Monday, 25 February 2013

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

As well as polishing Water and redrafting Air, I am currently brainstorming ideas for a new project. I've got character descriptions, locations and plot, but I'm stalling slightly on names. The two main characters' names came to me instantly and have a very Ancient-Greek theme (despite the fact that it's more of a dystopian/sci-fi story, but anyway…) but I'm not which direction to take for the secondary characters.

For Elements of Power, Roxy's name was settled very early on; it just fitted her personality perfectly. Her surname, LeMarc, is an (on purpose!) misspelling of Lamarque, as a very subtle nod to one of my favourite stories: Les Miserables (this is also why Roxy's dad is a General…)

Jasmine, on the other hand, was called Lily throughout my planning stages and a couple of early draft chapters. As much as I love the name Lily, it didn't seem to fit Jazz right, so I eventually changed it.

Brae was actually taken from one of my favourite TV shows as a kid (The Tribe - incidentally, this series is probably why I'm obsessed with teen-focused worlds, where adults take a back-seat and it's the kids that are in control). I just changed the spelling to another variation I had seen. 

Cinaer was a remnant from another story I had begun and never gotten anywhere with - the name was just too good to lose. I believe I made it up entirely, although I could have sub-consciously picked it up from elsewhere! However the name was never fixed: Cin didn't even existed in my early drafts, although that will take a lot of explaining and is probably best left to its own blog post (check back next week if you're intrigued!)

For the secondary characters, I spent hours collecting names that I thought would work for each of the four Realms, which came mainly from baby-name website and forums. My favourite was unfortunately changed and is no longer quite a good, but still exists here . Some of the names I found on it were so crazy, yet seemed to fit perfectly into the world I was trying to create; there was an entire discussion board devoted to unique and unusual names. Nameberry is also awesome. 

I ended up with a Spreadsheet full of names, with Realms and genders ascribed to each.  Devon, Aurelia, Seraphina, Emmerich, Nolan, Euphrasia and Lorelei all came from doing this. It also meant that whenever I introduced a new character, I just had to check my list of names to find one that fitted. Occasionally, if I was creating a new major character, I would source a new name just for them (such as the two new male characters you'll meet in Water).

This time, it seems like I'm trying to do it the other way round: I have my characters, now I just need to name them in order for the story to progress. As a starting point, I think I'm going to end up spending a few evenings on Wiki, looking through mythological figures for names that fit.

What do you think about the names in Fire? Which are your favourite character names in general? I love the names in the HP series, because there's usually a deeper meaning behind them (I can't look up at the star Sirius without smiling). And if you're a writer, how do you come up with your characters' names? Post in the comments below - I'm looking forward to hearing from you. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013


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Monday, 18 February 2013

Protectors' Hair

When I was writing the series, one of the features which I enjoyed developing the most was the Protectors' hair. I think there's just something incredibly cool about unusual hair colours and it also helps to mark the Protectors out, making them stand out in their extraordinary world. It took me a while to decide if I wanted the Protectors' hair to be streaked with colour, or to completely change though and even now, when I see a picture of someone with completely blue hair, I wonder if I've made the right decision! Recently, it has also become fairly fashionable; the trend was even featured in the Sunday Times:

I've used Pinterest to collect a few of my favourite pictures of colourful hair, to give you an idea of what I envision the Protectors looking like - and perhaps to inspire you to try it out for yourself. The school where I work is getting everyone to dress up as a book character for comic relief and I'm currently trying to decide whether to be a Shadowhunter, or buy some hair chalk and go as a Protector...

Helian Hair 

Brizan Hair 

Sephan Hair 

Arcan Hair - I couldn't find pictures of hair with silver streaks in it, but I did find some very cool pics of entirely silver hair

Also,because I couldn't resist...


So pretty!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Sephan Realm - an overview

I'm about 99% certain that I took Sephan from 'Persephone'. Frustratingly, I can't find a note anywhere that confirms this though. Persephone was a Greek goddess associated with vegetation and spring. She was also taken down into the underworld by Hades, which I think provides a nice 'earth' link.

The Sephan Realm is unique within the series, as it is the only Realm that elects its leaders. They have two - one Protector and one non-Protector. The Sephan Realm is looked down on by the other Realms, and it's 'democracy' is one of the main features that they criticise. A vote is usually held every three years, except in special circumstances. 

Wooded. The Sephan Realm is still very natural and rustic; it hasn't been built up in the same way as the other four Realms.

The easiest way to describe this one is with a sneak peak from my current draft of 'Water':

I stood up slowly and quietly, stretching out my muscles after the cramped confines of my hiding place, and then approached the village cautiously. When it emerged between the trees I had to stop myself from laughing again.

I had never seen a home look so make-shift. The Sephan `village' was more like a campsite. A large fire dominated the centre, with ten or so large green canvas tents pitched around it. An assortment of belongings had been left outside. Easy pickings.

There were more homes up in the trees. Nests. It was the only word I could summon up to describe them. The houses seemed to have been woven from twigs and grasses and some also had flowers weaving through the walls. They were tiny: practical rather than luxurious. I could only see them because an old fashioned looking lamp had been hung outside of each one. The Sephans didn't seem unduly afraid of flames.

Unlike the other Realms, the Sephans do not have advanced technology; they're no television or phones and communication can take some time.

Can make things grow, communicate with animals and also cause minor earthquakes. Their hair is streaked with green.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


Making Connections is giving away 5 copies of Fire as part of its anniversary celebrations. Enter to win here

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Brizan Realm - an overview

Brizan is from Brizo, goddess of sailors. I didn't know this when I picked the name, but, according to Wiki, Brizo was also known as a prophet specializing in the interpretation of dreams - which just makes the name even more perfect. Originally, it was called the Thetan Realm, from Thetis (a Nereid and Achilles' mother). However I then discovered that 'Thetan' was a term in scientology, so decided that I ought to change the Realm's name to avoid confusion. I now think that 'Brizan' fits better anyway.

The Brizan Realm is currently ruled by Queen Aurelia, who is unmarried with no heirs. She took the throne at the age of 19, and reigned during the Helian occupation of the Brizan Realm.

The Brizan Realm is compromised of 81 islands, only 9  of which are inhabited. The Realm is positioned between the Arcan and Helian Realms, so the Western Islands are cold and breezy, while the Eastern Islands benefit from the warmth of the Helian Realm's second sun. The capital city is  located on the relatively-central island of Laerielle. The Eastern islands became more populated following the Occupation.

Here's a sneak-peak from 'Water' to describe Jasmine's first view of the Brizan capital:

"The air was cool, with a strong, salty tang. Up close, I could see the houses lining the shore in more detail. They went right along the edge of the sand, each with space for a boat to be pulled up outside. All of them had hardy looking flowers and plants on their window sills and in petite front gardens."

"We emerged from the tunnel, taking a sharp right, and the Brizan capital came into view.

A sea of white-wash buildings with grey slate roofs met my eager gaze. They were spread out in a haphazard fashion, gently inclining up the hill the city had been built around. Houses were crammed in as close to the store as possible, clustered around the harbour.

But my eyes were instantly drawn to the temple, which was situated on the hill, close to the palace. It was magnificent: made entirely from multi-coloured glass rather than solid walls. It glinted in the sunlight as we approached, sending a rainbow of colours across the nearby white walls. My breath caught in my throat at the beauty of it.

Beyond it, at the highest point, was the palace itself. Like the houses below it, the palace was made of white stone, only rather than a grey roof, it had turrets and towers. It was far more extravagant than its Arcan counterpart, but more elegant and welcoming than the castle in the Helian Realm."

The Brizan Realm is less diverse than the Arcan Realm. Blonde hair and blue eyes are prevalent. As is weather-beaten skin and ruby red cheeks; a result of spending so much time out at sea.

The Brizans move between the Arcan and Sephan Realms, offering their services as sailors and traders. You are far more likely to come across a Brizan in the Arcan and Sephan capitals, than you are the reverse.

Can produce and manipulate water. Their hair is streaked with blue. 

Keep checking back for an overview of the Sephan Realm and, as always, let me know if there's anything else you want me to go into detail on. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Do you have to like a character to enjoy a book?

Reviewers of Fire so far seem to have mixed opinions about its protagonists: some like Jasmine for her desire to help those she loves, but take a strong dislike to the selfish, sometimes cruel, Roxy. Other's like Roxy's intensity, but find Jasmine a bit frustrating. To an extent, this divide was something that I consciously tried to create: I wanted my characters to contrast each other and to be, truly, fundamentally quite different.

With Roxy, I was creating a character who starts out as a product of her environment, of her upbringing, yet slowly learns to think for herself and to form her own opinions and judgements. Roxy grows most throughout the first novel and her personality continues to develop through out the series. Jasmine, on the other hand, is going to have a lot of 'growing up' to do in the next two books. Despite being the 'good' protagonist (if I'm putting it simply) she does make selfish decisions, particularly at the end of Fire, and she will have to live with the repercussions of these as her story progresses.

When I was writing Fire, I loved that Roxy wasn't perfect and that she can be quite dark: when she first meets Brae she relishes her task - she is looking forward to killing him. However, I worried that Jasmine was the weaker of the pair and that she was a bit dull in comparison. When the very first person read Fire, therefore, I was shocked to find that he loved Jasmine, but found Roxy really difficult to connect to - he didn't like her at all.

But do you have to like what a character does to like reading about them? Does an unlikeable character affect a reader's enjoyment of a novel? These questions were prompted by my finishing a novel called 'Beware of Pity'  by Stefan Zweig ( I read the translation by Anthea Bell). I loved almost everything about this novel. It is set just prior to the beginning of World War One and follows a young solider who falls prey to his own pity and desire to do good, ultimately (and inevitably) causing heartache and disaster through his actions. The story offers an excellent insight into human failings and explores its protagonist's decision making process in great depth. There was one, very interesting quirk to it though and I'm sure, given the subject of this post, that you can guess what it is:

I didn't like the protagonist at all.

But that doesn't mean that I didn’t like reading about him. He is young, naïve and weak. He rationalises his decisions to the reader throughout, yet I always disagreed with him and could tell that what he was doing was going to end badly. But if he hadn't been like that, there would have been no story at all. The plot, as the story of a less-flawed character, just wouldn't have worked.

It reminded me of the novels I love by Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner: books with fascinating plot lines and suburb settings, but indifferent, flawed characters. Perhaps this is why my own characters aren't completely likeable. I am, of course, not trying to compare my writing to the works of these writers - I'm not delusional with regard to my ability. But I do think that they have impacted the way I view characters as a writer; they have shaped my image of what a character should be.

You should question what a character does and their motivation for doing it, and you shouldn't always agree with them.  To be successful, a character should make you think; not make you like them. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Helian Realm - an overview

'Helian' comes from 'Helios', the Greek sun god. He's the one who kills all of Odysseus' men in the Odyssey - which reflects the Helians' temperament quite well.

Hot. The Helian Realm benefits from the heat from two suns - the Realm sun and a huge ball of fire, put into the skies centuries ago by extremely powerful Protectors.

The populated areas of the island are quite tropical and all of the cities are in-land, due to the Helians' aversion to water.  To the North East of the Realm is a huge volcano and a scorching desert runs between the it and the city of Kalme. This desert is a result of being in the direct path of the second sun and is pretty deadly for non-Helian skin.

The People: 
The Helians have a fearsome reputation and keep themselves largely isolated from the other Realms. Helians have a tendency to be both arrogant and power hungry and are willing to do whatever it takes to secure their own position.

The heat of their Realm is reflected in their olive-toned skin. Brown-to-black hair and brown eyes are common.

External walls are made of glass, to make the most of all that sunlight. However, they work like two-way glass: if the lights are on inside, everyone can see in - playing on the Helians' love of display; however, during the day, it's bright enough outside that the effect is reversed.

The only form of Helian transport mentioned in Fire is Vincent's motorbike. I decided that a bike was the perfect form of transport for Helians because they are fast, powerful and only have space for two people at a maximum, sat pretty close together. All of these features seemed to fit well with a Helian mentality. They are also incredibly cool, which suited Vincent perfectly.

When you can produce fire at your fingertips, why would you need to invent anything like a gun? Especially when you're claiming that power is a birth right, and not something that any, average Helian can take.

They do, however, use things like knives and daggers, as an alternative to flames; every Protector needs to keep one in their emergency kit (something you'll find out a little more about in Water…)

There's also another flame-driven weapon which comes up in Water and Air: a kind of flamethrower which the new, non-Protector, Helian guards around the palace can be armed with. 

Can produce and manipulate fire. Helian Protectors' hair has red streaks running through it. They also have another, even more deadly, power; but I think it would be a spoiler to go into detail on it here!

If there's anything else you want to know, or if you have any questions, please post them in the comments.