Tagged with "creative writing"
It's All in the Name
Category: Writing
Tags: writers abroad creative writing settting place names inspiration

 

As some of you may know I’m travelling around the coast of Ireland, North and South, on a trip down memory lane with my husband, Simon who grew up near Belfast.

As we’ve been negotiating the beautiful – no, stunning – landscapes I’ve been struck by some of the wonderful place names they have here. In Southern Ireland, the place name signs are written in Gaelic as well as English, which is even more enchanting. A name gives a sense of what we might expect… or not. For writers, these names can be an important part of the whole story, as places and settings, can be as powerful as characters with their own personality, challenges and romantic notions.

Favourite Famous Fictional Place Names

  • Hogsmeade – features in the Harry Potter tales and is the home to Hogwarts, the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
  • Castle Rock – appears in many Stephen King stories, a typical town with dark secrets
  • Middlemarch –  the 19th Century fictional town created by George Eliot and features as the title of her novel.
  • Bedrock – a prehistoric city and home to The Flintstones
  • Ambridge –  the fictional village which serves as the centre for the long running series ‘The Archers’ on Radio 4
  • Atlantis – a legendary lost continent supposedly sunk in the Atlantic Ocean

Need help with defining some new settings for your story? Here are some Place Name Generators which may do the trick. (Warning! Many of these will generate all kinds of stuff and you could find yourself still playing around hours later…)

Fantasy Name Generators

Springhole

Name generator

Writing Exercises Name Generator (will even provide descriptions!)

Pseudo Elizabethan Place Name Generator

Or just take a map for some inspiration. Here are some that I’ve come across on our trip thus far (all Southern as we don’t cross the border for another week…

  • Mohill – the Gaelic is Maothail
  • Knockawaddra  - there are a lot of places beginning with Knock, some could be funny, others a little bit more surreal
  • Bunacurry – the Gaelic is Bun an Churraigh, and it used to have a monastery.
  • Inishbofin- a very small island off the coast of County Galway
  • Achill Sound – the Gaelic being Gob an Choire

I’m sure to those familiar with Ireland these names will not be new, but for me having never visited the country (or should I say countries?), or spoken Gaelic before, it will be somewhere I will return for inspiration.

Where do you get your inspiration from for your setting names? Are they based on real places, fictional ones or a mixture of the two?

Hair, it's our Crowning Glory Tags: creative writing hair fictional characters human hair trade Emma Tarlo hair in fiction

 

At least that’s what women are led to believe from an early age and the beauty industry is more than happy to divest us of our money in pursuit of that ideal. I’ve been thinking about fictional characters’ hair a lot recently. In films and novels Caucasian women often have character-defining hair. Black; witchy and duplicitous, red; fiery and vivacious; blonde; angelic or tarty, brown; plain and intelligent, grey/white; wise and intellectual, curly; unpredictable and bubbly, straight; cool and calculating. This left me with a dilemma because I was struggling to choose the hair colour and type of my young, female protagonist, but I didn’t want to push her into any of those stereotypes.

 

 

In a Tangle

So I began to tackle the problem in a circuitous way and by happy accident discovered the fascinating, non-fiction book, Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair by Emma Tarlo. Now, like you, I knew that both men and women can need wigs for a variety of medical, cosmetic or religious reasons but I had no idea of the global, largely covert, billion-dollar trade in the procurement and processing of human hair into wigs and extensions. Sourcing hair generally starts in third world countries. Some women sell their hair to barbers for a short-lived respite from poverty in China, India, Myanmar and Pakistan. On the other side of the world, relatively wealthy women choose to boost their income by selling their hair directly to the client via the Buy and Sell Hair website. The reasons for sale are as various as the hair types on offer. Hindus have their hair tonsured in Indian temples as a way of showing thanks, or to seek rebirth; indeed the vast temple of Tirumala acts as a magnet for pilgrims drawing people and hair from all over India. Each year the tonsured hair adds around 20 million pounds to the temple’s coffers.

 

Giveaway Hair

Sometimes, hair donation is purely altruistic as in the recent case of the Duchess of Cambridge donating seven inches of her locks to the Little Princesses Trust for children and young adults who have lost their hair through cancer treatment. How bizarre to think that a sick child somewhere will be wearing our future Queen consort’s hair. Truly a crowning glory! The hair is sorted anonymously so no one will ever know that their wig contains Kate’s tresses.

 

Decisions, Decisions

While all these hair stories make fascinating reading, it isn’t taking me nearer a solution in my writing dilemma! What it does show me though is how important this decision is and how much identity and status are invested in luscious locks or lack thereof. Would Dennis the Menace be as naughty without his black, unruly mop? Could Heathcliff have been blonde? Could Pippi Longstocking have had mousey-coloured hair? Would Bond villain, Blofeld, have been as menacing if he weren’t bald? How do you decide your characters’ hair colour and type? Can you think of fictional characters defined by their hair? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Keeping Track of Time Tags: creative writing timelines writing tools

Keeping track of time in any genre of writing can be a little like blowing on a dandelion or licking your finger to see which way the wind is blowing. I've struggled to keep tabs in my historical novels, often spending hours and hours sifting through my manuscripts with bits of paper and dates hoping that I'm making some sort of sense with the timeline. There are several systems or tools to help with this particular issue and here are three that I've used.

  • Good Old Fashioned Paper Calendar

I'm a paper and ink girl first and foremost and this was a method I used for some time in the beginning. Creating a calendar for events that happened in the past isn't difficult with word processing tools or even if you have to draw the lines yourself. It can become a bit messy if hand made, unless you write in pencil then events are difficult to change. But it's a tool nevertheless. I've used Time and Date calendar which also allows you to select a country and therefore highlights any critical events that may also help.

  • Excel Spreadsheet

I progressed from a paper timeline purely because it didn't really cut the mustard especially with long timelines that existed over several years, or even months. Understanding what time of year it is in your story line can be quite critical especially if you are using the weather, for example, to deepen the subtext. There are plenty of templates around, this one is nice and simple. Even so, I'm not a great Excel user, my brain isn't mathematical enough to even begin to understand it and it still didn't give me the detail I wanted.

  • Aeon Timeline Software

This is my new toy! I've secretly yearned to own this piece of software which has transformed my battle with timelines into an experience that is pleasurable (and possible yet another excuse for procrastination...) When I came across a deal a couple of weeks ago offering this at half price I couldn't stop myself. It's so intuitive and easy to use. You can create characters, events and story arcs within a timeline in the past, present or future. Over a long period of time or just within days. If you write in fantasy, you can create your own calendars with different days, months, years, adjust the length of any measurement of time and allow yourself to create a whole new world. And, if you use Scrivener, it syncs your work, so that any changes you make in either will be reflected in the other.  What's not to like?

So how do you track time in your writing?

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