The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 151
Five More to Go
I’m into milestones! Always have been. It probably comes from playing sports for a number of years, always having a goal, always shooting for the next level. There is no doubt I’m goal-oriented. Having said that, I have my sights set on three years for the Mailbag, and that means only five more issues to go
In five weeks I’ll set a new goal.
Such is life for this old man.
One hell of a run, it has been, three years for a series that didn’t even start out as a series, no intention of it at all, just a throwaway article to answer a few questions asked, and here we are in 2017 still going strong.
And none of it would have happened without all of you, so thank you!
Let’s get it done!
Choosing Names for Characters
From LeAnne: “Bill, what process do you use when picking names for your characters? Is it random, or is there a specific reason why some names are preferred over others?”
Really a great question, LeAnne, one which has been asked before, many moons ago, and one quite a few people are curious about.
I’ve done both to answer your question. I have a character in my “Shadows” series by the name of Striker. He’s a stone-cold killer, and I wanted his name to reflect his total lack of remorse over taking a life. I remembered a friend in college who had, shall we say, a rather volatile temper. His name was Paul Spiker . . . it was only natural, then, that my character would be named Striker.
In my first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today,” practically every character has a name that is meaningful in some way. I was into symbolism much more in that novel than in my others. And then there are some characters who have names I just liked . . . Eli Baker is easy to say, it’s a manly name, and it has a touch of the Bible to it, reflecting the depth of the character and his battle between good and evil.
So, LeAnne, there are a bunch of reasons why I do what I do with names, some meaningful and some not, and I think that decision rests squarely on the shoulders of the author.
This I can promise: I will never have a character named Bill Holland . . . much too bland!
Problems With Period Pieces
From Frank: “I’ve been reading your latest short story series, ‘Into the Unknown,’ and I’m struck with how vivid and realistic it seems, even though it is written about a time 170 years ago. How do you do that? How do you write about a different period of time, one you’ve never seen, and make it so realistic?”
Well, Frank, first of all, thank you for the compliment. I chose the Oregon Trail and the 1840s for a very good reason: I was a U.S. History teacher and I was fascinated by that time period. I’ve taught units for years about the Oregon Trail, so putting characters in that time and telling a story was not that difficult for me.
Having said that, you will never, and I mean never, see me writing a short story about Elizabethan England. I’m clueless about that time and would never attempt such a daunting task. I’m basically a lazy writer when it comes to research. I only write about times I have experienced or I know a great deal about. The same can be said about locations. Most scenes in my books take place in locations I have lived in or visited often. I don’t have the time or inclination to research strange locales for my books or stories.
So thanks for the compliment but it was really just me being lazy. LOL
From Andrea: “You promised to keep us updated on the sales of your coloring books. How are they doing for you?”
Very well, Andrea, thank you! My three coloring books have outsold my previous five novels and five novellas . . . by far, and they have done that in only three months.
I don’t know what that says. It could say that my novels suck, or it could say that my coloring books are incredible, or it could say that the intellectualism in the United States has dipped to scary levels.
It’s probably a combination of all three. Again, LOL!
Most of the sales, oddly, have been online. I sell one or two at each farmers market I attend, not nearly what I thought I would do, but it’s still early in the season and the weather has been horrible, so that might change.
Anyway, thanks for asking!
Join me on my writing blog
- Artistry With Words | Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
From Jamie: “Someone recently asked me if I would ghostwrite a novel for them. I didn’t know what to say to them. I was flattered, but I don’t know the first thing about how to do it, what to charge, etc. Any advice you can toss my way?”
Sure, Jamie, I have advice: DON’T DO IT!
Anything else you want to know?
I have so many problems with ghostwriting novels I don’t even know where to start.
Invariably you won’t get paid what your time was worth. Writing a novel is a complicated process, and to do it well it will take at least six months of your life to complete. What are those six months worth to you? I know what my answer would be, and there is no one on this planet who would pay that amount to me. Most people who want a ghostwriter want a ghostwriter at a reasonable price, and I’m not reasonable when it comes to six months of my life. Are you?
And then we have the communication problems. What does the customer want? How often will he/she be editing your work and nitpicking their way through your manuscript? Hey, they’re paying for it, so they have a right to be picky, but man alive it can be tortuous for the writer. And then there are the edits, and the final editing, all of which take time, and did you factor that in when you quoted a price?
And then, in most cases, you don’t even get your name published as the author, which I find hard to swallow after six months of blood, sweat, and tears.
DON’T DO IT!
End of advice!
Now I’m sure there will be those who would say I’m wrong about that, and I respect their opinions, but you asked for mine, and mine is run away as quickly as possible, no matter how flattering it is.
TUCK ANOTHER ONE IN BED
Another Mailbag is finished. Not many questions this week but hey, that happens occasionally. We’ll just tuck this one in bed and get ready for next Monday.
Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great week of writing!
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”