"Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction and Getting Published" by Pat Kubis & Bob Howland
Article by SC (scarletcougar)
What is PLOT?
It is what keeps readers from asking “Where is this story going? Because it seems like it is rambling on…
Naming systems vary widely based on culture, sub-culture, and even family. Go beyond creating magical creatures and create naming systems for your world too.
If you’re writing in a world that has not figured out what sperm is and where it comes from yet, names will most likely be matronymic (it’ll probably be matriarchal in terms of any type of inheritance, but this does not guarantee gender equality) because there’s no way to confirm paternity and because people used to believe that women could magically make life (which also means the first deities were most likely female).
- A matronymic name is a surname that is based on maternal lineage. These names might only exist for one generation.
- A patronymic name is a surname that is based on paternal lineage. These names might only exist for one generation.
- A family name is a surname that is used by an entire family for generations.
Legal and/or Official: This is the name on legal documents. If there are no birth certificates, this name will be the equivalent of what you would put on legal documents. Not all people go by their legal or official name for several reasons. One reason could be that no one in a given culture goes by this name, but instead by a casual name. This name could be used for legal, religious, or political purposes. These names do not have to be given at birth.
Birth Name: The birth name is obviously the name given at birth, but it doesn’t have to be right after birth. It can be days, weeks, or even months after. The birth name can also be a temporary name until an official name is chosen. It depends on the culture you’ve created.
Given Name: The given name is the first name that people in Western society are referred to on a daily basis. For example, a person whose legal name is “Daniel” might go by “Dan”, or they might just go by “Daniel”.
Nickname: The nickname is different from shortened versions of names. While a person may prefer a shortened version of their name for casual use, a nickname of “Daniel” would be “Danny Boy”. However, some nicknames are used regularly like the nicknames in Holes.
Religious or Spiritual Name: Some first names are chosen for religious purposes. This could be standard in the culture you’ve created or it could be a casual occurrence.
Appearance: Self-explanatory. However, these names might not appear until later in life.
Meaning: This refers to two things:
- Author meaning: This is when you, the author, chooses a name, that exists in our world or that has roots from our world, because of its meaning.
- Story meaning: This is when your character’s name is chosen because it has meaning in their fictional world.
Legal and/or Official: See above.
Birth Name: See above.
Given Name: A person’s given name might actually be their middle name (see example 2 below).
Religious or Spiritual Name: Religious and spiritual names that are given or chosen are often done so for religious and spiritual purposes. For example, in some versions of Catholicism, children choose a saint’s name to be Confirmed under, thus making this name their Confirmation name. Some people make this part of their legal name while others do not.
Symbolic Name: See above.
Meaning: See above.
Appearance: See above.
Ancestral: These are surnames that come from an ancestor of an individual. They can also come from a place.
Chosen: Chosen names are self explanatory, but they can also fall in the adopted category below.
Hereditary: Hereditary surnames are surnames that have been passed down through generations and that are used by the family. Any name can eventually become a hereditary name.
Clan: A clan name is a name that shows a person is a descendant of a certain person. This brings all these descendants together because they claim the same lineage, thus making them a clan. Clan names can exist alongside another surname. This varies by culture and not everyone will be associated with a clan. These are similar to ancestral names, but ancestral names are more personal and individualistic.
Occupation: Surnames can come from a person’s job. These names
Adopted: An adopted surname is just that. It is chosen by a person who adopts it from someone else. Reasons for adopting a surname from someone else vary.
Forced: Forced surnames are names that are forced on a person. This can be through adoption, kidnapping, slavery, immigration, cultural change, certain marriage practices, and a few other situations.
Appearance: See above.
Place Name: Some surnames are based on where a person is from (“George of X”).
None: Surnames do not exist everywhere.
Importance: Some names have significant importance to a culture. This importance can be political, religious, or just well known within a society. If certain names hold political importance (most likely surnames) and you are writing characters from well known families, make it known that their family name is important. For example, upon hearing your characters name, the behavior of others might change around them.
Taboo: Some names can be taboo or they can hold negative connotations based on historical context. For example, when people hear the name “Adolf”, they think of Hitler. If your characters have a name that is considered taboo in your world, that may affect your character. Names can be taboo for any reason. It might be taboo to be named after a deceased paternal family member or it might be taboo for a child to be given the same name as the current ruler.
Outlawed: Not all names are up for use. There could be a written law that certain names are not to be used or there could be an unwritten law that using certain names is disrespectful. For example, naming children after deities or important figures in your world’s culture could be considered illegal or at least deeply frowned upon.
Title: Like I said above, some titles can be considered names or at least part of a name. This probably won’t be part of a person’s legal name, but they might be addressed this way daily.
Syllables: Some names might be required to have a certain amount of syllables.
Epithets: Sometimes, if a child has the same name as the parent, something might be added to the name to differentiate between the two.
Traditional: Some people might have a traditional name to honor heritage or culture and an official or legal name.
Many cultures have certain prefixes or suffixes that indicate if a name if feminine, masculine, neither, or both. Make a list of suffixes or prefixes that are associated with gender to help keep naming patterns in your fictional world. You can also have different versions of the same name this way.
Below I will give examples of a fictional naming systems.
Writing in my brain: Beautiful flowing sentences full of powerful phrases and enigmatically witty dialogue.
Writing on the page: They did the thing and said some stuff. There was snark.
What happens depends on the characters and the situation.
- Pre-Attempt: This is when the parent finds the character prior to the actual attempt. Physical damage hasn’t been done yet, so the reaction probably won’t be as extreme as it could be. Finding the character pre-attempt could be as little as a few seconds before the attempt or as much as a few months, depending on how the character planned their suicide (if they planned it at all). A parent finding out about the plans to commit suicide might not be as extreme either (once they evaluate the situation, anyway) because they know they caught it early.
- Attempting: This is when the parent finds the character in the midst of their attempt. They have already gone through with their chosen method, but have not died yet. The reaction to this can be all over the place, from relaxed (to try to calm the person and negotiate with them) to frantic.
- Post-Attempt: This can be near death, post-mortem, or if the attempt failed and there was not a lot of physical damage or not enough damage to cause death. Finding someone in this condition will probably bring out the most shock or fear because death is coming and there is not a lot of time.
Of course, all of the above depends largely on the parent. Here are some possible reactions and their reasons:
- Fear: Most parents are going to be afraid if they find their child trying to commit suicide. If their kid is near death, they’ll be fearful of not being able to get their kid medical attention in time. They could also be afraid of what they find in the scene, such as a gun.
- Anger: Unfortunately, some parents get angry when their kids experience problems like suicidal thoughts. Some may believe that it is sinful while others believe it is just for attention. They might critique their kid for the attempt or put them down for attempting suicide.
- Confusion: Some parents might be confused if they were unaware of what their child was going through (stress, mental illness, a general rough patch, etc.). This can be accompanied with shock.
- Guilt: Some people feel guilt if someone close to them tries to kill themselves. They may think that they could have prevented it and that they didn’t do enough to do that. Some parents feel as though they failed as a parent.
- Denial: This is a common reaction to many traumatic experiences. A parent might deny that anything is wrong with their child or they might deny the attempt altogether. If they deny it, they might try to avoid dealing with it.
- Shock: This is another common reaction and it can set in as soon as a parent finds their kid. Shock might prevent them from taking action at first or it might come up later.
- Depression: A parent might fall into a depression or at least feel sad after their child attempts suicide for various reasons, including the ones listed above.
- Obsession: Some parents will obsess with their kid for a while by monitoring their every move and not letting them be alone.
The method will also affect how a parent reacts. If a character is holding a gun to their head, a parent might feel more frantic and more fearful because a gun can cause instant death whereas a parent finding a character holding a bottle of pills will have more time to intervene. If their kid is threatening to jump off a roof, they’ll probably call the police. If their kid has some pills and hasn’t taken any yet and if the character is in therapy, they might call the therapist.
The method, the situation, and the parent’s initial reaction determines what actions they take.
- Police: Like I mentioned above, some parents might call the police. The ambulance will show up with them. The police are there for negotiations and they might be needed to restrain the suicidal person. If needed, the paramedics will start treating physical damage right away.
- Hospital: The parent might take them to the hospital themselves, if there is time. If there is no physical damage yet, they might have them admitted to the psych ward. Here is a short guide for what happens if a character ends up at the hospital after an attempt. Of course, that varies by setting and time period. The treatment depends on the method and the damage done.
- Therapist: If your character is in therapy, a parent might call that therapist. If your character is not in therapy, a parent might put them in therapy. A therapist may or may not have your character admitted, depending on the situation and how your character acts.
- Nothing: Some parents won’t do anything or will try to fix the situation themselves.
- Talking: Some parents, whether they do any of the above or not, might try to talk to their kid about what happened and why. Other times, they might try to indirectly communicate with their kid.
- Spoiling: Parents might start buying their kid anything they want or they might just give them a bunch of presents to make them feel better.
- Nothing 2: A parent might find your character’s method (prior to the attempt or if there was not enough physical damage to require medical attention) and they might not consider suicide at all. They might just ask what it’s for and leave it at whatever answer their kid gives them.
- Religion: Some people will turn to religion for help or solace. Less commonly, the person who attempted might be ridiculed if their religion sees suicide as a sin.
The relationship between parent and child will affect the actions and reactions of everyone involved, but here are some reactions the kid might go through:
- Denial: Depending on what the method was, the kid might lie about what they were doing and why, and they might get away with it.
- Fear & Anxiety: This can be a terrifying situation for anyone. Your character might be afraid of their parent when they are found and even for days, weeks, or even months after because having people know your darkest thoughts is scary. Or, they might be afraid of having to go to the hospital.
- Relief: Some people might be relieved that they were found before they went through with their attempt.
- Anger: Your character might be angry if their parent interrupts them.
Some Other Things That Influence Action and Reaction:
- Prior Knowledge: Parents who are aware of what their kid is going through might be expecting a suicide attempt, even if they don’t want to acknowledge that they are expecting it. A suicide attempt might not be as large of a shock.
- Experience: A parent who has had experience with suicidal people before might do a better job with noticing signs or with talking to a suicidal person. Certain professions, especially those that deal with teenagers, might come with knowledge of what to do in these situations.
- Relationship: The relationship between parent and child definitely influences this situation. It could strengthen their relationship or it could ruin it.
- Prior Attempt: If the character has attempted suicide once before, parents will know what to do and will know what to expect afterwards the second time around, especially in terms of medical treatment, but this might bring up more feelings of guilt in the parent if they blame themselves for their kid attempting again.
- Personal Beliefs: What a person thinks of suicide or mental illness (if your character has one) will affect their reaction. A person who does not believe in therapy or mental illness might try to avoid bringing up the situation. A person who strongly believes in therapy might force their kid into it.
What thoughts, feelings, and actions you touch on will depend on the POV and the character.
If the father tries to make the situation all about him (guilt, anger, shame, thinking he alone could have prevented it, blaming his parenting on the situation instead of other reasons, etc.) and the POV is also his, the scene might focus on his thoughts, feelings, and actions more than his kid’s.
If it’s from the kid’s POV and your character is experiencing fear or anxiety, the pacing might be slow.
You can put it in wherever as long as it’s clear that she’s bi. Here are some ways to show that:
- Within narration: If this character is your POV character and in first person, going through your characters thoughts and feelings is an easy way to show how your character is attracted to men and women. Bring it up a few times and alternate them so it doesn’t seem like she “switched”.
- Within narration 2: If you’re in third person POV, you can still do the above, but to a lesser extent. You’ll have to do more showing.
- Within dialogue: Your character can mention their sexuality or attraction in dialogue. Other characters can also bring up topics that show your character’s sexuality.
- Context: If it’s clear throughout the story that your character is attracted to men and women without the idea that she must choose between one, you should be fine with just that.
- Past relationships: Mention some past relationships that your character has had, if applicable.
- Coming out: Your character could come out or make a reference to when they came out, if applicable. This could be a “casual coming out” in which a character clarifies their sexuality to someone else in certain situations (this is common for people who are already out).
Unless you only use “my”, “me”, or “mine” while also avoiding the description of what your character is doing and any dialogue tags for your POV character, you can’t avoid using “I”.
If you’re wondering about how to avoid using “I” too much, look here.
Snarky characters are huge right now. It seems like you can’t crack a book in any genre without cracking wise in the process. Certainly no love interest is complete without a few pointed barbs that he can fling out on command, and no Strong Female Character is worth…