POV

What’s in a Name: Writing Challenge Week 1, #2

Running behind this week, but here is #2 for our first week of Character Names Study. Details for this week’s assignment can be found here.

 

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Sunlight seeped through the small, barred window on a mist of yesterday’s rain. At least Poliquin had a window, though he was almost sure he would have preferred the darkness. A window counted out the days of his imprisonment, which had lasted longer than it should have. He picked at the frayed hem of his tunic, cringing at its filth.

Poliquin stretched his legs out and leaned back into the damp stone wall. He supposed the window was a luxury for most, but really, he could have used a cot, or a chair. Even a straw mattress would have been nice, provided it was free of maggots and vermin. No, a cot would be better. He would put in a request with the guard, next time he came by. The man had seemed reasonable.

Or bribable.

They had, of course, taken his coins when they locked him up. And his ruby earring. He would have to talk to Kraz about that. Rubies were hard to come by these days. Regardless, the coins would be unnecessary. His name would be enough.

He was Poliquin Vane.

 

 

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What’s in A Name? Assignment 1

We are going to shift gears a little bit for a new set of writing challenges. Building off our study of Point of View over at Frankie’s Wining Room, it is time to look at character creation, specifically naming characters. This will be a three week challenge, with a new assignment each week.

 

INTRODUCTION

Without characters, our stories wouldn’t exist. Characters are who we, the readers, connect to and remember. We all know who Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins are. Their names are synonymous with the stories they embody. It could be argued that the story would exist the same way, even if the characters were named differently, though these characters have become a part of our literary culture as much as Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.

I have always felt that a name can make or break a story. However, that fact really depends on the individual reader. Where I have a hard time seeing Julia as an evil queen, the next reader might like the juxtaposition of a soft, melodic name against the evil persona they take on. The typical sound of a villain’s name is sharp, tense, or abbreviated. The name origins often relate to darkness and death. Take for example, Voldemort. In French, Vol-de-mort translates to “flight from death.” The name has a rolling sharpness to it, but also a built in meaning. The suffix “mort” means death. There are a lot of layers to the name Voldemort above and beyond the French translation and the Latin root, but we will save that concept for later.

Now, if we take the idea of Julia as a villain, we are fighting against the perceived evil villain name trope.  Who do you immediately think of when you hear the name Julia? For me, I think of Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles and Julia Child. Julia Roberts and Julia Stiles are both actresses. I picture Vivian from Pretty Woman, Tinkerbell from Hook,  and Julianne from My Best Friend’s Wedding. Then we have Kat Straford from Ten Things Hate About You  and Sara Johnson from Save the Last Dance.  Julia Child makes me think of food – and Meryl Streep. Maybe my problem is that I am a very visual person who watches a lot of movies.  None of these images draw up EVIL VILLAIN…… to me. As a reader, if you name a villain Julia, you have to make me believe that this person can be evil. Other people might just accept it, or they may like it because it goes against the norm.


THE EXERCISE

Every person is going to have a reaction to a written name. There will be a connotation to it based on the reader’s own experiences and interests. We all see the world in a different light. For our first exercise, we are going to look at our own perceptions of a name through two pieces of flash fiction, due by next Sunday, January 8th.

From the list below, chose two character names:

  • Caesar Frayne
  • Jane Anderson
  • Ron Evans
  • Garron Amos
  • Victor Reyes
  • Lillian Cross
  • Poliquin Vane
  • Sarah Francis
  • Paul Marcus
  • Davion Meadows
  • Wilmer Kaine
  • Emmaline Cooper
  • Andrea Sullivan
  • Charles Hall

Now,  choose the setting that you think best fits each character you have chosen above (based on your perception of the name):

  • An orchard
  • A lighthouse
  • A castle tower or castle dungeon
  • A slaughterhouse
  • An attic
  • An underground storm shelter or apocalypse bunker
  • A high school prom
  • A hair salon
  • A used car dealership
  • A fishing boat
  • A hotel room
  • A condemned apartment building
  • A Vegas stage show
  • A cemetery

Using your character names and settings, sketch a scene for each character that gives the reader an insight to who this person is and why they are in this place. Be sure to use what you have learned from writing different POV’s to help draw the reader into the setting based on the character’s viewpoint and description of the location. When writing the character for this exercise, it is important to go with your gut intuition. We aren’t trying to break any rules or challenge a trope. This is purely about your perception of a name and the character that it draws to your mind.

As the week progresses, be sure to check out everyone’s posts and take the following questions into consideration as you comment on their pieces:

  •  Based on your own perception of the name, did it seem fit the story being told?
  • Which setting did the author chose?
  •  What personality traits did you pick up on from the character?
  •  Could you relate to/commiserate with this character?

Blog Roll

Frankie’s Wining Room

Katie Rene Johnson

K.S. King

Shannon Writes Things

Corrie Lavina Knight Edits

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POV Challenge: Week 3, Sample 2

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


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The viewing deck was too empty. The pale, wet weather obscuring the view of the city had kept the crowds away for days. The plan had seemed like a good one. Tourist traps were the best feeding grounds – so many people, so many distractions. Easy accidents. But there had to be enough people.

Skell tightened the hood over his face with gloved hands, pressing himself further into the corner. He pulled the newspaper from a pocket of his jeans and flicked it open. Inconspicuous. So far, he hadn’t drawn the attention of security. With the crowds so thin, they seemed more concerned with last night’s game than the creeper in the corner. They should be fired. The might be, by the time the day was over. Or, one or two of them might be missing a limb. Skell clicked his jaw in amusement. He had to feed on someone.

POV Challenge: Week 3, Sample 1

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


oneworld

Cam Cross paced her finger along the rim of her glass. She should have passed on the wine, two glasses ago. The third rippled red waves in tune to her movement, and she chewed her lip, tasting the heavily applied lipstick. She had chosen the restaurant and the table for the vantage point, not the overpriced liquor, which she would be billing to her client. Necessary expenses.

Three people leaned against the two story windows below, looking out over the city. The view sucked, clouds and fog rolling in and out. Rain pelted the windows, but Cam couldn’t hear it over the spattering of tourists. Either that, or the windows were too thick. She couldn’t decide. She preferred the sunshine.

Ghosts preferred the mist. The thought bristled hairs on the back of her neck and Cam sipped at the wine. Ghosts were bad for business, or so said the tower manager. They were good for Cam’s business, when she could stomach it, but she took the hunter jobs as a last resort. Demons,witches, vampires, whichever – no big deal. Cam took a longer pull than was acceptable on her drink, avoiding the gaze of the waiter as he passed by. He didn’t know why she was here. To him, she was just a lonely, over-makeuped patron who had spent too much time at his table already. Not that there was a line waiting at the door to get in.

Cam signaled him for another glass of wine, chugging the last few sips. The waiter filled the glass without a word, and Cam felt the judgement rolling off of him in a wave that prickled her stomach. Maybe she should have ordered an appetizer. Except, she maintained a purely liquid diet on a ghost hunt. Less temptation for her stomach to turn itself out. She nodded her thanks and the waiter walked away. Cam tried to ignore the looks between him and the other man behind the station. They weren’t even trying to hide it at this point.

Grumbling to herself, Cam returned to the finger pacing along the rim of the freshly filled glass. The air around her shifted, sharpening as the sounds of the tourists below faded out. The rolling mists outside the windows were suddenly inside, undulating around Cam’s table in a damp, cold breath. Her skin prickled with goosebumps and the hairs on her arms stood straight up. She looked up from her wine glass straight into pale, transparent eyes that glowed with a tinge of red.

Cam’s elbow slipped on the table and her wine glass toppled over, spewing wine over the fine white linen. The bowl of the glass bounced once and then shattered, and somewhere outside the mist, a man cursed. Across the table, the ghost chuckled breathily and the mists cleared in a snap. The waiter had returned, and was sopping up the spilled wine. He brushed the bits of glass onto an empty plate, and Cam forced herself to look at him.

“I am so sorry. Such a klutz.” She couldn’t hide the shaking in her voice, and the waiter hesitated for a moment, then shook his head and walked away. He hadn’t noticed the entity sharing the table with her. Or the mists. Or the icy note to the air. Cam turned back to the ghost, fingers gripping the edge of the table.

The ghost tipped an invisible hat at her and smiled. “Caesar Frayne, at your service.”

POV Challenge: Week Two, Sample 2

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


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The phone dinged relentlessly in my pocket. I had been away from the office for five minutes. Clients, associates, the dry cleaner reminding me for the fifth time this week my suits were done. I hadn’t changed out of the one I was wearing in three days. Hell, I hadn’t left the office in three days. Ding, ding, ding.

Knuckling my temples, I stepped into the only empty pocket of the revolving door. It bumped me from behind, the worn rubber seals squelching across the marble floor in a lego-sized tidal wave of rain water. It spit me out under the protection of the bronzed awning.

“Afternoon, Mr. Angelo. They let you out of the cage for a bit?” Bruce tipped his hat and pulled an umbrella out of the bin. He shook it once and rain flicked off the black nylon. The umbrella popped open and Bruce held it out to me.

“Jailbreak. Keep the suits of my trail?” The glossy rosewood handle met my skin like an ice cube. I left my gloves on my desk. Again. I wasn’t going back up.

Bruce chuckled and clasped his hands behind his back, the sleeves of his rain gear bunching up at his elbow and making him look twice his size. “I never saw you, sir.”

I nodded my thanks and tucked myself under the umbrella. Once around the block. Ten minutes of fresh air. My feet sloshed through standing pools of water on the sidewalk. I didn’t try to avoid them. Every calculated detour around added a fraction of a second to the time I had already stolen. My cell phone still dinged and buzzed in my pocket. I could turn it off. Drop it down a gutter maybe? They would have a new one on my desk in an hour if I did. The effort would be a waste.

Gains, Gains and Andrews occupied an entire city block on the edge of Central Park, a cosmetic marvel on the shoulder of a tamed wilderness. Anymore, the city seemed the wild thing – unyielding, unforgiving. A spreading virus of discontent bred by suits, greed, and bitterness.

My fingers clenched around the umbrella handle as I trudged on. I had been gaining on the hunched trench coat in front of me for half a block. We had the sidewalk to ourselves, apparently the only two people in the city who hadn’t opted out of the rain. The man had seen better days. A frayed shoelace trailed behind him. The oatmeal tan of his coat barely showed through the spattered stains and the rain had soaked through. He had flipped the collar of the coat up around his ears, and with the cap pulled down to meet it, he looked not to have a head at all.

I jogged to catch up to the man and water spattered up my legs, soaking my socks. “Excuse me. Sir?” He kept walking, either ignoring me or oblivious. I reached out and tapped his shoulder and the man jerked away. “I don’t mean to bother you, sir. I just wanted you to have this.” I held out the umbrella.

He stared at me for a moment, cool grey eyes narrowed beneath heavy eyebrows dripping water onto his cheeks.

Rain dripped down the back of my neck, pooling above the collar of my shirt where the tie cinched it tight against my throat. I pushed the umbrella at the man, hoping he didn’t notice the shiver in my jaw.  “Please, take it.”

He reached forward hesitantly and I slid my hand up from the handle so he could grab it. Rain raced up my jacket sleeve and I shook it out as the man took the umbrella.

“Thank you.” A flicker a smile ticked the corner of the man’s lips and I nodded.

Rounding the corner to the front of the building, I smoothed out my sodden suit jacket, readjusting it on my shoulders in a half-assed attempt to make it presentable. I would have to send Julie to pick up my dry cleaning.

“Ah. Back already, Mr. Angelo?” Bruce cocked his head to the side as I approached. “Your umbrella, sir?”

I smiled and shrugged. “Wind turned it inside out half way around the block. Dropped it in a bin.”

“You have terrible luck with the wind, Mr. Angelo.”

“Indeed.”

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POV Writing Challenge: Week 1, Sample 1

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Hot on the heals of NaNoWriMo and determined to keep the energy flowing, a group of writers and I have decided to take up a 4-week writing challenge. After a month of spewing words out as fast as possible, we are taking a step back and focusing on craft, specifically looking at point of view through flash fiction. If you are interested in how the challenge works and want to follow along, check out the details here.

 


 

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© Katie Rene Johnson 2016

 

Cara’s feet ached. Miles in the city tallied up quickly, and despite her month of preparation, she regretted the decision to cross the bridge after a day of exploring. The inherent stubbornness kicked in the moment she stepped foot on the first plank, and she wouldn’t turn back until she had made it all the way across. But then I have to come back.

Sighing, she hitched her satchel up on her shoulder and moved on. Pain twinged in her left heel and her shoulder ached under the weight of half a dozen notebooks and her roll of charcoal pencils. Cara never went out for the day without them. Her obsession with notebooks, pens and pencils bordered on the edge of crazy cat lady, minus the fur balls. Tomorrow, I am picking one. The rest can stay home. She smiled to herself, tracing a finger along the smooth metal railing as she walked.

“On your left!” a voice snapped from behind her, and Cara jumped aside. A man in a business suit rushed past her on a bicycle, the flap of his leather bag flapping behind him. Well excuse me! Cara’s heart raced and she gripped the railing with both hands, grounding herself in its solidity. People in the city moved to fast for her country girl roots. She hadn’t even made it to the first of the two towers on the bridge before she had been nearly flattened. I don’t know if the city and I are going to get along. Readjusting her satchel, she slipped back into the pedestrian flow of traffic.

Cara had picked the bridge as the best vantage point for her first drawing. She wanted to start broad and narrow her focus over the next two days in the city. Now, she wasn’t sure she would be able to pull if off without getting run over. At least if she found a good place to stop, her feet might not hurt as bad when she started walking again.

Bike bells chimed and angry yells joined the blur of car horns stopped in the rush hour traffic below as the walkway congested. Someone bumped into Cara’s shoulder and she glanced back. She couldn’t tell who had bumped her and she let herself be pushed along in the throng of impatient travelers. For no reason at all, the line loosened up again, and Cara stepped off to the side, using an empty bench as a shield.

Then, for the first time since she stepped onto the bridge, she looked back at the city. The setting sun had turned it into a back lit silhouette of rectangles, square and triangles bunched together in one geometrical shadow.

A couple stopped at the opposite corner of the bench to snap a selfie with the city in the background. Cara cringed. How many people had stopped at this bench to take in the same exact view? It doesn’t matter. I just have to make the image my own. She set set her satchel on the bench and sifted through her notebooks. Black cover, blue cover, marble cover. Her fingers fell across a plain cardboard cover. Decided, she reached past it to her pencil roll and pulled the them out together.

Biting her bottom lift, Cara plucked her favorite pencil from the case without unrolling it and dropped the case back in her bag for safe keeping. Chewing on the end of her pencil, she looked back at the city. Her drawings always started at the bottom of the page, but here it was only shadow. I could pull in the riverbank. Texture the buildings. No. Outline them. A line sketch. Cara frowned. Lines aren’t enough. Turning her back on the city, leaned into the barrier. Maybe lines are everything. The support cables of the bridge checkered the fading sky, dividing the distant skyline like stained glass. Half way up one of the vertical cables, three balloons had tangled themselves into the hard lines, breaking up the rigidity of the scene.

That’s it! Cara plopped down onto the bench, tucking her satchel between her knees and wrapping the strap around her ankle. With a satisfied smile, she flipped open the sketchbook and lowered her pencil to the page.

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