Q&A With A Wordsmith: Choosing Character Names

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
How do you decide on character names in your books?

Answer:

For some of the characters in my series, I chose their names with care. For others, not so much. 

Connor, for instance was chosen with care. If you look up his name’s definition, you’ll see that it is an anglicized Irish word that means lover of wolves. In the books, Connor’s best friend is a white werewolf named Shadow (also not a coincidence). 

Conversely, Liam, although it is an Irish name (a nod to his mother’s nationality), was named this because of its meaning — a strong-willed warrior and protector. 

Now, does this mean you need to name your characters something with meaning? No. But if you’re stuck and not sure, it doesn’t help to browse meanings and attach something with a bit of significance to who they are. 

Not all of my characters come with names of significance. I’ll admit, I wanted a somewhat unique name for my first heroine, and I just happened to really like the name Aisling. On the other hand, Angela was named after an old friend. Her mannerisms and endearing qualities, like the screeching when she’s upset, was based on this friend and I wanted to honor that. 

There’s no right or wrong way to name your characters, just go with what feels right and you can’t go wrong.


Coming up, I’ll talk about which of my characters relates the most to me.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: In Character

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?

Answer:

Depending on the character’s overall importance to the story, I may expand on some bigger events in their past, establishing a bit of a timeline of their life. Just like with people, some events are more generalized, day-to-day occurrences, whereas some held a significant role in how they grew as a person. 

For instance, in my series, I knew the vampire Liam experienced the loss and supposed extinction of the Earthen witches first-hand. I also knew he experienced a profound loss at the same time. The hope of their return to give others a chance at happiness was his only reason for continuing — not the hope of ever experiencing it again. I wanted to establish when it happened. How it happened. And how that event shaped him as a person. 

As an exercise, if I need it to establish a character’s mannerisms or key phrasing, I’ll write a series of brief scenes from their perspective, ranging from a single paragraph to somewhere in the ballpark of three-thousand words. 

As an example of this, at the conclusion of those exercises, I realized that Connor would say “alright” and never “okay”. At the same time, I saw how he carried himself, or how he pushed his hair away from his face while he was thinking about something important. 

Because my books employ all the senses, I also establish how they see the world. Through a character’s inherent scent, how their mood might affect how they perceive the world, and so on. 

With Aisling, a sudden sound almost always equates to a jump scare for her, but to someone that didn’t share a similar history may not even react to something as mundane as a knock on the door. 

These are little things that separate a character from being a one-dimensional stand-in to a multifaceted and complex creature, just like any other person in the world. 

The more these little things begin to jump out, the more I feel like I know the character, which then allows me to step into their shoes and become them as I write. 


Coming up, I’ll cover how I get inside my character’s heads.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: Developing Characters

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
How do you develop your characters?

Answer:

After I’ve developed the plot, I have a general idea of what kind of characters I’ll need and how many. I may know in a general sense, but I may not yet have a face and full biography in mind.

This is where I begin to add bits of their personality. Are they easygoing or a little uptight? Are they flawed in some way? 

Once I have those generalities in place, I’ll think about who they are as a person. Such as what hardships have they experienced and how does this affect them as they move through the story.

By this point I probably have a broad image of what this person looks like in my head. I’ll jot those traits down and go hunting for a model photo that encompasses this image in my head. This way, I can always go back and refer to it if I need to. 

Then I move on to the next step in this process. 


Coming up, I’ll cover how I get inside my character’s heads.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: Developing Plot and Research

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
How do you develop your plot line and conduct research?

Answer:

Before I begin doing anything, I have to start with a basic idea which usually ranges from one of two sources: 

The premise of the book I plan to write. For instance, in Focus, I knew going in that Aisling and Connor would start abroad and spend a decent portion of the book trying to return home and stop the big bad that was brewing along the way, both of which were foreshadowed in Just Breathe.

Or the inspiration. The whole concept of my series started with a brief dream. I saw a man with long hair, casually leaning against an ornate light pole. I could see the haze of purple around him and I knew he wasn’t just a human. 

Once I have that little nugget, I try to figure out the big moments (if I don’t already have something in mind). I need: a hook event in the first few chapters of the book, three tragedies spaced out beyond it, culminating in the climax event. 

Here’s a little breakdown of Just Breathe to illustrate what I mean: 

  • Hook event — almost dying from a dark witch attack.
  • Tragedy 1 — the step-father’s arrival.
  • Tragedy 2 — the attack in the clearing.
  • Tragedy 3 — the attack at Aisling’s house. 
  • Climax — the final face off at the West Lookout Tower. 

After I’ve ironed out the big events, I try to work through the whole story. How do my characters get from A (the beginning) to Z (The End … for now)?

I’ll often take handwritten notes, sort of a thought dump of running scenarios in my head. I’ll refine and adjust as I go. This way, I have a record of my thoughts so I can look back in reference or change something that doesn’t fit. Once I have the steps in place, I’ll do a very broad overview of the story in just a few paragraphs. 

If the flow is right, I’ll begin to write out the individual scenes and compile them into chapters. I like to do this using my Rocketbook cloud cards — that way I can move them around or change them if they don’t fit the story without wasting paper.

In the meantime, if there’s anything I’m not clear on, for instance if I’m going to refer back to a character’s past, I need to know the timeline of those events. Or, if I need to refresh my memory about certain historical events, such as mythology, I’ll research those. 

If I’m going to expose my characters to new locations, I need to know what the area looks like. For instance, in Focus, when Aisling and Connor are in Berlin, Germany, I wanted to do my best to describe how the city looked, despite never having the honor of visiting myself. Google Earth and street views really came in handy for me. Same goes for buildings and inspiration. I wanted to be able to visualize any pertinent details without just fabricating them. 

I will delve into greater details on my process in a later series. So stay tuned for that.


Coming up, I’ll talk about how I develop my characters.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: Best Advice Received And Given

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
What is the best advice you’ve ever received and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Answer:

The best advice I’ve ever received was, without question, keep reading and keep writing. It’s also the best advice I can offer any new writers out there. 

In my experience, the best writers are avid readers. Not only do you have the opportunity to look at another’s work with a critical eye, but you may come across something that inspires you with your own writing. It can show you what you like and don’t like, and in some cases help to fill some plot holes in your own work. 

That doesn’t mean you’re limited by any means. You could write epic fantasy and enjoy reading memoirs one day, and a book of historical fiction the next. You’re still experiencing new things.

As far as writing goes, it’s important to keep at it. It doesn’t matter how terrible you believe you are, as long as you keep going. Because you will improve. I’ve seen it with others as well as myself. Just like artists and musicians can’t improve without continuing to practice and try new things. 

Without continuing, you’ll otherwise never learn to hone your skills and you’ll never evolve as a writer. Ultimately, if writing is what you love, then you’ll want to pick up that pen or fire up your computer. So do what makes you happy. That’s what matters. 


Coming up, I’ll cover how I develop my plot lines and how I conduct research.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: Risks And Rewards

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
What risks have you taken with your books and do you have any regrets about them?

Answer:

Throughout my life, I’ve read plenty of books. While there’s not really any specific genres within fiction I won’t read, there are some that I’ll probably bump to the top of my to be read list. 

I’ve always been a big fan of escaping reality, but at the same time, still feeling that human connection. So it’s natural that I gravitate towards urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and even books that employ magical realism. 

However, of them all, I’ve found that when the genres are blended, I’ll end up that much more entranced by the story. 

For example: Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress universe. She seamlessly toes the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. While the plot is driven by external forces, the romance is more detailed, and it helps propel the story forward. 

As another example: Deborah Hardness’s All Souls series starting with A Discovery Of Witches. This tale is a beautiful mixture of magical realism — arguably urban fantasy, and historical fiction with little bits of romance thrown in. 

When I set out to write Just Breathe, knowing it was the first in a series, I knew I wanted to blend genres together. I wanted it to be urban fantasy with significant elements of romance included. 

That was, by far, the biggest risk I’ve taken with my writing. 

In all the books I’ve read, there are very few that blur those lines and I can understand why. When you consider any genre, if you blend that with another, you’re risking turning some people area.

For instance, some people may prefer urban fantasy only, and they are turned off by descriptions of romance. Conversely, some prefer the paranormal romance side of that equation and they don’t want a lot of external struggle. 

I knew all these things, and yet, I still chose to do it. Yes, it’s a very specific genre, but it can be done — and done well. Like with Frost’s series. That earned her the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller list, so it’s not impossible to find readers.

But was it worth it? Yes. Because I, as a reader, love it when those genres are woven together. 

Isn’t that one of the biggest points of writing? To write the book you want to read? To me, it was the right decision and I don’t regret it. 


Coming up, I’ll share the best advice I’ve ever received and offer aspiring writers some of my own.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: First Comes The Plot Or The Characters?

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
Does the plot come first, or is it the characters?

Short Answer:

Neither.

Long Answer:

Any book a writer considers has some kind of premise. For example: A boy that grew up with unfortunate circumstances in the human world is admitted to a wizardry school. Or: An unpopular, high school outcast with the power to move things with her mind is tormented by her peers. 

But those examples aren’t the actual plot. The plot is the chapters that take readers from beginning, middle, climax, and resolution. You don’t know how that boy finds out he’s a wizard or what awaits him. You don’t know what that girl’s peers do to her or what happens if they go too far.

Furthermore, those example don’t specify, in detail, who those characters are. We don’t know Harry Potter is actually a good, kind-hearted kid that tries to do the right thing. We don’t know that Carrie is abused by her devout mother and yet she still wants to be accepted by everyone. 

To me, the best books are made by establishing the core of it first. In other words, give the book a heart — its soul. 

What is a book’s soul? It could be the underlying lesson or a feeling. In Maggie Stiefvater’s now defunct live-journal blog, she once wrote that the heart of her YA paranormal romance, Shiver was a feeling. More than anything else, she wanted readers to feel bittersweet. If anything in her book threatened that heart, she was willing to cut it out. 

For Just Breathe and the entire Earthen Witch universe series, the heart of everything revolved around coming to terms with the past and making the most of the circumstances going into the future. 

If you know the soul of the book you’re wanting to write, the characters and plot become a close second. There could be a fantastic plot with all sorts of page-turning surprises, but if readers cannot empathize and care for your characters, then it’s all for nothing. 

In my experience, as the plot develops and evolves, it’s important to flesh out the characters — the protagonist, antagonist, supporting roles, etc. And as those are created, it’s important to give them life with their own motivations and back stories. 

Readers need to want those characters to succeed in their goals. The more readers are invested in both the story and its characters, the more that book’s soul will resonate with them. 


Coming up, I’ll tell you about the risks I’ve taken with my books and whether I have any regrets. 

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: A Day In The Life

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
How many hours a day do you write? What does a typical day of writing look like to you?

Answer:

Let me start off by saying that I don’t have a day job. But that doesn’t mean my days are simple and easy. 

If I’m feeling well enough, I’ll write or edit from mid- to late- morning until lunchtime, take break for more coffee and then restart my pre-writing routine for another hour or two in the afternoon. 

With the pre-writing ritual I mentioned last week, I start up my playlist to settle my racing mind, and brew a hot beverage (usually coffee). By the time I sit in my favorite seat — a vintage, red velvet wing chair with a dark walnut frame, my mind and muse are ready to begin. 

While I’m writing, I know the progression of the story, so I don’t often run into instances where I just don’t know what to write. However, my muse may be on hiatus for a day here and there to show my progress. Otherwise, I’m usually able to churn out around three scenes over the course of the day, which generally equates to about one thousand words each.

There are plenty of days where I either don’t feel well enough (like a bad headache) to do more than one scene, or do anything other than stay in bed (in this case, a migraine). Self-doubt and debilitating anxiety often rears its head if this happens, but I do my best to accept that my circumstances won’t allow me to accomplish as much as I’d hoped. 

Because brain fog and eye strain are real to me, I try to keep myself balanced within my limitations and look out for signs that I’m over-exerting myself. Otherwise, I’ll end out regretting it the following day. 

Here’s a basic rundown
of my schedule on a good day:

10 AM to 12 PM – Writing or editing
12 PM to 1 PM – break for lunch
1 PM to 3 PM – Writing or editing

Being able to write as I do is a privilege that I don’t squander. If you have 12 hours to spare or only ten minutes a day, it doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you show up to do it. And don’t berate yourself if you’re not making the most out of each minute. 


Coming up, I’ll dive into the age-old question: does the plot come first, or is it the characters?

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On The Artistic Process

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
What is your artistic process? Does anything impede that?

Answer:

My artistic process varies depending on what I set out to do. But mostly, it’s a delicate balance between ritual, creativity, and technical skill. 

First and foremost, however, I start with a ritual. Always beginning with coffee or another hot drink of choice. And while I’m firing up my machine to brew, I’ll start up my playlist to a section that best fits the task at hand.

With my steaming cup of goodness in hand, I sit down and just listen to the music for a few minutes. It’s almost like a meditation.

Once my mind is clear, it signifies that the creativity is ready to come out in full force. 

If I’m going to work on writing, I reread the last chapter I completed, much like hitting the rewind button on a movie for a quick recap. This helps me settle back into the story, and into my narrator’s head. 

Then, since I have the plot outlined — steps A-Z, beginning to end — I know where I need to go. And as I’m seeing the events unfolding like a movie, all I’m doing is transcribing everything I can.

My poetry and prose is somewhat similar, except I’m isolating events and packing as much emotion and life into the words as I can. 

If I’m editing, I still search for the right mindset of following along with a movie, because it’s important I don’t lose those critical attributes like pacing, but at the same time, I’m looking at the draft with a critical eye, zeroing in on plot holes,  continuity slip ups — like a character walking or standing still, or just issues with grammar and flow. 

However, I do want to note that when it comes to my fiction, I don’t mix writing with editing. If I’m working on the first draft of a manuscript, I won’t open a draft to start rereading or editing. I like to keep my concentration on one timeline so I don’t end up confusing things. 

Though I may switch to creating other things like book covers, or just stop altogether due to some other limitations, I try to give myself the flexibility to do so without berating myself or feeling like I’m neglecting anything.

The biggest impediments to my processes, however, is self-doubt. It could be that I’m going slower than usual because I can’t quite visualize something or transcribe it right, or I run into a wall where I begin to question a decision or an action. And then intrusive thoughts start to pop up like weeds in a garden. 

That’s a terrible idea. No one’s going to like that. 

Or: You might as well stop now, that thing is dead weight and you know it. 

I often have to remind myself that hiccups do happen and that whatever the problem is, I’ll find a way to fix it. 

If I let those overgrown thoughts blossom in that garden, it’ll take me that much longer to clean things up, stop beating myself up, and get back to what matters. 


Coming up, I’ll discuss how long I spend writing on a day and walk you through my writing day routine. 

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On Easter Eggs

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:
How do you weave Easter Eggs into your books? Is it a form of foreshadowing for you?

Answer:

Last week, I covered the basics of mysteries or, more accurately, revealing clues in an effective manner in the story as opposed to either giving away too much to fast, or not enough for too long. But when it comes to Easter eggs, that’s a  completely different story. 

Take season one of Stranger Things, as an example. When Hopper heads to the morgue to check Will’s body, he discovers that the guard — someone that shouldn’t have been there at all — was reading Cujo by Stephen King. As a means of distraction, he comments about it, only to punch the guy unconscious a moment later to gain access to the body. 

Now, contrary to what some people may think, neither this show nor its story is a creation of Stephen King’s mastermind, despite his creations — his books, movies, and television shows — being riddled with Easter eggs just like this. In fact, I read in an interview that the creators of the show are big fans of the legendary writer, so they made the decision to pay homage to him with a little egg of their own.

When I write those little nuggets of colorful goodness, odds are that I’m not doing it as part of a plot driver. And, To me, it’s not exactly a form of foreshadowing, either. At least, it’s not directly important to the overall plot. And since my published body of fiction writing has mostly revolved around one intertwined universe, those eggs are often thrown in as side note — something with very little fanfare or emphasis. 

Here and there in my books, you might come across something like an offhand mentioning of something in pop culture. For instance, in Safe, there’s a scene that refers to Alfred Hitchcock and two of his famous tales involving a disturbed motel owner and lots and lots of disruptive birds.

Leading up to Listen, there’s some very specific setting details and dialogue phrasing that are hidden in plain sight. Many people wouldn’t really think those things matter until that big reveal occurs. And suddenly, readers are experiencing facepalm moments and wondering why they missed these little tidbits and didn’t otherwise give them more thought. Yet, at the same time, knowing that big reveal was inevitable all along. In the interest of not disclosing any major spoilers, I’ll let you try to figure out what they were for yourself.

Those eggs were too insignificant (to me anyway) to serve as a specific foreshadowing, but in a way, I was still dangling the clues out there like low-lying fruit all along. 

While my Easter egg career is still in its infancy, I’ve still had tons of fun weaving them in. And I look forward to exploring other things I can incorporate into my tales. 

If you’re wondering if you can — or even should — throw in some into your own tales, then by all means, do so. They’re what you make of them. 


Coming up, I’ll cover the most difficult aspects of my artistic process and how I power through it. I’ll give you a hint: a big part of that is self doubt.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.