I have a friend who has a terrific time coming up with names, but the names? Quite frankly, my dear… dry as a corn husk. I have another friend who dreads it, but her names roll off the end of the tongue like extra cherries at the bottom of your milkshake. They’re juicy, fit the character perfectly.

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about my obsession with cemeteries. A friend of mine works for Dachshund Dream Rescue in Atlanta & needed fresh names. Because of my crazy obsession and name banking compulsion, I sent her 200  names like Acel, Cobb, Mettie, Euphemia T. Proudfoot, Zodie, Moody, and Gillam. That was just the name bank that was on my phone.

That time of year is creeping up again, when it’s not too hot, not too cold.  I highly suggest pulling off the side of the road at an old church.  Jot down your favorite names. Add them to your name bank. You never know when you need a Mettie with a wandering eye or a Cobb who lost his foot in a war. Moody did not sell Bibles, though. I promise you. But Zodie read tea leaves in her kitchen for $5 a pop.

Another route ( if you’re spooked by cemeteries) is Ancestry.com. This summer, I discovered that I have an ancestor named Pleasant Melvin Alexander. I am so not kidding. If Ancestry.com is pricey for you, go in with a cousin and you can each explore different ends of the family under the same password.

Another way to do names is to identify the thing that most describes/embodies your character. Here are some easy examples. For a cheat or a weasel,  “Wesley”. If you have someone who seems dreamy and lives for escapism, feel free to use “Misty”. For a liar, I’ve used “Lila” and for someone who offers forgiveness, “Joshua.”

For secondary characters, sometimes nicknames-as-names work best to remind the reader of that character’s role in the story. Say the Dad is enthusiastic and older and fast-talking, instead of calling him “Dad”, call him “Pop”. A sweet aunt can be “Aunt Sugar”, especially in the Southern US. For an aunt who cleaned until her fingers cracked, I have used “Aunt Blanche”.

There are a gazillion ways to go about this, I’d be interested in hearing yours!

As writers we are not only drawn to the interesting, it is the quirky and odd that inspires us. Sometimes we get caught up in our research, spending hours following rabbit trails to insanely pursue new nuggets of information that only a handful of souls would ever find noteworthy, believing that one more click will somehow unlock the missing piece in our manuscripts.

Or, we’re just nerds. At one point, we were Helen Keller, and now, with Wikipedia as our personal Annie Sullivan, we have found W-A-T-E-R.

When I am in this zone, scarfing down chips and salsa, my kids have been told only to interrupt if there are broken limbs (theirs) or blood (gushing, not oozing) or something is on fire (three foot flames only).

Summer is my favorite time for research because I drag my kids along and call it a field trip. The Hernando De Soto national memorial? Thomas Edison’s summer home? Uh…Ron Jon Surf Shop?

This summer I visited Mobile, AL and walked through a cemetery created for victims of yellow fever. Guess what? Right beside it sat the Mobile Historical Society. Fully air-conditioned, thank heavens. It is so easy to lose track of time when you’re surrounded by the scent of old paper and Murphy’s oil soap.

My friends know they are in trouble when 1) they haven’t heard from me in a few days and 2) they call me and I say, “Of course I’m fine! Why wouldn’t I be fine?” then the next words out of my mouth are 3) “Did you know…?”

So, now we have returned to the beginning of another school year and what have we learned? What trails have we followed (or stumbled upon) that can be applied to our WIP?

The one thing I’ve learned is that Google Chrome doesn’t have a really good FAVORITES button. There are no folders, either. It’s annoying. If anyone has figured out how to save more than five things at a time, please let me know. I put my thirteen year old on it and even offered him money, but so far, no dice.