Thursday, June 4, 2015

Developing A Book by Tara Randel



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One of the things I enjoy about writing is the developmental stage. I’ll get a hint of an idea and suddenly a world of possibilities opens up. A world I have to quickly narrow down to a reasonable story plot, which I manage to do while still dreaming about the big picture. 
 
Every writer has their process. Does the plot or characters come first? Setting? Names? Most of the writers I know never sit down at their computer without first giving much thought to the overall picture of the story. If you are one to get an idea and dive into the story, go for it. Unfortunately, I am not one to jump in without prep.

I’m one of those writers who has to plot before I start. Beginning, middle and end. I’m not bound by my decisions, because sometimes I divert when a character insists I’ve gone in the wrong direction. Yes, I listen to the voices in my head. But having the story plotted out, having an idea of where I’m going, frees up the logistics so the creative part of my brain has free reign.

My favorite part is developing characters. Who are they? Why are they at this point in their lives? What do they look like? How will they all react to one another? I fill out a character sketch because believe me, at some point in the story I’ll forget the color eyes of my hero or heroine. But the sketch also lets me delve into their personalities as well. What are their conflicts? How will they overcome? Reach their goals? I know I’ve done a good job when I begin writing and fall in love with these people on page one. 

Since I just started a new Harlequin Heartwarming, I’ve been in the developmental stage. The original synopsis is pretty detailed, so I had the fun of adding events here and there in the story to torture my characters. I set my stories in a fictitious town in Florida, so as I get into the new story, I revisit places and people I’ve come to love in previous books. I keep a detailed file of names and places so I don’t have any repeats. Again, all part of the process.

I’ve jumped into chapter one, and yep, I love these people! My fingers have flown over the keyboard with ease as I began the journey I’ll spend with them for the months to come. 

Hopefully, the remainder of the 70,000 words come so easily!

The hero in my current WIP has three brothers. Since I already had the hero’s name, Dylan, I thought I’d go with the brothers all having D names. I’ve never done this before and thought it would be fun. So...here’s my question to our wonderful readers. Do you find family names with the same first letter confusing? Along with Dylan I have Devon, Dante and Deke. Too much? Think I should give them different names? 

Please weigh in to help me make a decision. Thanks!

23 comments:

  1. Great post, Tara! I began as a pantser and now I'm a mix. Like you said, I plan enough so that I can 'free up logistics' so creativity can flow.

    I'd love to see what others say about names. I always gravitate towards certain first letters with names and make an extra effort to change them (worried that readers will get confused or forget who is who). I recall in my first book (The Promise of Rain), I had a thing for the letter 'K'. Maybe it was inspired by 'Kenya' (who knows), but I had so many 'K' names that there was a note about it in my revisions that made me laugh.

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    1. LOL on the K-names, Rula! Like you, I avoid using the same first letter when naming main characters. I try to give my characters names that reflect their personalities, and rely heavily on my trusty 'what names mean' book! I've never provided those definitions for readers, though. Hopefully, the subliminal message sent by way of character behavior, reactions to events, etc., defines their names for me....

      I began my career as a pantser, then I became a strict plotter, and like you, I'm now a mix of both. Though I must admit, I lean toward plotting... Have a terrific Thursday! :-)

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    2. It's really quite amazing how we can change our writing techniques to make it work better and more efficient.

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  2. I'm with you, Tara! I plot, plot, plot, too! But, as you pointed out, the journey through the story sometimes requires us to take a slightly different route than originally planned. I love your D names, by the way, and can't wait to read this WIP! Have a wonderful week's end!

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  3. Remembering all of the names in a book can be a daunting task sometimes so I like it when there is something that helps me to remember, like having all of the names of siblings begin with the same first letter. That works for me. I have little tricks that help me to remember, like a sort of word association thing. A food, an object, a person I know with the same name, etc. does that make sense? I form a mental picture of these things to help me remember. It's not hard to remember names in Heartwarming books because there aren't usually too many, but in let's say a cozy mystery, if can be difficult keeping up with all of the characters so that's when I may have to employ this technique. Hope this helps from a readers perspective.

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    1. Thanks Laurie. Your insight is much appreciated.

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    2. I just thought of something else. In Amy Vastine's Heartwarming book The Weather Girl, I love that her main character, a meteorologist, was named Summer Raines. It was easy to associate the character with her profession, and to this day I still remember her easily. I do like it when a name in a book reflects an easily identifiable character trait.

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  4. A great post, Tara. I try to plot. Really. It just doesn't go well.

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    1. LOL. Whatever works for you is the best.

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  5. I find names beginning with the same letter can be confusing unless there’s specific differences such as having a different number of syllables in each one – Dave with one, Darryl with two and Destiny with three. Since our readers see the word, they need to have the names visually different. My girlfriend named her daughters Sharron and Cheryl because she liked the similar sound, yet visually the words look totally different. Good luck with your latest book. Naming your characters is definitely one of the perks in writing.

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    1. Good point Marion. Thanks for your input.

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  6. Tara, you pose some good questions. I get confused by the Kardashians with all of their K's and yet I named both of my girls with a K. One of my critique partners wrote book 1 with main character Deena, and book 2 main character Dixie. We liked both names a lot, but as she wrote chapters in the second book we found she had places where she typed one, but meant the other. It frustrated her a lot I know. Marion made a good point about changing syllables. I also plot, but sometimes veer off into uncharted territory. But I like the general map to have handy.

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  7. Tara, speaking from experience.... One of my sisters named all four of her kids "A" names. (Even the dog is named Amy). It would seem like there would be some confusion, but there's not at all. As Laurie mentioned, I think it would a nice way for readers to remember the association between the characters. I wish I was more of a plotter.... Maybe that will come with experience?

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    1. Yes Carol. I work differently after twenty years of writing, but I still get the job done. Somewhere down the line you'll probably agree.

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  8. Tara - Hi! I love the idea of the 'D' names. I think readers, do, too. I don't think much confuses them in the way of character names or book titles. Ages ago, when I wrote Americas, we tried to have connected books with titles similar enough that you knew the books were part of a series. Readers could always reel out every book title in the series. (My brother has Sharon, Cheryl, and Sheila (shades of Marion's friend) but when he was shouting for one in annoyance, he never got the right one.) I hate plotting, but letting the book have it's head never seems to work either, so I guess our 50/50 approach is the way to go. Good luck. Hope it continues to go well!

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    1. ...have its head... Shame on me.

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    2. Thanks Muriel! All these wonderful suggestions are great, but I still have to decide what to do. LOL.

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  9. I detest plotting, even though it has to be done. Somehow. But like many of you, I end up giving characters their head after that, which is where the fun begins. I'm somewhat addicted to hero names that start with J or a hard C. And Irish. Don't know why unless it's my genetic heritage coming out. Good luck with your names, Tara. I like the varied syllable idea with names that begin the same.

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  10. Thx. I agree about the varied syllables.

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  11. Characters are my favorite part of writing, too. I like the names starting with the same letter. That way as a reader, I come across a D name and realize that's one of the brothers. But if they're all going to spend much time in the same book, either a variation in length or syllables or at least a visual change would be helpful to me.

    By visual, I mean Dylan and Dante look alike because they have a tall letter in the middle and they're the same length, but Devon looks different because it has no tall letters. Of course, that may just be the way I read.

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  12. Thanks Beth. Awesome observation.

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  13. I panstered my first book...took five years. lol. I'm starting my 7th book and like you, I'll plot the beginning, middle and end and a whole lot more. I do a lot of character development as well Great post! And I like the D's, but agree you might want to give them different lengths.

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