Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's in a name?

Have you ever thought about how writers come up with names for their characters or titles for their stories? When I write my stories, I choose the names of my characters very carefully. I think about the environment surrounding them, the purpose they'll have in the story, and their connection to other characters. Sometimes I get inspired by people I know. Other times I like to use names that are symbolic. For instance, one of my characters’ name is Yesim which means jade in Turkish. I chose that name because one, she lives in Turkey, and two, there’s a connection to this precious stone. The names of characters may have significance so choose wisely. It also depends on the genre of your story. Sometimes a name echoes an adjective or idea. You could also use anagrams (words made from the letters of another word) to make it interesting, e.g. heart is earth. You could choose names from literature or poetry (Ophelia, Juliette, Jane Eyre). I love using strong names with strong significance. One of my heroines is named Beatrice after Dante’s character in Divina Commedia. A character’s first name, nickname, or how he/she will be called throughout the story is the most important naming decision. Choose a catchy name that fits the character and rises out of his specific environment. Keep in mind that unusual names and nicknames can add color and flavor to the character. A unique name can make a character unforgettable. However, don’t use names that are hard to pronounce. It keeps people from getting close to your characters. And last but not least, choose a good title. A bad title will reflect on the story no matter how good your writing is. Someone once said, "Words have meaning and names have power."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Protect your work and yourself

I was compelled to write this post because I am always careful of what I write or who I quote. A few days ago, a fellow writer asked me about getting credit for her small contribution in a book. I couldn't give her the nitty-gritty on this subject. So, I decided to do some research of my own. The moment you write your story, play, book, etc., it is yours, therefore it is copyrighted. The gist of it as one of my mentors put it, titles, phrases, words, cannot be copyrighted. Your work, on the other hand, can be. If you don't want to do it the long way through the Copyright Board of Canada then just mail your work to yourself and DO NOT open the envelope. This simple action makes it your own and yes, copyrighted. Also make sure that you do not confuse "trademark" with "copyright". The definition of both is: "A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Trademarks, copyrights and patents all differ. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention."
Both copyrights and trademarks can be registered with the government, but neither is required to be registered in order to be valid. No notice of copyright is legally required on a creative work. A copyright exists as soon as a work is created, and automatically belongs to the creator.
Even though registration of copyrights and trademarks isn't legally required, it is highly recommended. Registering makes proof of ownership easy to identify. It prevents confusion and protects a claim, especially in court.

For more information on this, visit Copyright Board of Canada at:

For the Canadian Copyright Act visit:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What makes a good story?

I found a great article by Chris King in Storytelling Power. These are key points that will help our average stories become good stories, and in turn, compelling to our readers. Let me pass on what Mr. King wrote.
A good story is one that touches people in some way.
  • A really good story has a sense of truth and resonates with some basic universal aspects of being human.
  • It doesn't have to be profound, but a good story should move the listener, make him/her laugh, think, and ponder it afterward.
A good story has to have substance.
  • If the skeletal structure is strong and it fits snugly, chances are you have a good story.
  • Sometimes the story has lots of pieces, but no deep truth running through it -no backbone or substance.
A good story needs conflict and resolution.
  • Strong stories usually have a well-defined main character that encounters some kind of trouble (conflict).
  • It is the believable action moving the story from beginning to middle to end that keeps the audience entranced. They want to know what's going to happen.
A good story creates vivid images.
  • We want the readers to imagine their own images that relate to them and their experiences as the story unfolds.
  • If our stories help the listener to think of his/her own stories, we have succeeded in igniting a storytelling spark.
A good story is not "wimpy."
  • A wimpy story is one that points toward something very obvious, that doesn't have resonance inside, that doesn't provide an experience.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Can we save the pen from death row?

It seems it was just yesterday we were still using typewriters, pagers, floppy disks, and cassettes. This morning, while I was jotting down ideas for a short story, I wondered if the pen will suffer the same fate and become obsolete. What’s a writer to do without a pen? Imagine a ballerina dancing without music or an artist painting without a brush. The mere thought of losing the pen to technology makes me cringe. To me, the perfect image of a writer’s relationship with a pen is that of Josephine “Jo” March in Little Women (one of my favorite books and movies). I loved how the ink from her steel nib pen had stained her fingers so much it became her trademark. Unlike Jo, I don’t stain my fingers because I type my stories. But there’s always a tradeoff: in this case ink for carpal tunnel syndrome. At least people knew Jo was a writer when they saw her inky fingers. Me? I go incognito all the time. When my wrists give out and my fingers drag on the keyboards, I take two Tylenols and grab a dear pen instead. What a break that is! Long live the pen!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't be's only a blog

I was inspired to write this post because a friend told me he wants to follow me but he couldn't figure out how. Computers can be daunting gadgets and it seems that sometimes they have a mind of their own (see the Ziggy comic strip I chose, courtesy of Tom Wilson and Tom II). When we think we've finally figured out how to write and send an e-mail, they come up with something else, yes, like blogging. We can't keep up with technology. That's why we have friends, and in this case, bloggers to help you out. For those of you new to blogging, I'll walk you through the steps to following me (not literally but following my blog). Let's get started! 1) With your mouse, scroll down to half the page. On the right-hand side you'll see the literary events, my word and quote of the day, continue scrolling down until you see announcements. Below, you'll see a button that says FOLLOW. 2) Click on it. It'll give you a choice of accounts you may already have such as Google, Twitter, Yahoo, etc. 3) Click on the icon of the account you already have to sign in. Once it asks you to sign in with your account, then you're set to go. You can post comments, take my poll, and you can follow me. Give it a try! It's easy and fun. Don't let this old blog intimidate you, as that's what it is, old because tomorrow will bring you SUPER BLOG and you won't know what to do with yourself. Blog away!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our responsibility as writers

I discovered this small tree (see right) on the eighth floor of a well-known downtown building in Montreal. It was love at first sight. This unassuming tree stands alone surrounded by cold marble tiles, cement slabs, and gigantic glass panes. Its remarkably weaved trunk marveled me, making me forget about the haughty building I was in. Unfortunately, we often forget about the important role trees play in our writing world. Look around in your office, your house, your room, and you’ll notice that many things are made out of paper. Yet, we don’t stop to think that these items came from trees. For instance, in the US alone, 749 pounds of paper are consumed per person per year. That’s a massive 187 billion pounds per year for the entire US population. Nearly four billion trees or 35% of the total of trees cut around the world are used in paper industries on every continent. Think about it, FOUR billion trees, and still counting! My blog is not to preach to anyone, but to remind you to be mindful of one’s responsibility as writers. This spring, let’s make it a goal to plant a tree, and don’t forget to print responsibly!

For more information, please visit:

Monday, March 22, 2010

The power of reading

So far I have only talked about writing. How about reading? You can’t have one without the other. As a child, I remember seeing political books stacked on my father’s nightstand and the classics on my mother’s side. My mother taught me how to read before I even started kindergarten. She taught me that I could meet wonderful characters and escape to magnificent places on the pages of books. She introduced me to the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales. They were my favorite! She would sit with me and tell me about her favorite books: Arabian Nights, Papillon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wuthering Heights, to name a few. I’m glad I took after my mother. I could never write a book about politics. My love of writing developed out of my love of reading. And I’m still honing my writing skills through the wonderful experience of reading.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Don't whine. Just write!

A lot of us complain that we don’t have time to write. However, we’re baffled when we learn a fellow writer published a story, started writing a book, or wrote three stories last month. “How do you do it?” We ask. Does this sound familiar? Yep! I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I hate to admit it, but I used to procrastinate and neglect my writing when life threw me a curve ball. Before, I used to sulk and blame everyone but myself. But I learned that complaining didn’t solve anything. This negative attitude only brought me down and blurred my creativity. Writers are like plants. We need to get rid of the weed around us in order to bloom. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve rearranged my schedule in a way that I can incorporate my writing as part of my daily life. A professor once told me that all we need is ten minutes of writing every day to turn it into a habit. Write about anything, just write! And here I am writing a blog. Blogging is a little investment and the profit shall be a book. Fellow writers, I am not saying that what works for me it’ll work for you. I’m just reminding you that if you’re serious about this craft then make it a part of your life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why do we need a thick skin to survive in the writing world?

Nobody said that writing was easy. Good writing, I mean. Unfortunately, no one tells you that if you commit to be a writer, you're signing a contract to give up your own skin for something thicker like an alligator's (Not literally!). Nobody, personne, nessuno, nadie, mentions the ugly side of writing. Behold fellow writers! Being the next Hemingway, Camus, or Frost doesn't secure success in writing. It takes perseverance, patience, and diplomacy. Especially diplomacy! But most importantly, it takes meeting the right people, the very people that could pave the road to your success as a writer. I am talking about editors, publishers, agents, teachers, dealers, retailers, and let's not forget your friends. Have you ever seen an alligator wearing kids' gloves? It sounds funny, n'est-ce pas? But that's what you'll have to become in order to survive in this business, and we're not even in Florida! I'll leave you with some wise words from Winston Churchill, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
Point number seven applies to us writers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finding our daily muse

We don't need to ask Minerva, the Roman goddess of poetry and wisdom to guide us every time we need inspiration. We all find our muse in different places. For me, I usually find it in nature. Today it was different though. My students asked me if they could be characters in my next short story. I told them that as a writer I expect myself to turn anything or anyone into my muse. If they are reading this blog, they'll find out that they did inspire me. I might use some of their traits and personalities for my next hero/heroine. In the meantime, I tell my fellow writers to read a lot. Anything. Just read! If you're suffering from writer's block, go for a walk. Join a writers' group. I did! Go to a cultural event, a museum, a poetry reading, even a concert. And finally, come out of your shell, do something outside the norm, you'll be amazed at how quickly the ideas come flowing in.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

To self-publish or not to publish, that is the question

Two years ago, I attended a mini-workshop on the many aspects of publishing. We all had a burning question in mind: Is it better to go the conventional way? The moderator advised us to get an agent. He told us that by doing so, we'll have more chances of being acknowledged by a publisher. It's easier said than done, I thought. I know a fellow writer that went the unconventional way: self-publishing. Her book is doing great. That being said, I am not advising anyone to opt for the latter even though this is becoming a common practice among aspiring writers nowadays. We all know that going mainstream without an agent is difficult while self-publishing is the cheaper and easier route to get our books published.

Doing research this afternoon, I came across an interesting video from Forward Press on self-publishing. Check it out:

For self-publishing, check out:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hemingway once said...

"Good writing is true writing." I agree with that 100%. Writing comes naturally to me. The ideas flow like blood from my brain to my fingers. The editing process on the other hand is grueling and tedious. That's why I am thankful for being part of my writing group. They are my backup system when frustration takes the better part of me. Edit, edit, edit...and edit some more! It's the first step to the journey of good writing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My first post

I am happy to share my new blog with my family, friends, mentors, and writing community. I finally took the plunge! It was not easy as I had my reservations about blogging. A fellow writer encouraged me to create my own blog...and here it is!