To the left is a picture of Cary, my little brother at age six with his giant Christmas peppermint stick. I patterned Robby in Jeanne after him. Cary was an angel here on earth for twenty-three years. He brought unconditional love into our family. I tried to convey that special love through the character, Robby.
The facility referenced in Austin was the first state home for the feeble minded. Children were boarded there under lock and key for fear of them developing criminal tendencies. Families were not able to visit often. In the 1940’s when the story takes place, Robby’s condition was known as Mongolism. This label didn’t change until the 1970’s when the term was replaced with Down Syndrome. Today, services and opportunities for special needs children have dramatically changed. Over the years, parents, teachers and communities have come to understand and accept children of special needs. We are blessed to have them in our lives.
Choosing character names in fiction is very important because of the connotation the name implies to the reader. For instance, I think of John Wayne and immediately I am carried away to the world of a good tough guy. So, naming my strong protagonist John would be appropriate. You may be fortunate and know exactly what you want to name each character in your book. But for those of us who struggle to get just the right name, the following suggestion may help. There are three things to consider when choosing names for the characters in your novel.
First, identify your character and describe her qualities, personality and physical attributes. After you go through this exercise and are satisfied with your results, begin to visualize this person. Think about what she would wear and how she would respond to actions you have planned to write for her. Next, paint a vivid picture of the setting of the book. A swamp setting might inspire a different name than a desert or on board a ship in the ocean. Think of a southern belle name during the civil war compared to business tycoon who has clawed her way to the top and how that might influence the name choice. The third suggestion is to consider culture and trends of the time. If you are writing in the present day there a myriad of names to select, however, if you are writing historical fiction set in the 1700’s, there will be fewer choices.
These suggestions are just to help get you going if you are stuck for a name for a character and by no means dictate what you want to name your characters. That is what is so empowering about writing. You get to decide!
I was very fortunate to be introduced to writing fiction via an unusual experience. My friend and award-winning author, Rosalie Turner, to a women’s Tuesday morning coffee group. A few years ago, she announced to the group that she had always wanted to write a mystery novel and she had this idea for all her coffee pals to contribute. Of course, she did all the writing and had the main plot in mind, but as a group we brainstormed characters, names, plots, and sub plots. What fun it was! We were together in the summer months and the rest of the year we communicated with email. We went through the process with her and together we published two books. Each book took a year to write and publish. The following summers we would have book signings. The first book was The Winding Road. The second one was Murder on the Mountain. That experience gave all of women ideas about becoming a writer. Some said “Oh, I could never do that.” For me, it made thoughts of writing a novel resurface. I had thought of it for years, but I did not know where to start. I had many stories on my mind and I needed to tell them somehow.
We all have stories to tell, some real, some imaginary. Are you a storyteller and want to be a story writer? Maybe, you don’t know how to get started. If you are a would-be writer who would love to try and don’t know where to begin, I want to share part of my journey of getting started with you in this blog.
First of all, my experience throughout my career has been technical writing, not creative fiction. There is a world of difference in how you think when writing creatively. Personally, I find it fun and enormously satisfying. I have written poems and short stories over the years, but I had never considered writing a novel.
When I decided to become a novelist, I did a lot of reading and research to see how to get started. Just start writing was a common theme I kept finding. How? Write your ideas in a notebook or on the computer but write down what moves you, what you think about, perhaps describe something. Get your words down and then you can begin to put your story together.
There is a world of information about what is the best way to write a book. Each of you, must decide what fits your style of organization. You may choose an outline, a storyboard, a spiral notebook, post-it notes, or a combination of these. I have used all of them, and I am still working on what is the best fit for me. I did start with an outline, simply because it was familiar to me. It worked. Whatever you choose, just write.
Mostly, I tell my friends that I became a writer by accident. Writing a novel became a reality for me as a challenge over dinner with friends. Let me back up a bit. My husband, Dick, and I make trips in our RV, consequently, we have a lot of windshield time. We love to watch the scenery go by and listen to great music. We also have lengthy conversations, but on occasions we do run out of topics. For those of you who travel a lot know what I am talking about. Nevertheless, to fill the time I began making up stories about “What if . . ..” Then one day, I said, “we could write a book about that.” Dick believed me. He thought we really could or I could.
About a month later, my husband and I were having dinner with several friends when he announced that we were indeed writing a book. I was shocked he had shared that. When we got in the car to go home, I told him that was just a husband wife conversation about writing a book.
I said, “now, we have to do it, since we told our friends we were.” I was convincing myself!
He calmly said, “we can do this.”
I had to admit, I wanted to. After that conversation, writing that book was all I could think about. I jotted down notes. I looked up how to’s on the Internet. I bought index cards. I’m a great planner.
After a week of research, Dick dropped out. I think he could see I was moving ahead full steam. By that time, I was deep into writing the first chapter. I was committed. I was hooked!
Dick became my biggest cheerleader. He listened, encouraged, said he loved the story (whether he loved it or not, I believed him:) That kept me writing, and today I have a book published. Sometimes I think Dick was secretly pushing me forward.
So, get ready, set, go my friends.