Creativity is fed by our experiences. The broader our experience, the richer our art. So this month I'm featuring TED. TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, three areas TED's originators believe will shape the future. Their mission is "to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation." They do that by inviting bright speakers to share their ideas in front of audiences. It's that simple. Those talks are recorded on YouTube for all to see and hear. I've been inspired by authors, artists, and entertainers, as well as technology and business pioneers. TED also hosts an educational platform, an annual youth event and TEDx, a program that allows individuals to sponsor local TED events. TEDxteen is an annual international conference, aimed at stimulating conversation between teens. This year it's happening in NY City on May 16. They're hosting an amazing lineup of speakers, including visual and performing artists, writers and all around great thinkers.
What I like most about TED is their focus on expanding minds and tearing down walls. They prohibit speakers from having agendas or messages that divide people and they forbid themed TEDx events. Instead they encourage hosts to feature speakers with a wide range of topics. You may not think you're interested in learning about physics or geology, but any subject delivered by a passionate speaker with a keen mind is worth hearing. And every drop of knowledge, every new insight, pours into your art.
Here's one of my favorite TED videos by middle grade and picture book author Mac Barnett:
My husband and I are about to bring home a new puppy. We just got a photo of her and her siblings. She's just a few weeks old, barely has her eyes open. For sure, she hasn't figured out there's a world beyond her safe crate and yard, and she has no idea, we're miles away, picking the name she'll be stuck with for the rest of her life.
Authors spend huge chunks of time worrying over character names. Not just the main character. Every person or animal that appears in more than one or two scenes is carefully considered. Does the name fit their personality? Is it too much like other names in the book? You don't want too many K sounds (for some reason I'm drawn to those) or two syllable names that end in Y or IE. Imagine a story filled with Lily, Kaley, Casey, Wylie and Bodie. By the end of the first chapter, readers would beg, "Please send one of them off!"
Some authors use lists to choose names, like the ones that suggest baby names or the sites that deal with ethnic heritage. You can Google name origins and meanings to choose a moniker that highlights a particular personality trait. If the book is set in a future or alternate world, or the characters are animals, the entire lexicon is plundered, twisted and turned to create names. Even then, you want to consider the sounds. Read them out loud. How hard are they to pronounce? Are they all short and harsh, or long and lyric? Do they fit the tone of your story and the world you've created?
I'm writing a book that has the potential to become a series and recently I realized that a very minor character could play a major role in a future book. She only appears a handful of times in the current novel. I was happy with her name. But when I envisioned reading it on every page, the name instantly annoyed me. I wonder if J.K. Rowling was ever sorry she choose the names she did? Harry Potter is such a simple, down to earth choice. But millions will never forget it and neither will she.
We've chosen one of those puppies in the photo. But we probably won't settle on a name until we meet her next month. Until then, I'll let you guess which one we chose. And stay tuned for her debut. She'll probably be a regular on the blog.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
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