Next up, we have what for some people can be the toughest part of the entire process: coming up with character names!
For names, it all really depends on what you're intending your book to be. If you want it to be some garbage tween-lit book, you have to use names that sound exotic but also safe, like Bella or Sebastian or Magrad the Impaler, Mistress of the Nightrealm. Names that really mean very little and can be glossed over within the text.
For a more serious, actual readable-quality book, this can be trickier. Many people get hung up on this and for good reason. If you're going to write a 200-page exploration of the human condition told by a schizophrenic heroin addict with pyromaniacal tendencies, you don't want to call that character Suzy Blaze or Mikey Starts-Fires-For-Sexual-Pleasure. Those are just a bit too silly to really connect with readers. On the other hand, if you're writing a light romantic novel about a meet-cute at a New York deli, names like Blood Darkfang and Silencio Magnifico also probably aren't appropriate monikers.
(By the way, all these names are now copyrighted so...hands off.)
The fact is, names can make or break a book. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to start writing the characters and letting them go. The names can often come organically.
Well, Stambleputz McGrudy was organic too so...maybe not that.
Next Entry: Characters
One of the most common - if not THE most common - questions that writers of any stripe, from Rothfuss and Martin to myself and the word criminal that wrote Twilight, receive is this (read this out loud in a curious voice with the intention of really only wanting a one-sentence response): how do you come up with your ideas?
For the sentient raccoon that 'wrote' 50 Shades of Grey, it was writing Twilight porn, changing the names, adding in...uh...I don't know, an extension cord and edible condoms?..., and marketing it as 'new BDSM' for bored, sexless housewives. I mean, it WORKED, so it worked but still.
For me, it's a bit different. It comes out of nowhere.
I could be in a bar, drinking a good beer, and maybe the way the waitress walks sparks a description in my head. Something like 'she had a sway to her hips that promised a fun night and a sore morning'. Or, you know, something less hacky.
I could be at a LAN and come up with one word out of nowhere: warehouse - and it turns into the basis of the entire universe. Or at that same LAN, I could be running a game of Fiasco and have it come out so dark and creepy that I go home and write for eight hours afterwards, not sleeping at all.
There is no real rhyme or reason to it. It just happens when it likes, usually when it's inconvenient. I mean, if I'm making out with a girl I'm dating, I don't...hahahahahahahhahaha. Okay. Sorry, couldn't resist.
My point is that there is no real way to come up with ideas aside from just...thinking. Take inspiration from a walk around a park, sure. Pound a glass of scotch and write away. Base characters off of exes, because hell, they deserve it. Whatever works, use it!
Next Entry: Names
I was talking to a friend and colleague of mine today and the conversation came around to building an audience and connecting, oftentimes by blogging. I realized, during the course of this, that I have been severely - one could even say totally - deficient in that sense, especially here on MY OWN WEBSITE. That changes today.
Starting today, I'm going to do my best to get an entry up at least every other day, if not more. These entries are going to be behind-the-scenes, process sorts of things.
To start with, take a look at that red Moleskine! Isn't it slick? It's packed full of Post-Its and scribbles of ideas. There are outlines and half-formed concepts. There are even a few pages of straight-up text, which are fragments that could eventually - okay, likely won't but still - become the basis for entirely new stories.
In short, that little red book holds some of my most important and original notes. I bring it with me whenever I go on long trips or to different places. I like being ready, even if it's just for a few little puffs of inspiration. I've had that book with me since I moved to Nashville way back in 2009 and it's seen a hell of a time since then.
To be fair, it's been a bit phased out lately, simply due to the convenience and accessibility of OneNote Online. Being able to zip open the phone and type a few words is super easy, but there's something to be said for the old-fashioned scribbling down of ideas when they come. Speaking of, idea generation will be in the next entry.
For now, I'll leave you with this. When it comes to writing, be like Mike and 'just do it'. Okay, maybe it's not quite that easy and that may be a bit more pithy a statement than is accurate but...I forgot where I was going with this. Oh, right! If you want to write, do it. Put down some notes or just go for it. Worst case scenario, it's trash but you still did something.
Next Entry: Idea Generation