Advice, Author, Marketing, Promotion, Publish, Reader, Social Media, Tips, Writing

What’s your name?

I’ve been reading about author “branding” lately. No, it doesn’t involve a hot iron and burning flesh. The idea is to promote your name as a writer, to make your name a brand name. Quick! Name a horror writer. Thriller? Mystery? Literary? YA fantasy? Wouldn’t you like to be the author whose name comes to mind first? Yeah, not realistic, but you do want your name to come to mind at some point, right?

Right now, some of you are probably remembering author Maureen Johnson’s Manifesto: I Am Not A Brand. I do get her point; I’m just as human as she is. But when I’m published, I will have a product to sell, and it will bear my name as author. Therefore, it only makes sense that I want as many people as possible to recognize my name when they see my book.

I’m not an extrovert, maybe you aren’t either, but as published authors we’ll be expected to sell our books. We’re told, “Get your name out there, and do it now!”  Great … how do we do that? What’s your Twitter name and Facebook identity?  If you’re GreenLady on Twitter, and you’re known as Liz Wilder on Facebook, you’re missing out on two opportunities to brand Elizabeth Cox-Wilder— the name you write under— on the minds of potential readers.

Take a look at your blog. How easy is it for your followers to learn your real name? Or do you plan to publish anonymously? I blog through WordPress so my url was lindacassidylewis.wordpress.com, then I registered my domain name, so now if you go to just lindacassidylewis.com you also end up here. I set my blog profile to display my full name here and on every other blog where I comment. And my name links back to this blog in the hope readers on those other blogs will click through to visit here. (Good reason you should all start commenting on my blog. 😉 )

You’ll find me as Linda Cassidy Lewis on Facebook (no fan page, yet), but that was too long for a Twitter username , so I tweet as @cassidylewis, which admittedly is not perfect because a couple followers have assumed Cassidy is my first name, but hey, if they ever take the time to look at my Twitter page, they’ll see my full name. The more opportunities you take to connect your name with your writing, the easier it will be for book buyers to remember you. Of course, you’ll want to mind your manners as make yourself known, or you’ll be remembered in the wrong way.

So, yeah, I guess you all know my name by now. 😀 Too bad I’m not already published. But I hope when I am, you’ll see my book and say, “Oh, I know her. She’s nice. I think I’ll buy her book.”

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me, how do you get your name out there?

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Advice, Characters, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Tips, Writing

How do you know your characters’ names?

Today, I’m pondering where character names come from. I recently read a few short stories I’d written—or started to write—a few years ago. In one story, in place of the main character’s name, I’d used GIRL. I could “see” the character, I just couldn’t “hear” her name. I never finished writing that story.

In The Brevity of Roses, the novel I just finished (ahem) writing, I have three major characters. One woman I’ve named Meredith and though I saw her clearly, I had to think for her name. The younger woman I first named Kristen because of the “type” I see when I hear it, but, except for her gender, Kristen was the opposite of the character who is now Renee. I wish I had kept a book diary because now I can’t quite remember the sequence of events that led to such a radical change in my storyline. But when the character changed, so did the name.

My third, and main, character in the novel is of middle-eastern descent. He announced his name. As I’ve said in previous posts, the core idea for this story came from a dream. No one had names in the dream. When I thought about writing a short story based on this dream, I knew I would have to have a scene where the older woman met the man. As I started to craft this scene, I used WOMAN as a name placeholder for her, but when I got to the point where I wrote the line where the man introduces himself, I heard: I am Jalal. There you go. I love the sound of it. I love the way it feels in my mouth. Unfortunately, I’ve found that it’s not so easily pronounced by some people—my sister for one. She now has my permission to simple refer to him as J.

I think it’s important to have the name “fit” the character. Most of us would instantly picture Tony Randall in The Odd Couple if we read the name Felix. And none of us is likely to name a character Oprah, Madonna, or Cher without knowing the image it would evoke—not to mention probable litigation. But we also want to avoid naming a character Kaitlyn if the story takes place during the Civil War. By the way, the U.S. Census bureau has a site to help us find popular character names by decade, year, or even state of birth.

I have a superstition about using the names of family members, or even people I know well, as character names. Obviously, that limits my choices. Sometimes I resort to the open-the-book/magazine/newspaper-and-point method … though I may have to point several times before I find a name that fits. Of course, you’ll never please every reader. To me, Meredith conjures a picture of beauty and refinement, but you might know a foul-mouthed, smelly, terror of a woman with that name. If so, I can only hope you’ll succeed in wiping that image from your mind when you read my novel.

Do you have any methods to share for choosing character names?