Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Choosing Character Names -- A Nerdy Tool To Help Predict Name Popularity

Choosing character names is tricky business.  You want them to be unique, but not so unique that they sound cheesy or dump you into epic fantasy territory (unless, of course, you're writing an epic fantasy.)  You want them to feel current, but not so current that the same name pops up in fifteen other novels at the same time.

So how can you make sure that you're not writing a book with a main character named Bella the same year Twilight launches? Unfortunately, there's no full proof answer, but there is a handy tool to help.

First, you should check out Triona's handy post on baby names.  There lot's of good info there to help narrow down your options.

Once you have your options selected, check out this baby name predictor tool which uses statistics to estimate how popular your name will be across the next 25 years.

For fun, I plotted me and my fellow blogmates to see what it had to say about us.

Sample of Baby Name Predictor results for Stacy Jennifer and Lauren

It looks like Stacy, Jennifer and Lauren have all peaked and are on the popularity decline. So if you write YA and want a name that is common among the peer set you're writing for, all three names should be avoided since it's less and less likely they will appear in pop culture.  (Hint: look for a spike around the time your target audience would have been born.)

If you want an uncommon name, consider Stacy. Based on the chart, people born around 2000 are unlikely to have that name (which is a shame, cause it's awesome. :-P)  And if you want something really unique, give Triona a try.  In addition to being lovely, it didn't register as a name with any popularity spikes, meaning it's quite rare.

If you want even more nerdy name tools, here's a great article discussing how names can be used to predict someone's age (with the help of statistics, of course.)

Happy writing!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Industry Review: Toronto International Film Festival - Page to Screen

Another year and another end to a successful Toronto International Film Festival which saw the likes of Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Julienne Moore to name but a few.  

Regrettably, I wasn't able to make it this year but I salute many of my friends whose films debuted during the Festival including Producer Lauren Grant's Wet Bum and Producer Thomas Michael's Backcountry.

TIFF has always been known as a festival of the people and many audience favourites go on to win the year's top prizes, including the Oscars.
Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl Strayed in WILD

So it seemed fitting that I highlight some of the festival's best page to screen films here. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Based on Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir, the film stars Reese Witherspoon and details Strayed's 1,100 mile 94-day hike along the Pacific Coast Trail. 

The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner 

James Franco along with novel title
In this second adaptation of the novel, the film stars Tim Blake Nelson and is directed by James Franco.  Set in Jefferson. Mississippi, the story follows the Compson family over a period of thirty years. 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa GenovaA star studded cast including Julienne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth, Still Alice follows Moore as a cognitive psychologist suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. 

But lets not forget, this is a YA blog, so besides these titillating titles, there are two major YA projects hitting the big screen this Fall that you don't want to miss.

The Maze Runner film posterNow I know those aren't movies based on YA books, so here are two coming to us in the FALL that are definitely not to be missed.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Jennifer Lawrence in Suzanne Collin's MockingjayBased on the 2007 novel, the film stars Dylan O'Brien as Thomas who, without any memory of his past, must work alongside a group of boys to escape a great maze that surrounds their community known as the Glade.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Does this even need a description?  Jennifer Lawrence is back as Katniss Evergreen in the third and final instalment of the Hunger Game series.

I'm also excited to announce that the feature I co-produced entitled Fall will make its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in early October. You can check out the info here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cover reveal for WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS! (YAY! I have a cover!)

I'm so, so excited to finally get to share the cover for my upcoming debut, WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS!  Yup, I have a cover.  It's not a trick. This is actually happening.

Not only that, but my publisher is giving away an ebook copy to celebrate. Check out the rafflecopter at the end of the post.  Squeee!!

So without further ado....





 I hope you love it as much as I do.  See below for the official book blurb, a link to add it to your Goodreads, and a chance to win your very own copy.

And now I'll stop geeking out. :-)

Add it to Goodreads here

Publication date: April 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Stacy Stokes

After her best friend orchestrates the lie that destroys her reputation, Taylor wants more than anything to disappear from her life. But when an accident turns this unspoken wish into reality, instead of an angel-filled afterlife, Taylor must climb a seemingly endless staircase into the sky.

But instead of going up, the journey plunges her into the past. As she unravels the mystery behind her friend’s betrayal, she must face the truth about life and find the strength to forgive the unforgivable -- unless the staircase breaks her first.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct link to Rafflecopter giveaway here

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are You Over-Revising?

As I wade through the murky revision waters on my WIP, I've mostly been focused on whether I'm revising enough. Am I cutting all the unnecessary words and scenes? Have I added enough detail to flesh out the characters so they have more than one dimension? Do I have the right balance of external action and interiorization?

I'm still on my second draft, so there's not much danger of over-revising yet. But I know from experience that it's easy to fall into that trap. Out of a desire to make their manuscripts perfect, writers (who, let's face it, can be a pretty obsessive bunch) sometimes aren't able to ever call them done.

Writer working

Wondering if you might be over-revising? This post over at Adventures in Agentland (the blog of literary agent Natalie Lakosil) has a list of red flags, like sending a manuscript to friends and critique partners over and over again and always having a new list of things to fix.

Whether you plan to submit your manuscript to agents, plan to self-publish, or already have a book contract, it's important to keep the end goal in mind. Getting too hung up on revisions might mean you miss opportunities--and it's a good way to drive yourself crazy in the bargain.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Are Your Characters Suffering From Insta-Love?

I follow several YA book blogs that regularly review YA books.  They're great for discovering new reads, but I also like hearing what likes/dislikes spark for the reviewer. While every review is subjective, I've found that they help me stay attune to recurring trends in YA literature that might cause reader burnout or general reader dissatisfaction with the story.

I've noticed one trend in particular that's garnered lots of negative reader reviews as of late: Insta-love. I've seen it frequently enough that it makes me think 1) insta-love is pervasive in YA literature and 2) readers are getting tired of it.

If you're not familiar, insta-love happens when two characters meet and *poof* fall madly in love.

On the surface, this might not seem so terrible.  After all, who hasn't romanticized about love-at-first-sight? Or what high school girl hasn't had a crush on the oh-so-hot guy just because he's hot?  But in writing, insta-love can lead to shallow characters and a lack of differentiation between your stories' romantic elements and other stories on the market.

To build unique characters with depth and voice, they need to have unique motivations that drive their actions and the story forward.  It's fine to have characters feel that instant spark of attraction, but for it to move into love territory and make for a deep and compelling character-driven relationship, there needs to be something to the relationship that triggers the reason for it moving into love zone.

Ask yourself:
  • If I stripped physical attributes away from my main character's love interest, what would be the 1-2 things that made my MC fall in love with this person?
    • How have I shown the above to readers?
  • If I stripped physical attributes away from my MC, what would be the 1-2 things that made the love interest fall in love with them?
    • How have I shown the above to readers?
  • If I stripped away physical attraction and that first (s)he's-so-hot moment, what would be the inciting incident that lead my character to go from crush, to love? How might you work that into your story? 
Another quick insta-love litmus test is the twin quiz: if your MC's love interest had an identical twin, how would readers tell them apart based on the story you've written today? Why would your MC fall in love with one twin, and not the other?  

Happy writing!