Writing Prompts for Fors Fortuna

Queen of Hearts public domain via publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History: 

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of fortune (both good and ill).  Her name translates to “she who brings.”  The common people and the slaves found her cult appealing because she offered an escape from poverty.  They offered small works of bronze to her in hopes she would “change their fate.”  Her popularity extended to the Middle Ages where Saint Augustine wrote “How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to bother the good and to the bad?…It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune…let the bad worship her…this supposed deity.” (except from City of God).  

Her popularity preserved her image.  They depict her with a ship’s rudder, a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fate) and a cornucopia.  In ancient times they sometimes represented her as veiled or blindfolded, but these associations where handed over to Justice in the modern era.

Very little lore or worship knowledge remains of Fortuna’s holidays.  I suspect that the popularity of the commoners, that kept her imagery and idea in circulation long after the fall of Roman aristocracy but we’ve lost her rituals and lore somewhere in their oral traditions. 

Fortuna’s rein included Roman leaders.  One of her aspects was the Fortunat Publica (the official good luck of the Roman People).  On April 5th this term meant “everyman’s luck” and how each man has his own access to his fate (male idea).  But it had reaching impact on Roman leaders.  Fortuna in this guise became chance events tied to the virtus (strength of character), so public officials who lacked this virtue invited ill fortune on themselves and all of Rome.  

On June 24th (or perhaps Midsummer), a celebration on the anniversary of her temples’ completion took place.  Followers would float downstream on decorated boats and barges (or walk along the river) from the city to Fortuna’s temple.  When at the temple they would drink, play games of chance and place bets.  Scholars believe this was a holiday filled with mirth and joy.  

As the day closed, followers would row back home drunk and adorned in garlands.  Some speculate that Fors Fortuna was sacred to gardeners and florists.  They would go into market on this day with songs and prayers for Fors Fortuna and those celebrating her day would buy the flowers to decorate themselves, the boats, and her temple.  Minimally, it seems a lucrative time for gardeners and florists.  

Sources: 

Wikipedia org

Britanica.com

thaliatook.com

latinata.com

Writing Prompts

1. We all have lucky habits or superstions that bring good/bad luck to us.  Write a story that incorporates these newer superstions with the older practices of Fortuna.  

2. Luck is an ambiguous term.  Some people believe it’s the capricious nature of life and others believe one “makes their own luck”.  Which way do your characters lean?  Write an event that changes their minds.  

3. What would a character look like with maxed out luck stats?  Would that mean they had good or bad luck?  Would their life be full of extremes?  Would they have a relationship with Fortuna or another luck goddess?  Write an origin.  

4. Are casinos and gambling spaces modern shrines to Fortuna?  Would a day playing poker or roulette mirror the joviality said to happen on the 24th?  And if a casino is Fortuna’s temple and “the house always wins” what does this say about Fortuna and her relationship to her worshipers? 

5. How would Fortuna judge a modern leader’s virtus?  Or any leader’s virtus throughout history?  Does she have a hand in the rise and fall of empires or has she slacked on her duties? 

6.Fortuna’s name means “she who brings,” it’s an evocative start to any story.  What has she brought you or your character?

7. St Augustine makes an interesting implication in his writing regarding Fortuna.  He implies to be a god one must be “good” or at least to be a god worthy of worship one must be “good”.  But Fortuna, like God is capable of good and ill.  She has a code where the ill she offers men comes from their own weakness, much like the God Augustine worships.  Explore this dissonance further in a fictional story.  

8.  In her time, Fortuna was a lesser known, less powerful goddess, yet her name recognition today is stronger than many of the more common gods of the time. “Wheel of fate” is still a common expression.  What themes transcend time and space?  Write a story set in the future, the present, or the past and connect it to far-flung time relatives.  OR connect a theme across species.

9. What happened at the temple on June 24th?  Write “A Day in the Life” story regarding the celebration or worship. 

10. Did Fortuna ever change someone’s fate?  Write a “rags to riches “story.

Enjoy these prompts and looking for more try my post with prompts for Midsummer or Matralia

Churn and Burn

Prismatic gears from Public Domain

My fellow writer Zach Stanfield wrote “Addicted to Torment” where he discusses his struggles to produce a cohesive story.  It’s an interesting glimpse into one writer’s journey and I recommend looking at his personal struggle to get words on the page.  

Like him, I plan to confess my “writer’s flaw”.  

I am the Johnny-types-a-lot of our NAWG group.  If you measure success in words on a page alone, I am the rapid pace rabbit you’ll hound.  I churn and burn words like a binge drinker pounds back shots.  And like all those party people, I care about the quality of the words on the page about as much as they care about the brand of vodka in their drinks.  

So when we come to writers’ group and go around the circle asking “have you written anything?”  

I can say “Yeah I sat down for three hours and pushed out five thousand words, I’m a thousand words away from resolution.” or “I sat down this weekend and wrote ten thousand new words on my novel.”

The looks I get—the surprise alone—I feel like I will turn into Kanye West.  “I am a creative genius and there is no other way to word it.” 


Lol.  I do not want to debate Kanye West’s claim, but I will say my claim to creative genius carries minimal weight.  More words means I have more editing to do than my peers do.  Over half of what I write is scrapped in the second draft. 


Take my efforts in Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  I wrote an 80,000 word first draft.  The second draft is 73,000 words and about half of those words are brand new words I designed for the second draft.  Of  the original 80,000 words, readers may see what 30,000 of them (and those also needed intense edits)?  


This doesn’t count story boarding or deleted scenes. To get that 80,000 word first draft, I have about 30,000 words in scenes no one but me ever read.  I needed to write those scenes, but as the manuscript evolved, I realized they couldn’t serve the story.


I can hear some people saying “You still came out of that with a novel.”  and yes, that’s true, but I would not say the volume of words I string together are why I have the novel.  My determination, my grit, my commitment.  These are things you need to have a complete manuscript.  A willingness to try something, anything, if the manuscript isn’t working.  Looking at elements you thought your manuscript would center on and culling them when it turns out those beliefs are wrong.  You need to endure painful change for the sake of creating the best work you can.  Mass producing a million words to a page will not bring a writer closer to the glorified novel.  


I’ll go further.  Writing in quantity forces me to spend a significant portion of time reading and editing my work.  This is time I could have written other things.  Most of my writers’ group has published a short story and I have not.  One reason for this is my obsession with my novel and my inability to write the right words the first time.  Maybe if I stopped and thought more, looked at the cursor blinking on the page as Zach does, I would realize on the first draft “my novel isn‘t going in this direction and these scenes are superfluous.”  


What I’m trying to get at: all writing styles have pros and cons. Inundating myself and others with heaps of words may look impressive, but it’s more bluster than you may imagine.  


Talk to me.  What’s your writing style?  What are your writing goals?  Give me a writing confession! I would love to hear more about others’ process or their current manuscript goals.

When you Love Too Much

by jxj! the total bastard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  sourced from CreativeCommons.org

About a month ago, a man robbed my friend and I.  He wanted our valuables, the only problem was, among my valuables was my laptop with draft components of my manuscript Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  


Jessica, a man had a gun in your face!  He was close enough you could have reached out and touched the blasted thing.   What the fuck is wrong with you that your first thought isn’t for your life, or your friend, it’s for your book,” I imagine some of you may be saying. 


Valid point.  Once I confirmed my friend was unharmed, it was the first thing I thought too.


All my training failed me.  As a kid, my parents drilled me to throw my purse at a robber, run, and scream “Fire.”  As a college student my “Self Defense for Women” course STILL recommended the “throw your purse” step, but they followed it up with a karate chop to the neck.


I never wondered “what would I do?”  I knew I would throw my purse and run.  It’s a joke among my friends, how they would defend me and I’ve always said:

“No I’m running.”

 
“You‘d abandon me,” they tease.


“No, you‘re welcome to run with me.”


Que laughter, Jess is a self-proclaimed coward and not in the least ashamed.


It was a shock to learn that the running part held true, but my primitive brain would not relinquish my manuscript.


What does that mean? Who cares about anything that’s not alive so much they will risk their own safety for it?


I guess I have to add vanity to my list of sins.  I love my book.  I’ve said: “I love it more than life, more than loved ones, more than breathing.”  and believed it was hyperbole, but now I have to face whether this is a core truth about me.  Am I so conceited that what I create means more than life?  What responsibilities do I hold if this is true?  


First, I can’t keep drafts without back ups anymore.  If I can’t trust myself to be sane, then I’ll photograph my handwritten notes, same my written copies to the cloud.  Whatever it takes to secure both my manuscript and my friends.


Second, my laptop will have to stay home or I will review my entrance and exit into public space with it.  Yes, cloud backups are fine, but my laptop is an expensive key piece of equipment in my pursuit of publication.  


Third, can I learn to care less?  I know I can’t control how my brain responds to an emergency.  But the correct answer to “Give me all your money!” is NOT “No, and I will leave now.”  That’s not possible. 


The experience leaves me wondering: what does it mean to love writing or my finished writing more than life?  Do I love it too much?  Is there some program for people who are too passionate about their work I should enter?

So talk to me.  Have you been in a life-threatening situation?  How did you react?  Did your reaction times surprise you?  What did you do after?  Do you ever wonder if you love your creative work too much?  Do you consider it a vanity or conceit to hold the work in such high esteem?  What steps do you take to protect your work?

Addicted to Torment


    How many times have I heard someone gushing over their own prose? It’s vomit inducing and leaves me self conscious for most of my day.

I’m not talking about jealousy of another writer’s work, no, I am talking about the real envy that comes when someone seems to enjoy writing. I always took a small measure of comfort in the belief that all writers are masochists.

Setting aside personal time, staring at the blank screen then counting the number of blinks the cursor makes before you type in the next vowel felt necessary.

Then, all of a sudden, I’m confronted with johnny types-a-lot whose sparkling grin,stretched ear to ear, becomes the ultimate slap to all my masochistic endeavors. This wasn’t a tormented soul that gets up every morning, resurrected, to hoist themselves on that black and white cross.

Confronting that early in life sort of gave me the writing jitters. I clammed up at the keyboard, wondering if my pursuits were flawed, or if I was working against something that was innate in others.

Could I be doing this all for the wrong reason? Was I addicted to an aesthetic, a lifestyle of the sagacious old writer in twill concentrated on each pen stroke?

I hate twill, however, I love to be “tormented.” I sought that tortured artist motif and used it as a crutch to avoid my responsibility as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I am unfettered from the struggle of writing, but at least I identified the thing that keeps me from producing. It is so easy to give in to the thrill of production and a day or nights work with actual atrocity. I could be alone in this, but if by some chance you feel this way, I’d advise taking a stronger look at the way you approach coming to the keyboard.

Can mitigating martyrdom help eak out a few more paragraphs? I have been approaching the whole thing in measures. I always want to get a certain number of words for each sitting. If I go over or under, then that is not a loss of my time. The real loss is when I sit on my hands and bemoan my own tortured time plugging away at my latest edition of “Zach, tortured auteur.” Now, I use a simple mantra, “find my time, find my place, find my mindset then write.

New Year’s Resolutions: Would a Writers’ Group Help?

 

image from openclipart.org by j4p4n

Welcome to January’s resolution time!  Two weeks is enough time to reflect on 2018 and decide what you might want in 2019 right?  That’s right, I’m talking writers’ goals!  It’s that fun and dreaded time to commit to completing story X, writing Y amount of words a day, seeking and learning from critical feedback, improving weakness C in your writing, ect.  What’s your writing resolution(s)?


It’s been a year since the North Alabama Writers’ Group posted in this blog, and I opened our first post with New Year’s Resolutions.  It seems fitting that 365 days later, I offer a reminder that a writers’s group can help you reach those goals.  

Why Join a Writers’ Group?  


People join writing groups, classes, and programs for many reasons.  I think the two primary reasons to join/meet is:


-Improve writing.  We are looking for someone to suggest skills and styles we don‘t have.  We may need proofreading.  We are looking for others to help us past writer’s block.  Or maybe we just need another person to tell us we’ve “jumped the shark” or lost reader’s interest. 

 
-Motivate us to keep writing.  A constant struggle whether a hobby or full-time is to keep writing and maintain commitment to the one project.  We may love that work as we’ve loved nothing else in our lives, but it is difficult to keep working on it and striving for completion.  Whether you struggle in the first draft or the second, there is a point where you think “I can‘t do this, no one will see what I’ve done as I do and that‘s the best gift I could give my creation”.  A group either through feedback or encouragement helps us get through this struggle of sorrow and ambivalence.  They help push us.  


A third, perhaps lesser reason to join a writers’ group is to become part of a community.  Writing is a lonely journey.  It’s nice to get together and speak to others who have the same struggles and maybe the same thought process.  

Are There Different Writers’ Groups?


Yes.  Some exist to work together on group projects.  Other’s give out weekly assignments, like a class, and they ask everyone to produce something from a related theme.  Still others are more open and each writer pursues their own project, sharing as they are ready.  In some writing groups, no one shares any work at all, they gather to commiserate over the process and perhaps hold brainstorm sessions for each other.

Can one writers’ group accommodate all these different goals?   

Maybe?  In the North Alabama Writers’ Group we struggle to balance differing expectations of our growing group.  It’s hard because all writers go through periods of low creativity.  Writers also have varying temperaments and accommodating everyone at one meeting can be a challenge.  

To help with some conflicting desires, sometimes it’s good if a larger group breaks out into sub groups.  We do this at meetings when those who would like to take part in our blitz round robin break off from other writers who would prefer to discuss their own ongoing works.  
We always allow time for those who want to read their recent works aloud to share, but we force no one to read out loud.  

We have multiple online spaces.  Google document sharing happens between writers looking for more structured commentary.  This blog is a space for general writing conversations and topics we may not always explore in the face-to-face meetings.  Our Facebook group allows for link sharing in a less formal format.  

That’s great, but this post should tell me how a Writers’ Group helps me reach my goals!  

A good writers group wants to support each of their writers goals and ambitions whether it’s a hobby or it’s something the person is seeking to pursue professionally.  While balancing different levels of expectation and production is difficult, it’s important you take the time to get to know the people in a group and see if what they are offering will help you in your process.

Do you leave filled with creative energy and the desire to write?  Does the group’s feedback present new avenues for you in your story or future re-writes?  Are you able to co-author works with your group or perform a writing exercise at your meeting that helps get your process started?  Does the group link you out to other writers, editors and publishers and can you grow through networking and differing perspectives?


I can‘t promise that all writers’ groups will help a writer.  And I won’t promise that the North Alabama Writers’ Group is a good fit for everyone, but I would encourage all writers to find a group/person that supports and drives them forward.  You may have to create the content in solitude, but you don’t have to travel through the whole journey alone.

Looking for more like this? Check out: “Stuff I Love About Writers’ Group: Pitch Sessions” or our About North Alabama Writers’ Group page.

How I Pick and Order Monthly Open Calls for Submission

image from openclipart.org by mairin

 

1. I use the resources on my page on my blog with the clunky title “Bloggers and Groups I Follow for Submissions and More”

2. I race through Submittable.  It’s a sloppy hunt, but I do my best to include EVERYTHING out in the world that meets my criteria

3. I order all the open calls by due date for an easy calendar style view, next I provide a word count so writers can best decide if they can create something that length in the time allotted.  Then I the story’s theme, if there is a response timeline, I add that, and I close with the pay.

4. I only include publications that include $.01 word pay out or a royalty pay out.  

5. I stick open calls I believe will interest my writers’ group.  Poetry, venues looking for the writers to represent a subgroup other than white male (though I do sometimes include women, queer, disabled calls as we have group members who qualify), some genre requests, and erotica calls are omitted.  

That’s it.  Over this year, it became an organized system I’m proud of, but it does take a long time to find the information and copy it all into the blog.  Hours across days go into what looks like a very simple post.  I hope it helps people and while you’re here go look at my December Round Up to see if anything appeals.

 

Enough about me, I want to hear from you.

 Are there other elements or organizations I should include?  Do you like how I organize the calls and the information necessary to submit?  How do you decide who to submit to?  Do you submit to publications that pay less than $.01 a word and if so tell me a little about why/what you believe you gain.

Behind the Scenes: Writing “Halloween Spirit”

image from openclipart.org by bf5man

This post speaks to my personal writing process for “Halloween Spirit” and as such is contains spoilers for that work.  For a deeper understanding of the elements included or explained in this post please read my flash fiction (it’s short and free ^_^).

Zach Standfield challenged me to write a piece of flash fiction in August. One of the ideas I had was to create an elaborate detailed summoning rite that brought about the end of the world. The short work would focus on my strengths: lyric description and magic set in a modern world. It would avoid my weakness for action scenes and it side steps issues I have about over explaining or creating a finite conclusion.

I wrote two flash works for Zach (neither of which he’s seen) and they both took a grim turn resulting in the brutal murder of the female main character from outside forces she surrenders to. Waaaaay too close a metaphor for the suicidal tendencies slipping into my own head because I’m not handling stress well at work. For the record, I’m not contemplating a plan to end my life, it would be stupid to take a permanent solution for a fleeting problem. But the stress from ongoing conflicts at work is leading me to think “it would be much easier if I wasn’t around” and that was coming through too literally in my writing.

I shelved the third flash idea since I didn’t want it to morph into a 30 something female woman sacrificing herself on the boardroom floor, using the energy of her death to open a hell dimension that forces the people who mistreated her their to suffer for eternity.

Then, I had an idea for our blog. Each of us should write a Halloween themed flash for our blog. Awesome idea, except I suck at short stories and had no idea what I would write.

I thought maybe I’d lean into my fae angle and do a “Wild Hunt” style thing, but “The Most Dangerous Game” already exists. Plus, the idea took over 1,000 words to explore. If I wanted to do something new/interesting, it would take more than 1,000 words.

Next I thought “what’s my thing in the writers’ group?” My literary device is some kind of magic. This reminded me of the summoning story I‘d planned for Zach’s challenge. The problem: no Halloween tie in. So I changed the summons and instead of focusing on a cinematic summoning ritual, I focused on the holiday and hidden darkness that lingers in the fall. I played on the “Wicca” God and Goddess creation myth where the Goddess Births the God, they become lovers, and he dies on Samhain, to be birthed out again in the following Yule. I tossed in two cult classic “Wicker Man” (1973) references to hearken the reader back to a certain time and tone.

For birds gathering, I chose crows over ravens primarily to reference the figure “The Crow” (1994) and foreshadow the death elements. Also, crow mythology pegs the creatures as watchful, resourceful and often tricksters… all elements I wanted to elicit in my story. I thought about using Ravens in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, but those birds are larger, live in only specific regions, and mythologically relate back to winter.

I wrote the first 600 words in one afternoon and would have finished, but I had to stop and go to work. I reread/edited what I had so far and finished the first draft four days later. Ran everything through ProWritingAid and posted to Google Docs for the Writers’ Group to Critique. I read it out loud one last time and added it to our queue for publication.

While the creation process was painless, I’m torn on whether I like the final product. There are great single lines and ideas, but the word limit combined with the time constraint kept me from digging in to find a perfect moment. I usually only consider works done after months of review and reflection, so I figure in six months time, I’ll know what would make this story engaging.

 

Interested in reading more from Jessica Donegan?  Check out the NEWG bliz round robin exercise here with Jessica’s ending available here

Looking for more spooky stories, please consider Christopher M. Palmer’s work “The Ghost Strikes at Midnight

Bells and Whistles: Fancy Tools to Encourage Writing

 Image from open clipart.org by Lyo

 

Looking at the path from spoken story, to recorded story, to printing press, and now to online and print formats, I can see that technology historically is huge for the aspiring writer.  It seems that as technology and communication improve, the different ways it can help writers also exponentially increases.  I’m awed and overwhelmed with the different tools at our disposal.  To help sort the varying tools, I’m creating a series that explores different services mean to help an aspiring writer.  This week we have tools meant to increase daily word count or to encourage a daily writing practice.  

750 Words is my favorite of these sites.  The purpose is to write 750 words or three pages every day.  Once you’ve created an account, it will provide a space to enter text and you just type.  When complete, send in your work and 750 will analyze the writing to see whether you were happy or relaxed based on keywords.  The site will break down when you paused and when you were in a hot streak. For those who like to compete, you get points and a score board if you keep to the daily 750 word assignment.  Best of all, all your writing is private.  First thirty days are free and it’s only $5/mo afterward.  

Write or Die is an software that puts pressure on the writer to produce text in a set amount of time or…consequences.  The most disturbing thing the software does: it deletes words if you pause for more than a few seconds.  Write or Die will either help you up your word count or obliterate every letter on the page. It costs $20 and I’ve often toyed with whether it might be worth the price tag to place my feet to the iron.  I’m afraid I don’t have the stomach for the software.

Word Counter does a lot more than count your words!  If you create a free account, you can create goals to work towards and the site will track progress for you.  The site is linked to Grammarly, so spelling and grammar can be altered through them. Beyond that, Word Counter offers stats similar to those available on Hemingway App.  It provides a reading level, how long it would take to read or speak, and it also offers a “word density” that may suggest whether you need to crack open a thesaurus.  For strict editing, I prefer ProWritingAid, but if I was looking for a hybrid motivational tool and editor, Word Count seems like a capable option.  It’s free to use.

Rescue Time, the wonderful Christopher Palmer mentioned this site to me, and I think it’s great for the aspiring writer.  The light version lets you set goals and tracks how much time you spend on the web and where.  It let’s you know how much time in front of the screen you’re wasting not writing!

What do you think?  Do you use any of these softwares?  Do you know of any other sites or apps that encourage word count or daily writing? What do you use to track your writing metrics?

 

What’s in a Name?-A name I stole from another Author’s Blog!

image from open clipart.org provided by Astro

 

Rick Polad shared What’s in a Name?  It inspired me to create my version.  And since we both admit we’re crap at creating names (well he struggles, I admit I’m crap at it), I figured I’d steal his title to keep with the theme…because I don’t want to waste time creating another title not because I couldn’t.  


It’s content that matters right?  Except if your title or name sucks, no one will ever get past it and into all the good stuff, which can leave writers stuck.  Even people good with names, can feel stymied by the pressure applied to first impressions.  Bland titles that don’t search well in Google or Amazon.

I have a few thoughts.  First don’t use character names that start with the same letter in a single story. I know Polad speaks about using Rose and Rosie as two different character names in the same work.  I’m thrilled it worked out for him.  As someone with dyslexia it wouldn’t work out for me as either an author or a reader.  Those two names read the same on a casual glance.  Figuring out the characters are separate and keeping them separate would slow my reading down to a snail’s pace.  I might need to make notes.  So don’t make your characters’ names so similar please.  


 I go one further and try never to use names that start with the same letter.  People skim, they don’t read anymore.  I don’t want to confuse anyone kind enough to read my work with names that tangle different characters together into one person.


I also suggest using one name for a character.  I’ve read a lot of books where halfway through characters develop nicknames that are either shorten versions of their full name (i.e. the author tired of writing the full thing out) or the character develops a random pet names.  It’s annoying to keep track a bunch of different names.  Use one name even if it’s not the real name have everyone call him Snake or whatever.  
There is ONE series of books where the author used nicknames to her advantage.  In it she has the main character name those around her after their predominate traits.  It works because it helps us get to know her main character and because the main character’s insistency on these nicknames ends up forcing other characters to adopt them.  The nickname that uses the character’s defining trait becomes how everyone addresses the guy formerly known as Bob.  


I’d like to tell you not to make the name ridiculous, but I use outrageous names all the time.  What I will say is that it’s a balancing act to make names unusual and other names more standard.  Consider when a name might be too on the nose or when one person has a unique name in a sea of bland.

And Now Helpful Resources:
 First is Behind the Name If you’ve got a theme, this site will fill your queue with potential names.  You can search through meanings, country origins, and genders when hunting for names.  All of this can be a sly nod to a reader or something meant only to tickle the author.
My second favorite site is the Fake Name Generator.  Ashley, in writers’ group, gave me this site and now I’m sharing the love.  Identity genorator offers “believable” if you are looking for that living in the real world vibe.  Fill in the specifics you have and let the site give you the rest.  It’s an interesting creators’ tool.  

*Edit 11/7/18 I just found Reedsy has a interesting detailed name generator that offers names for Villains, heroes, mentors, and side kicks.  Or names specific to fantasy races, or names bases off of certain languages.  I still prefer Behind the Name, but Reedsy’s resource has too much possibility to exclude.*

Next I recommend a writers’ group or series of peers.  Ashley gave me a name for one of my characters and she let me know another’s name isn’t “too on the nose”.  Having outside feedback is key to getting into a potential readers’ mindset.  


Last, when all else fails, I bang the keys of my computer and see what rises from the gibberish.  I like grabbing scifi names this way.  
Talk to me.  Do you have trouble creating names for people and places?  Do you have tips, tricks, or favorite sites to help?  Any other thoughts on what not to do when naming a place or person?

Question on the Hour: What place does Music have in Your Writing?

 

photo by Amanda Standfield

 

Do you listen to music when you write or is the room dead silent?  Do you use a special mix with specific songs or do you pick a genre and then let Spotify or pandora pick the playlist?  Do you prefer songs with lyrics or are you into pure instrumentals?  Can you write only with music or only in silence?

For starters, my music service of choice is Pandora.  Ever since the service came out, I loved its evocative name and the way the service introduces me to new music has always intrigued me.  Countless hours in college fiddling with the radio settings and “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” different songs, forged a lifetime bond with this service.  I keep some channels so fine tuned that some songs I like don’t play on one station, only the other.  All this personalization is perfect for writing because I can pinpoint what kind of emotion and tempo I want while I write. 

As a general starting place, I listen to pop/dance music when I write.  The fast beats encourage the words to flow fast and constant.  Most pop/dance is repetitive and uncreative (sorry), which helps me get to a state of mind without coloring my prose.  Unless as you read this you’re thinking “oh no no no, don’t phunk with my heart,” Black Eyed Peas make consistent appearances on this channel.  The best part of my dance music motif is that when I get stuck on a certain scene, I can stop writing and start an impromptu dance party!  Nothing drives progress like an endorphin hit.

That said, I have a short story I inspired by one specific song.  To write it, I looped the one song the during the whole writing process—hours of the same song, and I still find that song mysterious and inspiring.  Something about its slow start that transforms to frantic drums and ends abruptly –

For reference, while I like pop/dance just fine but they aren’t my go to genre.  Except Lady Gaga whose amazing, my music preferences just for enjoyment include hard rock, metal, alt rock, grunge, and folk.  Angry and loud or pensive and angst (but never Emo they feels are manufactured).  I like songs I can channel feelings through and release.  Problem with this kind of music is that sometimes it makes me feel too much.  The writing becomes too personal or I’m too busy wallowing in an emotion to refocus on what I meant to do.  I might occasionally listen to a folk or rock station briefly so I can capture that bit of that depth my writing, but I don’t want to live there.  Writing or reading a story that’s all brooding anger and open wounds sounds terrible and exhausting for everyone involved.

Do your music preferences match what you listen too?  If you use a writers’ playlist, what does it reveal about you as a person or as a writer?  Follow up thought: do you longer works have playlist?  What about your characters?  My favorite creation, Roxi, has a playlist and I wonder how many other authors’ creations take on a life of own through music.