Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ultimate Bucket-List - 5 Reasons To Write A Book

(Every man should) plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. These all live on after us, insuring a measure of immortality.

We’ve all heard the old adage of semi-obscure origin. Over the years it has evolved and grown.  Some versions it include the marrying of a spouse and building a house.  (Nowadays, we would probably change the building part to a more leisurely visiting of them in Parade of Homes.)  But the premise has always been the same - the Ultimate Bucket-list.

First of all, I think we should accept that whoever started said that probably didn’t have wifi. Thankfully, modern technology has sped up our lives enough that we no longer need a growing tree in the backyard for a source of entertainment.

Seriously, though, each of these three ultimate bucket-list items has incredible merit.  My two points today are simply, 1) It says something that writing a book could rank in the top three, and 2) Writing a book is the best alternative of the lot.  

Here’s why:

1)  Planting a Tree Takes Time.  Yeah, yeah, good things take time and great things do not come easily.  I get it!  You get what you pay for!  But I’m just lazy enough to do a quick cost-benefit analysis in my head and come up somewhat less motivated.  

And before the rosy, picturesque image of planting a small seed and reaping a beautiful backyard paradise makes you angry at me, let me tell you a story.  My dad had exactly that vision.  Almost every year, for my entire childhood, he set out cultivate our front yard.  He planted trees.  He planted lots of trees.  He sprouted them from neighboring trees and even freighted them in from the nearest nursery, on the far side of the state.  He brought in potting soil by the ton, dug holes, buried water lines, planted grass, put in a sidewalk, and built fences.

He never quite got the “neat and tidy” american front yard, though - with the smooth, dark green grass and inviting shade from towering trees.  At its closest point, the backyard approximated the african jungle more closely than anything.  Not the trees, though.  Oh, no.  The trees died.  I’m talking about the giant, thorny tumbleweeds that responded to his nurturing efforts by eating up the lawn and growing nearly as high as his hopes for the dead trees.

In retrospect, someone should have told him either not to put his house in the heart of not-even-cacti-grow-here Nevada, or to take up dry landscaping.  

My father’s tireless efforts weren’t entirely without rewards, however.  On possibly the best summer day of my life, after being bested at every level by the manic tumbleweed forest, he literally let me take a flamethrower to it.

Bottom line, writing a book is never going to take that long.  Even if it doesn’t turn out as you hope, you’ll know a lot sooner.  Then you can put it on a shelf somewhere and have it to look back on, without ever once worrying that it is secretly sprouting thorns and growing out of control.

2) Having a Baby Isn’t a Pastime. Don’t get me wrong, having kids is a life-changing experience on nearly every level.  It’s just that after we have them, we spend the next twenty years fighting against, and trying to undo those changes. a father, I am forced to admit there is nothing more important or rewarding.  But having babies, in my mind, always seemed like it belonged in the “Top 5 Unavoidable Milestones” list.

Take a novel for example.  It too takes time and nurturing.  You get to see it grow and mature.  In a very real sense, it is also “your baby.”  But if you get a headache, it will stay quiet.  If you need a break, it won't go "Emo" on you.  It doesn’t generate one metric ton of crap per year and the only time it wakes you at night is when it just gave you an epiphany.

Nobody says things like, “You know, I’m just still so young, with so much life to live!  I think I’ll wait until I’m in my early forties to write a book.”  Yet most people have babies and few of them write books. Point is, we bring enough responsibility and head-ache on ourselves. Writing is actually fun!

3) Writing is Imagination on Steroids.  Now that we’ve taken care of the competition, let’s take a better look at writing.  Almost anyone who reads a book, and then watches the movie, inevitably replies, “The movie was great, but not as good as the book.”  You’ve been there, right?  Why was that?  Because when we read, we invest our imaginations, and that is inherently a rewarding experience for us as a species.  

But if you think that reading is a trip, you should try writing!  In 2014 I finally got up the courage to write Tribes: The Beastman  and it’s sequel Tribes: Celestia, an idea I first created in 2007.  To my surprise, I could remember nearly every, character, plot point and location in great detail, as bright and vividly as though I’d thought them up the day before.  I believe that occurrence is common with most writers.  We really give a piece of ourselves to its creation.  No life is more deeply touched by the finished work, than the author.

4) Writing is Great Self-Expression.  We all need it, know it or not.  Writing, (and I’m being serious here) is one of the greatest therapists of all time.  I, myself, have written several stories to help cope with a tragic event or another.  (No, these stories have not, nor will they ever be seen by human eye.)  If you feel overwhelmed, imprisoned to past emotions, or misunderstood, give it a try.

5) Finishing is a Rush.  I thought it fitting to save this point for last.  Like any project, finishing a novel, being able to type, “THE END”, close it, and know that therein lie emotions, living characters, and a compelling story of your own making, is probably one of the single-greatest feelings that I have ever felt.  As invigorating as it is to write and create, it is equally as satisfying to reap closure.

And, as an added bonus (much like how this could have been a sixth point), once it is done, you get to pick it up occasionally and relive the perfect story again and again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Captain America - Civil War: Was it's plot disappointing?

It is a very positive thing for Marvel that the arguments around Captain America - Civil War, tend to range from "the best Marvel movie ever" to "somewhere in the top five."  I would challenge anyone to make an honest case as to why it shouldn't be in one of those two categories.

First of all, the movie is tight, fast, and full of endearing character moments.  It came much closer in scope to The Avengers, than it did a stand-alone super hero movie.  I didn't do the math, but I would be willing to bet that Civil War sports a more numerous hero line-up than the first Avengers did.  Add that draw to the strong performances of nearly every actor involved, and you already have a home-run.  But Civil War also offers possibly the best super-hero action ever put on screen.  And don't forget about an appearance from spiderman that will leave one possibly even more anxious for Spiderman Homecoming ever!

I can, however, see three reasons why some fans felt it slipping from a coveted "Best. Movie. Ever." position in their hearts.  Note:  As I will be discussing plot points, as the central material of this post, prepare yourselves for spoilers.

First, the plot.  To be fair, super-hero movies in general aren't known for their incredibly unique and thought-provoking subject matter.  And here, they've managed to use directing and story telling techniques quite effectively, to hide the movie's simple premise under a guise of mystery, but it does basically boil down to a villain seeking revenge for the loss of his family.  Not exactly a real page-turner.

But I bought it, and here's why:  Civil War wasn't out to sell the villain, as was it's chronologic predecessor, Age of Ultron.  It was selling a conflict between the super-heroes that we already know, and that premise bought up a majority of screen time.  Mission accomplished.  The faint hint of mystery, and even the apparently anti-climactic final play of the villain, actually fulfilled it's purpose, in my eyes, which was to pit the title characters against each other.

Second, the subject matter.  In my estimation, the studio and directors did everything that could be humanly done to maintain a fun, adventurous tone, despite the obvious, central themes.  When I first heard of Civil War, two or three years ago, my first reaction was, "Iron Man, no!  He's the best part!  I don't know if I'll even watch this one!"  I imagined several scenarios in my head, but ultimately kept ending up with Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.  It didn't matter how fun the first half was, the final act had to be a downer.

However, unlike Anakin Skywalker, Robert Downey Jr. was able to push through enough redeeming characteristics in his hardened, guilt-motivated character, that it actually kept me (nearly) torn between sides.  So as I said, downer subject material; absolute best that could be done - still a fun show.

Third, the ending.  It didn't actually feel like an ending at all.  It felt more like the movie had to take a two-year commercial break.  As it stood, thanks to the last five minutes, none of the characters saw any real consequences for any of their actions.  Also, the feud between Iron man and Captain America ended on a fuzzy note.  At times throughout the films playing, their conflict hit very clear, precise notes.  But the very ending left me asking myself, "So, they're...kind of...okay, then?"

In short, no final consequences were seen in this movie.  In any good story, we follow a cause-and-effect relationship of events.  It's the final "events" that give us the sense of closure at the end of a story.  So by that criteria, this movie really didn't have enough closure to serve as the main course.

But was that even the purpose?  They call it the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" for a reason.  The one thing that Marvel can do that sets it almost entirely apart from any other franchise, is to give us that sense of continuation.  In my opinion, Civil War was never meant to be a "one and done" storyline.  It was supposed to build the universe and act as a catalyst to the broader storyline.  If you look at it by itself, it may feel incomplete.  But if you look at it in the overall arch of the MCU, it fits into place much better.

Personally, I'm not putting it up for the best ever, but thanks to the we spend with Ironman, mentoring Spiderman, I would put it at a close second.

What did I miss?  Was I completely off on a point, or all of it?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Too Much Backstory?

As a lover of all things super-hero, a startling realization recently struck me; whoever created them really hated parents - all of them.  It doesn't matter if the soon-to-be hero was born on earth or not, their parents had to die.  And of course, the role of supporting character must be given to an aunt, an uncle, a completely random and conveniently childless couple, etc.

Is this an oversight, or some terrible super-hero cliche? Is there a super-hero club that only orphans can attend?  Or does that particular train of backstory add something of credibility to a protagonist's selfless or determined motives to save the world?

How important is backstory, exactly? It seems that writers, in general, struggle more with this singular question than nearly any other specific element of drafting, and nearly every conceivable method of introducing, splicing, cramming, shoving or surgically injecting backstory into plots has been attempted.  Methods, (for better for worse) include:
  1. Narrator voice-over introduction
  2. Starting as a child and then fast-forwarding twenty some-odd years.
  3. Starting as a child and then showing twenty some-odd years.
  4. The dreaded flashbacks in all their varieties.  (More on that later.)
  5. Long single-take conversations where characters recount their life stories.
  6. Action set-pieces where characters find a moment to breathe amongst the non-stop action, and simultaneously use the air from their gasping lungs to carry out fluid conversations focusing on childhood grievances that couldn't possibly matter at a point and time such as this.
  7. The mystery approach to backstory where authors allude to a character's woeful past by giving unexplained tails and ticks.
  8. Mysterious reveals through dialog mixed in through the reading. 
  9. Creating intrigue by never confirming a character's backstory, and instead offering multiple, conflicting speculations about it from an outsider's perspective.
  10. Introducing the character as normal and then dropping a twisted, surprising history that completely changes the course of the story.
  11. Building up the character as evil, or good, and then slowly feeding the reader facts to erode and entirely replace that notion.
The list goes on.  In the end, however short the novel may be, they're really about the story. I've even seen stories told from the end to the beginning.  (Props for creativity.)  Still, frustratingly few seem to grasp the concept.  (Screen writers, I'm talking to you.)  Just go to rotten tomatoes.  Almost any movie has reviews complaining about one of two eventualities.  The movie is slow and boring with too much story and not enough happenings, or the opposite; the movie is fast and boring because no feeling of attachment to the characters is generated.  

Generally speaking, backstories live in a three-way relationship with the type of character, and the reader's perspective to him.  Mysterious approaches work more naturally for supporting characters, or when the book's main point of view examines the character as an outsider.

Finally, I think we can all agree that flashbacks are terrible.  If they happen too soon in the story, they might as well not have been a flashback at all.  If the book starts strong and then sacrifices its momentum to later fill in character details, it can be taken as misleading or disappointing.  On the other hand, a book's pace should always increase, so waiting too long for a flashback can break the third act, which is even worse.

Also, I find myself particularly irked when characters stair sincerely into each others eyes and spout any more than two chapter's of backstory in a single setting.  At one point during Twilight, when Bella and Edward are in the meadow, their conversation dragged on so long that not only did I forget about anything that might have been building in the storyline, but it nearly erased my own sense of identity.

For brevity's sake, let's assume that a backstory's delivery doesn't have to be fancily or surgically injected into the story.  It just has to be good.  Let's just assume that simpler is better, and that it should (or shouldn't) come out naturally.  Really, if the character is well-defined in our minds, it will reflect in who they are enough that they don't need to sit us down and monolog to us for half an hour for us to get it.

All-to Common Examples

1.  The evil villain.

The first tendencies are probably to either make him a victim of heinous crimes or wrong-doing, or to simply set him up as already in power and simply "bad."  The latter is my most frequent complaint about villains, even the compelling ones.  After the novel is finished, I find myself asking questions like, "Why would he risk everything like that?  What was his motivation, other than just being the bad guy?"

2.  The hero.

And the number one approach goes to the underdog!  For some reason, the heroes have to start at the bottom and work their way up, which really sucks for them, as they have to lose everything so they can regain it in the sequel.

3.  The thriller.

Easy.  The guy has a history that could give Jason Bourne nightmares, and then gets betrayed and has to avenge himself as a fugitive.  We don't need to know anything about what the character needs or believes, because he already has "enough" motive.

4. Action Flick.

There is no alternative, someone dear to our protagonist must be kidnapped or otherwise taken away from an unrealistically perfect relationship.  Not much backstory is needed, apparently.  In these cases, characters rarely find themselves spilling their guts about what their fathers did or didn't do.

5.  Romance. 

Someone died, and make no mistake, you're going to hear about it in a one-on-one conversation that makes the Odyssey look like a plot summary.

Using backstory to Build Character.

In my own writing, I try to stay as far away from the expected as possible.  One of my favorite things is finding a winning combination of unlikely elements.  That, however, is not easy or even possible to do all the time, and as always, a little goes a long way.  Instead, nearly any type of backstory can be a compliment to a character if it fits the story's arch, and is allowed to build the character rather than define him.  (That's right, chew on that for a second and a half.)

It's time to meet a few Johns.  These Johns live in a parallel universe of an action thriller.  It's a normal world.  A seemingly normal pursuit that indirectly draws them into the larger conflict and eventually places them in the position of hero, where they demonstrate courage and save the world...or at least, a large portion of it.

1. John Stoically Tragic

This John has a hard life-story.  A tail of misfortune that has left him virtually alone.  He has a stiff upper-lip, however, and never portrays himself as disadvantaged or a victim.  In fact, the only reason we know his past heart-aches is because occasional happenings reluctantly prod him to reveal these tidbits that gradually shape our opinion of who he is. 

This approach, while simple, would lead to a believable hero, because we've seen him demonstrate the tendencies needed.

2. John Mopelly Tragic 

Cousin to John S., John M takes quite an opposite approach.  He looks for every opportunity to offer excuses as to why he cannot or should not.  He has a good heart, but wears his pain on his sleeve.  It makes it hard for him to get a meaningful relationship, a fact he is not shy to flaunt.  But then when someone does come along, it makes it that much more "special."  The special thing about John Mopelly, however, is that the reader soon becomes aware that John's own view of himself, and his actual abilities are not the same.  It can be a fun way to go about a series of impossible feats where no one is more surprised by each than John.  That's a refreshing take to the stereo-typical image of our hero walking away from a massive explosion without giving it so much as a second glance.  It also gives us a better place for character progression and would make intentionally heroic doings more meaningful.

3. John Averajish

John A. really doesn't have a "backstory."  Or he does, but it's such a real-world story that details aren't worth mentioning.  Instead, with John A, we will focus on his current story.  What he likes, or doesn't.  Especially, what he believes.  We come to understand his well-defined structure of beliefs and values.  This offers readers a chance to bond with, or anticipate a character's actions.  It also gives a writer the chance to have some real fun and see what it would take to force John to go against his own beliefs, or what happens when he falls short of them.

4. John Au'Contraire

Talk about a contrasting backstory.  This guy was brought up on the wrong side of society.  He had enough evil crammed into his impressionable mind that he should be killing children in their sleep for kicks.  But instead, he's a simple, nice and mild-mannered guy who managed to make something of himself.

As details of his past come out, we can constantly surprise the reader, as it's so far from what we would expect.

NOTE OF CAUTION: Don't give into the temptation to give him a "unique set of skills" that are long dormant and waiting to awaken at the slightest provocation, effectively turning him into an elite spy.  Instead, use this contradiction to strengthen the firmness of his current standing, and how the way he is, quirks and all, are not incidental, but are each a victory.

5. John Mau'Contraire

Let's take things the other way.  This guy still has the perfect life.  His parents are ALIVE and well, prosperous, he had good opportunity, and still has support.  But he's become somewhat of an anti-hero.  While still generally well-meaning, he has allowed his ambitions to get a little out of hand and take him to places he would not have consciously chosen to go.  As he begins to lose things that used to matter to him, he only blocks them out and becomes harder.

When this guy gets drawn into conflict and simultaneously out of his rut, it can be a real eye-opener  and showcase his character progression nicely.

A backstory can strengthen a character by supporting or contrasting to his current beliefs, by giving him motivation or robbing him of it.  It serves its purpose as long as it takes its rightful place as part of the character, and as long as it never overshadows the actual story that is taking place.

Note: Now that I have two kids, I no longer have time for revising, so typos must be taken "as is."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

My free spirit has spent a considerable amount of time lately, pondering whether I shouldn't, or can't judge a book by its cover. The latter, obviously, was easily eliminated--judging books by covers is a favorite pastime of our society these days. We even invent covers so that we can make snap-evaluations even more easily.

This leaves me with the inevitable conclusion that I shouldn't judge a book by its cover--to which my rational responds, "What are they trying to say, that books and covers don't match? Are they not one and the same, part of a whole?" This anecdote may have applied sometime near the turn of the previous millennium, when the average writer´s creative artistic ability was limited to a chunk of charcoal and a piece of wood, before the creation of modern auxiliary tools such as digital software, Photoshop, illustrators, and mass media--or in short, before everything that makes life worth living.

"Why this imprisonment?" free-minded writers cry in agony. "Why so much anguish???"  Their plight is, of course, understandable. After all, things have changed a lot in the last hundred years. Writing has become faster-paced, more sophisticated, and more intricate. Our ability to design covers using digital technology has shot through the roof and aided in enhancing a book's aesthetic ability to reach out and capture a reader's interest as well as to represent the books content more accurately.

I'm of course not saying that a book's cover makes all the difference, nor that it always represents a book all of that time.  Were that true, Twilight really would be the best book ever written. What I am saying, is that there is a connection between a book and its cover, and with any GOOD book, we should be able to judge, or feel, until a certain degree, the quality of the book. As with any product, our criticism can come from several different points of examination, with drastically different weight placed upon each one.

In a more pertinent example, I could explain this connection as a sea without fish, or a chicklet without feathers, a canvas without paint, peanut butter without jelly, or even a book without a cover.  While these examples are all well and good, they fail to attain the owed level of gravity. We could get by easily for a matter of days, were all the fish removed from the sea.  More difficult, but still possible, would be life without peanut butter and jelly.  Furthermore, authors generally aren´t that great at cooking anyway, so to them, this entire matter is trite. 

However, even to the most twistedly devout and eccentric, elements of a finely tuned book have a core based much deeper than cooking or wildlife conservation. In its purest form, we are almost talking about religion. So let us now examine, if you will, the spirit and the body of a book, which, when combined, form its soul.

Now we've grasped the proper connection between a book and it´s cover, with a superbly chosen example. NOTE: This example is flawless unless we apply it to real humans, as their outer covers generally have nothing to do with their inner content.

Enough of the theory.  Now down to the practical--methods of evaluation.

1) Size of author name--an easy way to judge the author's fan base. A small author name means "unknown." Medium-sized to the size of the book title's font means he is possibly very popular and established. And finally, author's name that dwarfs the book's title...well, obviously means he's unknown, unprofessional, and unsavvy.

2) Cover-art styles, such as realistic or fantasy styles. Fantasy art can indicate that the author's focus is on capturing imagination. On the other hand, books with realistic cover art and life-like descriptions of its characters generally tend to be more logically conceived, and thoroughly written (meaning they're much longer.)

3) Does the cover seem to pertain directly to the books content, or is it just a catchy abstract creation? Books that receive enough attention to get signature art for their cover are more likely to have received attention in the other important areas of publication, such as editing, revising, publicizing, etc.

4) Does the cover reach out and grab you? Does it have a seemly order to its intricate details that captures your imagination and indicates a masterful touch of a top-selling artist/graphic designer/marketing specialist? If it does, don't pay any attention to it.  It's probably just you. No one can make a cover that grabs everyone.  And besides, a lot of the time an at-first pointless cover may develop deeper meaning as you read along, the sign of a truly inspired book. You'll never know until you read it. Think of all the amazing books you could be missing because you don't know enough about the book at the start to appreciate its exquisiteness!

But above all, don't worry and don't stress yourself.  This whole "reading the cover" thing is largely subjective anyway. So just go out, find something interesting, and read it.

You get what I'm trying to say.

Vengeance Excerpt on is possibly the coolest sight I have discovered lately. I know have a Goodreads author profile. I've already made half a dozen reviews and found the profiles of all my favorite authors to see what they have to say.

Now for the exciting news! I know all of you have heard so much about Vengeance. For the first time, I am publishing an excerpt for everyone to read!!! The excerpt will be placed in other locations, but for now, it is only available here on Goodreads.

For anyone who is interested, I thought I'd include the goodreads description that I included on their site.

Goodreads Description

Manuscript Status: Third draft, 75%; 140,000 words.

The story currently follows three main characters, two siblings from a border tribe, and a powerful, disillusioned warrior seeking for revenge. Worldbuilding is very complete. The Kingdom of Men is alight with dissension and wars. Inevitably, the characters are drawn into the conflicts, both physical and political, but they soon began to fight a greater foe, one that men only think they've beaten.

The Essence, their magic, is of course unique to this series. It is generally believed to have been completely corrupted and deluded. A special few know the truth--it was only corrupted. And only one inexperienced girl believes the impossible--the magic was misunderstood.

I am currently worldbuilding and planning the storyline for the remaining two books in the series. The manuscript only needs a few basic changes near its end. As you'll see from the excerpt, the flow, characters, and storyline are all in excellent condition for a third draft.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Project Devastation - Manuscript Update

The manuscript has about a month's hard labor put into it--that means about 110,000 words. The only problem: I am just getting into the story line. (In the future, I may consider planning multiiple novels from any vague plot drafts that exceeds 50,000 words itself.)

The final draft, will of course, be highly revised and altered from its current state, but on that note, I think it is going well.  So far, the creation process has been comnpletely inverted from my expectations.  You'd think I would be used to it by now.  The worries I had prior to comencing the novel have so far resolved themselves, and several of the points I was most excited about have given me unexpected trouble. For example, I was most excited about the method in which the plot built and developed.  It has been doing that fine, but I´ve already surpassed The Viper Project's completed length and I estimate that I am about half done. The second source of excitement, was of course, the Known Galaxy and all the worldbuilding I put into it. I have already deleted PAGES (literally) of explanations and details into their culture and technology. After writing several pages of explanations and only scratching the surface, I decided I would have to take a different approach, and not try to explain anything. The book is consisent enough that the readers will eventually catch on--probably a lot faster than I would.

As soon as I realized how lengthy the projected plot would become, I began trying to simplify and merge events together.  I've done this with five scenes so far, but I'm starting to realize it needs to happen on a MUCH larger scale.  Life is hard.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's in a name.

Choosing Names

I have recently been asked how on earth I choose names for all of my characters.  I don't think the person who asked that question realized how complicated the ensuing answer would be.  (Partly because most of my names are not on Earth anyway.)   The common perception is that choosing names for characters is something akin to parents choosing names for their children; they deliberate over it for months, lose sleep, toss and turn, repeat them aloud in the mirror, or even get downright fanatical.  In actuality, it has nothing to do with any of that.

Good writers like to pick original names for their characters.  Better writers recognize that there are different classes, or sounds, in names, and maintain this distinction amongst their characters to perpetuate a real and complex feel to the world they have created.  (All the characters from Country A have soft, flowing names, while all the characters from Country B have harsh names you can’t say without spitting.)

The other thing to take into account is appearance.  Since people will read the book, they will be looking at the name.  Especially when you’re making up names, it’s important that the name be aesthetically pleasing as well as pleasing to the ear.

Does that sound complicating?  If you answered yes, then you're probably not one of the lucky few who can perpetually generate original, striking, and endearing names.  Since that leaves the "like me" category, you might find some of the following methods useful. 

The language trick:

It has always been said that speaking another language has its advantages.  For example, Spanish speakers probably get a big kick out of calling people names in Spanish while on their vacation in Germany.  If you do know another language, or if you have access to Google Translator, then your life just became much simpler.  Think of a character, and then think of a word that fits him.  Find the translation of the word.  Maybe all of it, or a part of it will give you an idea or a sound.

The last step is to shake it up a little.  Once, when thinking of a name for a city built into a cliff, I got the Portuguese word pedra.  From this came the city Pedralia. 

The insert random letter into random spot trick:

This one was J.R.R. Tolken's favorite.  Contemplate, if you will, Sauron and Sarumon.  Or maybe Eowyn and Arwyn. Taking the liberty to "mess around" often proves that good names do come by happenstance.

The miss-spelling trick:

Sometimes you can get a classic name for a main character by preserving the sound of a common name, but by murdering the spelling.  It has often been said that good names should break at least three grammatical rules.  Cade could become Kaed.  Of the two, which would you put as the tuff guy? 

The mumble incoherently trick:

When all else fails, it is sometimes necessary to resort to muttering random variations of vowels and consonants under one’s breath.  Caution:  Do not do where other people can hear you.  This practice led many early writers to be burned at the stake for witchcraft when they weren't careful to isolate themselves.  One might say, "Orannor.  Thorannor.  Thoranic.  Oraneal.  Uranus…no, that's a planet.  Uriald.  Uru Ladron, the shopkeeper!  Excellent!"

The type unintelligibly trick:

This method consists of simply typing the biggest load of nonsense this side of Washington, DC.  (Make sure to use lots of vowels.)  Note:  This technique should only be used for heavy fantasy or sci-fi.


Now, take it apart bit by bit.  The average person would see gibberish, but the open mind will see so much more of the same!


Skiden, Widen, Nelena, Denel, etc.


Aleen, Hthan, Shaleen, Leig, Donien, Toralie, etc.

The connotation trick:

The idea is to pick names that will remind people of similar words, this hotwiring their own emotions and personal associations.  Darth Vader, to me, reminds me of Dark, and Invader.  Luke Skywalker, on the other hand, makes me think of happy people dancing in the clouds.  Beyond that, it's just a cool sounding name!

The point of all this is that good characters need good names.  The right combination of the two will stick in people's minds and endear the characters to them throughout the ages; Harry Potter, Edward and Bella….

(Scratch the last two!  Harry Potter was good though.)  You know what I mean!