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Naming characters

I just discovered this on Facebook, and I think that may be the only place you can use this technique.  If you’re stumped about what to name your characters, try this meme-y thing:

Did you know your CELL PHONE has a name? Try this:

1st step: From your mobile number, take the last 3 numbers. Example- 780-496-9684 , take “684”only

2nd step: Write this @*[684:0] in the comment box below, replacing the 3 numbers with your own. … …

3rd step: Remove the * sign and press enter in the comment box!

For the naming of characters, just make up numbers. NOTE: I’ve been informed that if the 1st of your last 3 digits is a ‘0’ it won’t work.

927= Travis M. LaVoi
647=Azzura Cox
123=Morgan Grice
456=Becky Wald
789=Matt Kozlov
233=Michael Blickstead
999=Peter Saldarriaga


Using GMC: Diana

Here’s what happened when I released my stubborn hold on who I thought my characters were.

I asked my heroine why she didn’t want to run the family gun shop. (Yes, I talked to her.  I was a little cautious about it because the notion’s kinda kooky, and I really didn’t want my kids to hear me talking to myself, so I whispered. LOL )

It works!
I asked, and she told me, “Look. I’m spending every day with my mom and she’s driving me nuts. I have to find the missing paperwork pronto or the ATF’s gonna shut her down and guess where she’ll be living?  No way, sister.  I love my mom, but I need my privacy.”

So, in the interest of showing you how I used Debra Dixon’s book, I’ll share Diana’s character info.  It still needs work, but wow! After doing her GMC chart and those of three other characters, not only was I able to write my first chapter, I knew where I was going!

NAME : Diana (gun shop co-owner/teacher) Paints every spare minute she has. Mockingbird is totem

WHO SHE IS: a self-deluding paper tiger (tough on the outside, scared within)

WHAT SHE WANTS: Starter goal:   has to find missing logbook. Get thru ATF audit. Bigger: Own her own art studio. Express herself via painting.  Keep shop from being closed.

BECAUSE: 1. Logbook has info for ATF search phone call.  2. ATF doing audit. 3. She doesn’t want her mother living with her. 4. she wants to get back to her private life

BUT: Can’t find logbook. Her mother lost additional ppw.  Her mother needs her in the gun shop. (obviously!)

INTERNAL WANTS: needs to please. Then :  to know herself;  to be regarded as ‘real’ artist; autonomy

BECAUSE: It’ll make her feel important; like she’s contributing something to the world; she’ll be expressing herself

BUT: She’s afraid:  of failure, of creating garbage, of the unknown. She doesn’t believe she has the talent; won’t put her art on display. And she’s worried her mother won’t be able to run the shop effectively by herself.

My hero’s character info is still missing the internal want/need, but I was still able to write the first chapter because I had his external want pretty clear in my head.  I’ll be tweaking both as I go.

You see how nowhere in Diana’s goals is there a wish to fall in love?  Falling in love is what happens as she’s pursuing her goals.  If falling in love were her goal, I think she’d be a weak and boring character.  I want her to have an interesting life that she ultimately invites the hero –and the reader–into.

Same goes for the hero, Mark.  His immediate desire is to plop down in his easy chair and read a book he’s been itching to read for several days but hasn’t had time for.  Problem is, his 5-year-old nephew is having trouble getting to sleep because his mother’s recently been killed in an accident.  It’s a simple conflict, and it will grow into something bigger as the story progresses.

on plotting

I have three characters clamoring to get onto the page, and I don’t care how many people say “writer, you are God,” these characters are not behaving, and they aren’t happy that I’m struggling with the plot. I know, why not just let them get onto the page and let them tell their stories?

Well, I tried that, and it was like herding cats. I have to have a plot. Part of my problem is perfectionism. I don’t want to write anything crappy. But Chris Baty, author of No Plot, No Problem, writes, “The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy” (32).  He adds, “…you should lower the bar from “best-seller” to “would not make someone vomit” (33). LOL

An exercise Baty recommends is to answer this question:  What, to you, makes a good novel?


  • An anti-hero.  Like Vachss’ Burke.
  • sexual tension
  • a mystery
  • well-researched–nothing makes me throw a book like the hero flipping the safety off a Glock.
  • snappy dialogue
  • cranky people
  • heroine with a passion for a particular thing; don’t care what it is.
  • people who awaken from ‘deadness’
  • funny situations
  • thought-provoking. (like Einstein’s Dreams, for example)
  • people who overcome adversity
  • foreshadowing
  • symbolism and metaphors

And another exercise–what bores you in a novel?

  • dialogue that goes nowhere
  • too much narrative (although I really liked Portrait of a Lady, and I love Herman Melville. Go figure.)
  • flat characters (bad guy has to have at least one redeeming characteristic)
  • improbable action
  • characters who don’t reap what they sow, good or bad. Bad enough to see that in real life.    *The Lovely Bones hit these two no-nos for me:  when the girl possesses Ruth’s body and the boy knew who she was?  Please.  And the mother abandoned the kids and slipped seamlessly back into their lives. Double please.

So where do I go from here? Back to GMC, I think.  I’m also finding this site on plotting helpful:


  • start with the status quo
  • and then something happens
  • the character commits to their goal

Go to the site to see the pages on middles and endings. Great info.

here’s what I’m working on:

Hero’s brother & wife have been murdered over a very rare gun. Hero is on the hunt for the murderer. Wants revenge.
Heroine runs a gun shop that her father willed to her and her mother.
Mother is still grieving husband’s death (it’s been a year+) and is no help to heroine; she’s also a bit like Grandma Mazur.

Well, it’s a start.

Links for Writers

I’ve been poking around the web, looking to connect with other writers.  Here are some of the sites I’ve visited and liked: (the links will be organized; right now you don’t know what you’ll be taken to, but trust me (please)–this is like tiramisu.  Every bite is delicious.)

HighSpot Inc.’s Directory of book trade people on Twitter

HighSpot Inc.’s Directory of authors on Twitter


Practicing Writing

Twitter Tips for Writers + 25 Good Follows

Archetype and CritPartnerMatch found these via Kait  Nolan (she created CritPartnerMatch, btw)



Kim’s Craft Blog

The Rejecter

Off the Shelf: Writers on Writing

StoryTellers Unplugged

Romancing the Blog

Romance Divas

Best American Poetry

Poets Who Blog

Fiction Writers Review


Nathan Bransford–Literary Agent

Chip MacGregor-Literary Agent {features Q&A for writers, among other things}

Rachelle Gardner-Literary Agent {features advice for writers, etc.}


Thematic Premise Sheet {plotting help}

Character test #1

Character test #2

Character test #3

If you know of a writer’s blog, please comment here with a brief blurb about the site.  When I have time I’ll put all the links on their own page.

A day in the life of a writer: Charting GMC

I went to Debra Dixon‘s talk at the monthly meeting of San Diego’s chapter of RWA. My novel has been stuck in chapter one because I haven’t properly charted out the GMC of the characters. Today I’m charting three characters:
hero: Mark
heroine: Diana
heroine’s mother: Betsy.

GMC stands for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Dixon says the ideas she presents are not new, but I think her book’s the only one of its kind. You can find it here:

Finally realized that the reason I’ve been struggling with Diana and Betsy is that their relationship is enmeshed.  Funny how characters try to tell you things and you just don’t listen.

this story’s been wanting to come out its own way and I’ve been trying to force it into a tiny box.

Diana is not talking to me, but Mark has spilled his guts, and so has Betsy.