes to
mind when you see the names Frodo, Cinderella, Indiana Jones, Rocky
Balboa and Harry Potter? That is what you want to happen with the
names of your characters.

Exceptions include situations where the character is a
fictionalization of an actual historical person. Also those where
the fact that the character is named after someone famous is a
central issue for that character -- a burden, a point of pride, a
supposed reincarnation, a deception, a reputation that's seemingly
impossible to live up to, and so on.

Central character named after author                               
I see this one a lot, and have done it myself. For a while there, 
almost all of my manuscripts and screenplays had heroes named John. 
We think others won't notice, but they do -- even when only one 
storyhas a hero named after the author. 

Why is this bad? It's not, necessarily, but some view it as
indulgent or narcissistic, and others as amateurish. Most if not
all of our characters contain a bit of their creator, but making
the connection this obvious is bound to raise a few eyebrows. My
take is this: If you gotta, you gotta -- so do it once and get it
out of your system.

Legitimate exceptions to this rule include historical characters
with the same first or full name as your own -- in which case you
might want to consider using a pseudonym to avoid mistaken
impressions, particularly if the full name is identical to yours. 

Place names                                                        
Also keep in mind that much of the above applies to place names as 
well. There are places where streets named (for example) Victory
Boulevard, Victory Road, and Victory Place all come together, but
unless you're looking to mislead the reader or -- more likely --
one of your characters, keep such places out of your fiction.

When it comes to naming your characters, avoid confusion,
uncertainty, and awkwardness. Strive for clarity at least -- and,
at best, something distinctive, unique, and memorable.


John Robert Marlow is a novelist, screenwriter, book editor and
script consultant. His Self Editing Blog 
(http://selfeditingblog.com/) offers free advice for authors and
screenwriters. This article is a reprint of his blog post of the
same name.
Copyright (c) 2010 by John Robert Marlow

For more advice on choosing character names visit: 


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of 
writing markets if you subscribe this week. Discover almost 
2,000 writing markets from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australasia. 


WIN PRIZES AND GET PUBLISHED! Find out how to submit your stories,
poetry, articles and books to hundreds of writing contests in the
US and internationally. Newly updated for 2010, WRITING TO WIN
by Moira Allen is the one-stop resource you need for contests
and contest tips. Visit Writing-World.com's bookstore for details:


Free Stuff For Writers: On Writing
By Aline Lechaye

This month, download four free books featuring writing guidelines
from the best of the best. Oh, and don't forget that free calendar
that will hopefully keep you organized. 

Nowadays, thanks to websites like lulu.com, anyone can write and
publish an e-book. Spend a few hours in front of the computer
typing up your opinions of the world, and you can be the author of
your very own book. Needless to say, there are hundreds of people
hoping to make income out of these e-books. You've probably seen
the spam e-mails: The Writing Book That Will Change Your Life,
announces the header, followed by pages of random blurbs that
attribute miracle powers to the book in question, which you can buy
for the special discount price of $16.95. If these are the kinds of
books people expect you to pay for, what kind of e-book can you
expect to get for free?

Surprise, surprise. There actually are "good" writers (and by good,
I mean well-established, award-winning writers) who dare to put
their work out there for free: 

Essays in the Art of Writing, by Robert Louis Stevenson
In case you're wondering, the author is the Robert Louis Stevenson,
of Kidnapped and Treasure Island fame. This slim thirty-three page
volume contains seven short essays that give interesting advice,
talk of books that influenced Stevenson, and take you through the
writing of Treasure Island. Even if you don't like his novels that
much, this e-book provides fascinating insights into the writer's
soul. http://www.write4kids.com/ebooks.html (Scroll to the bottom
of the page until you see the free e-book section.)

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. 
You probably remember this slim volume from college English, but in
case you've lost your copy or were unlucky enough to get the
English teacher that hated it, you can read it by clicking on the
link below. Brief essays explain the mysteries of style and the
rules of usage. (Note: This isn't exactly an e-book, but the
website DOES contain the full text of the book.)

Mugging the Muse, by Holly Lisle
Written by award-winning, best-selling author Holly Lisle, this
book is a gold mine of information. Subtitled "Writing Fiction for
Love AND Money, the chapters lead you from starting/finishing your
novel, through methods for creating good characters and dialogue,
and finally onto publishing and money issues. Visit 
http://hollylisle.com/books.html and scroll down. Besides Mugging
the Muse, you can also download Holly's novels, Fire in the Mist
(Compton Crook Award, Best First Novel, 1993), and her personal
favorite, Sympathy for the Devil, for free. 

By the way, another e-book from Holly you can download is Create A
Plot Clinic: http://www.fictionfactor.com/dl/plotclinic.pdf (right
click and "save as"). The book is short, only about fifty pages
long, but it's jammed-packed with suggestions for creating that
plot you've always dreamt of. 

2009 Writer's eCalendar, by Julie Hood
Every year, OrganizedWriter.com publishes a free e-calendar for
writers to download. The calendar contains quotes, organizing tips,
and lists the various holidays and special days of every year
(write a filler!) You may think June is a bit late to get a new
calendar, but once you see the calendar, you may just change your
mind... http://www.organizedwriter.com/

Don't forget to check back next month for more freebies!

Poster/Bookmark Giveaway: A toy castle is what sent fantasy author
Paul Genesse over the edge and into madness. Paul's short stories
have been published in various large press anthologies from DAW
Books. The latest addition to his acclaimed Iron Dragon Series, THE
DRAGON HUNTERS, is out now. The last of an order of dragon hunters
must track down the dragon king's daughter and stop her from
getting the Crystal Eye, an ancient artifact that will cause the
destruction of their world. To watch a video about the IRON DRAGON
SERIES, visit http://www.paulgenesse.com. To get free autographed
posters or bookmarks featuring cover art from THE DRAGON HUNTERS,
email pgenesse"at"msn.com with your address (subject: "Writing-World


Aline Lechaye is a translator, writer, and writing tutor who resides
in Asia. She can be reached at alinelechaye"at"gmail.com.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Aline Lechaye



The Short Story
This is a UK site that praises the short story in all its forms. 
It not only publishes short stories, but lists competitions,
magazines that purchase short stories and has a handy list of
articles on the short story form.

AP Style Questions
For those of you who need to know more about AP style or for those
problems to which you cannot find an answer, check out this 'Ask
the Editor' section from the AP Stylebook.

Happily Ever After
A site for romance writers with helpful articles, a round-robin
romance story to participate in, software and writing resources.


AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

Life Sentences, by Gioya McRae

Not Just for Vegetarians, Delicious Homestyle Cooking, the Meatless
Way, by Geraldine Hartman

Write Your Memoir, by Dr. Allan Hunter

Find these and more great books at

Have you just had a book published?  If so, let our readers know: 
just click on the link below to list your book.


on how to reach more than 100,000 writers a month with your 
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