“Name” is an Anagram for “Mean”

This week I had the pleasure of attending BEA 2010 and reading Matched by Ally Condie. Check out the review via the “Well Read” link. The heroine of the awesome “perfect dystopia” YA novel is Cassia.

Wait a second.

The past couple of years have brought us awesome dystopia/speculative YA novel heroines. Named Katsa (Graceling) and Katniss (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire). Now we have Cassia. What’s in these names?

Maybe the hard “k” sound represents the hardiness these women need to survive in their worlds. The “ess” perhaps softens the blow or is indicative of their feminine nature. Or their sneakiness, like a snake, as they subvert their societies’ norms. Katniss, I’m aware, because Suzanne Collins told us so, comes from a fictional plant. But that name is what Katniss meant to mama Everdeen. What is Katniss supposed to mean to us? Katsa maybe comes from the character’s cat-like reflexes. Cassia reminds me of Cassiopeia, which in Greek means “she whose words excel.”¬† That line sums up the thematic thrust of the book.

Are writers aware of how they name characters? I believe so. In my own writing, which is realistic, I try to find “normal” names that sound right. But sometimes, a character just grows into her name and in later drafts cannot be anything else but her name. Do I purposefully select names loaded with meaning so that future generations of lit students might possibly maybe have a book of mine to analyze? Not really.¬† To characters, sometimes a tree is just a plant, green is just a color, and ‘A’ is just a letter. In the fictive worlds, a name is that which a person is called. The meaning is not for them. The meaning is just for us.

The Psychology of Process

Some writers set aside specific dollops of time a day to create – 2 hours, 15 minutes, 4 am until the dog begs to be let out – and after awhile, their bones and heart and mind get accustomed to the program and worlds are built. Other writers, those with lives that need living, pencil in an appointment with their couch and at said time, start living their characters’ lives for several hours in a row. They’re in the zone. Roald Dahl would get ideas and then write reminders to himself – on receipts, in a small notebook, or once, in the dust on his windshield.

I am not these people.

The last time I wrote was April 7, 2010. My skinny finger bones weren’t used to typing. My heart wasn’t used to beating for someone besides myself. My writing life had gotten to the point where I felt like scheduling time to write or obeying people’s directives to use my degree and “write!” was actually forced creativity. I eventually got to the point where I wouldn’t try anymore ¬†because if I didn’t finish a chapter, do the two pages a day religiously, I was not “a writer.” Just a mere pretender wannabe.

But today I took twenty minutes instead of folding laundry and tried. I let my fingers reach for whatever keys they wanted. I had no plan. No direction. Initially, I thought I would introduce a new character who would be the saving grace for my heroine. Actually, my fingers think he’s a tool. In the two page-scene I constructed, I learned a new thing about my character. It even refers back to other moments of voice earlier in the manuscript.

Maybe that’s what I needed. A new way to think about the process. I do not write. And then fail. I try. And then succeed.

Chapter One

It was a dark and stormy night. So I stayed in and started a blog. Though I may travel into another dimension in my dreams.

But you, grab a sandwich, book, and kitten and get in bed. That is perfection. This blog will not be. But it will be full of wit and whimsy and wherefores about the writing world.

At 25, I am facing an epoch in my life. I can feel it. One day I will have full books under my name in your local independent book store. Until then, check out my publishing progress, thoughts on the craft and industry, pieces of my mind, and general coming of age.

I love you forever, dear reader.

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the literary allusions riddled throughout this post.