Thursday, February 22, 2018

Naming your Love Interest

Whenever I hear a good name, I try and memorise it in case it fits one of my future characters, much like some people do with future children. There's nothing I love more than finding the perfect name for my protagonist and knowing it's "the one." (It also provides hours of procrastination instead of actually writing...) But how do you find their perfect name?

When naming the love interest, I used to try and find a name that "went well" with my protagonist’s, but I quickly realised I was going about it all wrong. Your love interest will only work if they are a well-rounded character of their own BEFORE they meet your protagonist. Which means they need to have a name that stems from them (or their parents) rather than anything to do with your protag. Of course, if your protagonist is obsessed with a certain name, then your love interest's name might actually stem from them, but that's a rare event that I've only ever seen used in the genius play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Choosing a name

Your character's full, official name would have come from their parents or legal guardians (we'll come back to nicknames), so you need to consider their heritage and parents' backgrounds. That includes race, religion, geographical background, social status, parents' values and even trends at the time when your character's parents would have been choosing their child's name. There's nothing worse than a 'Zane' popping up in a historical period novel.

British surnames often stemmed from old professions, so they are very important to consider when naming your characters. Even in fantasy, you have to know where your characters' surnames come from. Different cultures have different naming systems, such as "firstname" of "family name" or "father's name." If you do your research before choosing your characters' naming system, you can make sure their heritage is properly represented through the positioning or lack of a surname.

Nickname/chosen name
This is where you can solely look at your character and show what they think of themselves. Do they flaunt their given name, instead takeing a ludicrous nickname in rebellion of their parents/cultural expectations/ social standing/ political alignments? Are they trying to be ironic? Do they want to stand out so take an unusual nickname? Or are they in fact trying to blend in? A character's chosen nickname can reveal a lot about his or her personality in just one word. Contrast it to their given name and you open up another revealing window into their world view.

Given nickname
For obvious reasons, any nicknames that are given to your love interest (or any character) by others reveals how they are perceived by the world and therefore can hint at their character traits to the reader without having to expose them completely right away.

Although your love interest will have realistically been named by someone else, you can do a Charles Dickens and hint at their personality through their given name. After all, most people suit their names, right? Think about sounds and connotations when trawling through that baby names website. Soft sounds like "S" and "F", will evoke different ideas of a character's personality than harder sounds like "K" or "T". Same rule with vowels and consonants.

Of course, you might want to invert all of this and call your character something that totally flaunts the rules! But the point is, you'll know why you're doing it, and that will show through in your writing. And as you might have noticed, this post could be related to any character, not just the love interest, but it's February and the theme is love so...... enjoy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Compiling a swoon-worthy love interest

A small note first before I kick off into my post. I've been absent from posting with YAtopia for a while. On one hand, I am sorry to my fellow YAtopians and readers, but on the other hand, I needed to take time out for some self care. I'm not in a position to talk about what's happened in my life over the past six months or so, but there's been some major changes and adjustments, and my head hasn't been in writing or blog posts. But I'm back, and hopefully the words will keep flowing.

So, swoon-worthy love interests and how do you put them together. You take a a dash of humour, a hot-looking guy with caring tendencies.

When I was writing Ryder, I did a search online and ended up with finding a picture of a guy called Daniel Conn, a tattooed rugby league player from Australia. He formed the basis of Ryder's looks for my character profiles, and I went with it from there. And you can see what I went with for promo material below for his character.

Then his personality. Well, shamelessly I did draw a lot from my husband. We have this playful teasing banter (and as I write this he just made a 'what?' joke - a standard for when we want someone to make less noise), and I went with that for the dynamics between Mishca and Ryder. And one of the grammar jokes I stole from my sister, who is an English teacher.

Started with those basics, I let Ryder's character take himself where he needed to. And honestly, I didn't expect how much 'Team Ryder' readers would be. I don't think anyone is Team Colin (poor Colin - he's the reason the story exists).

You can find out more about Ryder in DIVIDED...


Sharon M. Johnston (right) at the launch of SHATTERED

Sharon M. Johnston is an author from sunny Queensland, Australia. She writes YA and NA SciFi and Fantasy, and other genres mashed up together. Yo can find her on Twitter.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Stelena Will Always Be Swoon Worthy

The theme for February blog posts is swoon worthy, and I’d like to discuss one of the most swoon worthy couples from pop culture—Stelena (Stefan and Elena) from the television show The Vampire Diaries (TVD). A television show can still be a good learning tool for writing a YA romance because the audience of TVD is YA.

One thing that makes Stelena a swoon worthy relationship, and more epic couple than Delena (Damon and Elena) is that Stelena had more substance. From the second Delena got together in Season 4, they just kept hitting the sheets—as if that is a substitute for Damon ever becoming a better person or for a substance to develop in their relationship. That is not to say that sexual content is bad. It isn’t. And it deserves its place in pop culture (including YA pop culture)—but sex does not equal a relationship. So, while Stelena might not have hit the sheets that often when they date, at least they have substantial scenes—like when Stefan reveals to Elena that he’s a vampire (early on in Season 1) because he doesn’t want to lie (despite how he might risk alienating Elena).

Another reason why Stelena is a swoon worthy couple is because they are not toxic. When Elena is with Damon, she’s a different person. Sure. An argument can be made that being with Elena makes Damon a better person. But Elena should not become a different person just because of the man she’s dating. For example, part of the way she becomes a different person is that she no longer cares about morality when she’s with Damon. Like in Season 5 when Damon once again threatens the safety of Elena’s brother, Jeremy, yet Elena doesn’t seem bothered. Also, the old mantra, “if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s duck” applies. In Season 4 Episode 23, Elena admits her choice to be with Damon is probably going to be the biggest mistake of her life. Well, news flash: but that’s not exactly a good thing to feel about a relationship. Furthermore, viewers see Stefan’s morality because he puts being a good person above dating Elena when he bargains with Klaus for his blood so Damon’s fatal werewolf bite can heel. That kind of deed reveals character since Stefan puts his brother’s wellbeing over his romantic desires.

Respect is another important element of a swoon worthy relationship. And I’m not just talking about consent with sex. Consent applies to other situations too. For instance, towards the end of Season 2, Stefan didn’t force feed Elena vampire blood so she can come back to life when she is in danger, yet Damon force feeds Elena his blood despite her not wanting to be a vampire. Sorry. That’s gross. Respect is also present after Stefan and Elena break up. He never challenges her decision to be with Damon whereas Damon never respects boundaries and always flirts with Elena when she dates Stefan from Seasons 1 to the beginning of Season 4. The contrast is clear. Life does become grey at points, but not to at the expense of disrespecting boundaries.

Anyway, the above is just my initial thoughts about why Stelena is more swoon worthy than Delena, as I have barely scratched the surface on the topic. The point is, having a good guy as a love interest should not be frowned upon when writing YA fiction. Sometimes the nice guy really is the better man.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day and Fictional Romance


This day inevitably makes people reflect on failed partnerships, new love, and relationship goals, but depending on whether you’re a fan of romance, or detest sappy displays of affection, you most likely love or hate this holiday. If you’re a relationship addict or vehemently anti-romance is probably reflected in your reading choices, as well.

Even though I rarely read or write romance, most every story has an element of love as a major or minor plot point, so let’s review a few common relationship tropes:

This is pretty common in YA, yet it’s probably the least favorite type of relationship by most readers. You’ve seen it before: girl walks in a room and instantly locks eyes with the perfectly gorgeous guy in the corner. They inevitably have an encounter and it’s love at first sight. Although this can happen in real life, when it’s used in fiction, the tension that can build between two people you are rooting to become a couple, but just can’t seem to get it together, is lacking.

Forbidden/Tragic Love
ROMEO AND JULIET is the quintessential example of this type of relationship, and many books have been based off this theme since. Love that can never be, because of family or cultural differences, location challenges, or loyalty to someone else, be it a current partner or best friend, makes for a heart-rending read.

The Love Triangle
We’ve all seen this millions of times in every story-telling medium, and it is especially common in YA. It can be maddening for readers who prefer one love interest to handle the MC choosing the other, as oftentimes the reader will become fiercely committed to one potential partner—think Team Edward and Team Jacob. Although not a book, the most frustrating love triangle I can remember was the Sawyer/Kate (Skate) and Jack/Kate (Jate) triangle in the TV series, Lost. I was Skate all the way and sadly lost (no pun intended) to Jate. 

Unrequited Love
Nothing can be more heartbreaking (or frustrating) than unrequited love. Everyone’s heart bleeds for the sweet nerd who’s had a crush on the Homecoming Queen ever since Kindergarten, but can’t muster the nerve to even talk to her. Other situations where characters might keep romantic feelings bottled up could be their love interest is already in a relationship, fear of coming out, or the knowledge that it would betray a friendship. When unrequited love becomes reciprocated, however, it’s almost always a heart-warming turn of events.

Doomed Love
Think A FAULT IN OUR STARS, and many of the similar books that followed. Doomed love is tragic and soul-crushing, yet there’s something sweetly romantic about two people sharing their last moments together.

Hate to Love
He thinks she’s annoying, she thinks he’s a total dick. They can’t stand each other at first, but thrust into a situation where they’re forced to spend time together, eventually this hate turns to passion, and sparks fly.

These are just a few examples of situational relationships and romantic themes in non-romance fiction. Are any of these topics your favorite, or are any of the above devices you can’t stand? Do you have any book recommendations that use one or more of these themes well? Please leave your thoughts in in the comments below and have a happy, romance-filled Valentine’s day!