Snyder’s Strengths

Maris Snyder is who I would describe as a new adult author with a quick-writing style. I’ve always been a fan of her because of how quick her books move, always fast-paced action, her writing always direct and to the point. And this book is no different.

Shadow Study is meant to continue Yelena’s and Valek’s plot line—the Poison Study series, and while I wonder if it’s one of the last, it definitely leaves the series open enough to continue. (I won’t spoil the ending.)

But in the manner of reflection, there’s a few high points I want to focus on.

1. Using nicknames to denote character familiarity

Onoro had disappeared into the forest. probably climbing a tree. And then he wondered when he’d stopped thinking of her as Little Miss Assassin. (238)

I love how her characters can be humorous and annoying. She does annoying so well, which makes me wonder about her personality, ha. But what I particularly like about this section, is how she shows Janco calling Onoro nicknames, slowly fading it out until you realize, when did he stop? It forces you to go back and look.

2. Using cliffhangers to keep you reading

I hesitated. A dagger slammed into the ground near me.

“Let go or my next knife will not miss.”

<end of chapter> (249)

This is how almost every one of her chapters end—with a huge cliffhanger. It definitely pushes you to keep reading, always advancing the tension with what happens next? It definitely gets old after a while, especially if you make it to obvious. I know there was cringe-worthy cliffhanger, ending with, ‘when he took off his mask, she gasped. She never could’ve guessed it was end.’ Or, something along those lines. Either way, withholding his name, kinda mean for the reader.

3. Using flashbacks to elaborate the relationships between characters

“…Get me the name of the patron and I won’t go after the assassin.”

“And why would I do that?”

Time for the ace. “because you owe me a favor and I’m collecting.” (256)

What I really liked this is that throughout the book, I was questioning why Valek kept having flashbacks. It was a smooth blending in and out, to the point where I had to go back and reread the transition, but I kept wondering is, why now? It’s interesting and all, but what’s the point? Until…I got to scenes like these, where she would reference the past. And here is where I was grateful for the flashbacks. I felt like such a insider after I witnessed them.

4. Using multiple perspectives to show where readers hoard knowledge

Kiki slowed as a wagon appeared, traveling toward them. Odd. (374)

In the previous chapter, we saw Yelena strapped to the wagon, after she had been kidnapped, so seeing her boyfriend riding her horse, her horse figuring out Yelena was there, it was quite mind-blowing as a reader. It makes you want to stand in your seat, waving your arms, pointing the wagon and saying, Go save her you nincompoop! Too bad he never figured it out…Either way! It was a fun scene. Made you feel like you had insider’s knowledge.

Synder, M. V. Shadow Study. Don Mills, Canada: MIRA Books, 2015. Print.

Your name is…

‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.’ – Shakespeare

And he’s right. You can call something a million different names, and it doesn’t change the object. By names like words carry visual images, interpretations that we can’t always anticipate as the audience struggles to understand that which they have been introduced.

For instance, when I say Mary, you automatically think of a girl.

If I say Jim, you think of a boy.

These names already come with connotations, just like any name you might here, and choosing your own name for your writing is as important as the writing itself. It has driven many authors to either choose something asexual, something ambiguous that may not carry culture connotations. Authors may choose a name that seems more fitting with the genre, which can prompt male writers to choose feminine names when writing romance, because the stereotype is females write better romance than males.

A few questions and arguments borrowed from other sites:

  1. Are you comfortable with your name in publicity? – Writing World
  2. Is your gender/culture met with prejudice? – BBC
  3. What is the stereotypical name/persona in your genre? – Writing World
  4. Do you need to switch genres? Change reputations?- BBC
  5. Is your name memorable? Or too common? – Writing World
  6. Where will your name be shelved? – Writing World

This is a very common topic, and it has been approached on Goodreads. I’ll put some of those top comments here – or at least what I find most interesting.

  • To be shelved next to a popular author
  • To be shelved by their favorite author
  • To be more memorable
  • To hide their family/background
  • To fit their name with their genre/settings – older names for older fictions, newer names for younger fictions
  • To fit the stripper trend of middle name + street name of first home (just to be funny, I think)
  • Change only last name so it’s easier to respond to public outings
  • Avoid hatemail/prejudice from a very touchy subject

My best advice would be look to your common genre first and choose a name to fit that, unless you’re comfortable with your own.

Naming Your Characters: Part 2

I’ve mentioned this before – here – and I’ll mention it again. Names are so important! I guess not all authors feel the same way, but I’ve definitely spent a lot of time on choosing the names for my characters. But before I give all my secrets away, let me review a favorite option of mine!

Option 4: Naming based on occupations

I would tell you the names of the other three, if it mattered, but only the surveyor would last more than the next day or two. Besides, we were always discouraged from using names: We were meant to be focused on our purpose, and “anything personal should be left behind.” Names belonged to where we had come from, not to who we were while embedded in Area X. (Vandermeer 7)

This was such a strong impacting paragraph for me. Before this, the biologist had named her peers as surveyor, psychologist, and anthropologist, and when I came to the next paragraph, the one shown above, I learned that the characters had names before they came to Area X, but it wasn’t seen as worth it while you were in the area. Names were abandoned like personal items, in hopes of giving teams more purpose and focus instead of on their individuality. This also gave me a lot of information about the biologist: she didn’t see her peers as important enough to name. It shows how introverted she is, and she doesn’t get along with people.

So by renaming the characters within a book, we get additional information about the plot or background within it.

This brings me to the next option!

Option 5: Renaming your characters

This is especially good if your characters go through a rebirth, for lack of a better term. In this case, the biologist was re-birthed when she entered Area X. This is quite similar to the other technique used in The Galaxy Game, where characters had nicknames depending on their peers, family, teachers – all the different social circles they interacted with. Again, this gives readers a lot of background information about your characters, like hints to specific qualities.

Vandermeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print.

Naming Your Characters

In response to yesterday’s posts, I’d like to show the variations of naming your characters. These are by no means rules, but hopefully they gives you a variety of different possibilities and options. Just like naming your children, it’s ultimately up to you.

Option 1: Name through actions

“His name was O’Sheean, but they called him Sugar-Boy because he ate sugar. Every time  he went to a restaurant he took all the cube sugar there was in the bowl. He went around with his pockets stuffed with sugar cubes, and when he took one out to pop into his mouth you saw little pieces of gray lint sticking to it…” (6)

This is from All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Self-explanatory.

Option 2: Name base on origins

A daughter named Marsha, a father named Marshal – notice that these two characters have related names, showing not only their relationships, but both of these characters are Martians, as in from or living on Mars. This is another option for writers, using cultures or origins to name your characters. In this case, it works, and it’s a nice little detail for readers that figure out the connections.

From Elysian Dreams by BJ Neblett.

Option 3: Name base on cultures

I never figured out where these names come from, and if anyone finds a related article, feel free to share. But, characters in The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord have the following names: Adafydd, Dllenahkh, Tlaxce, Maenevastraya, etc. There are also names of some characters where the first and last name are molded together such as Suyanahaneki, meaning she is from the haneki family line, but her first name is taken from the first half. It makes for very interesting introductions and adds realism to your story, by giving the characters their own languages/culture.

Option 4: Name based on occupations

This is by far one of my favorites because I’m known to do this – I can be reluctant to name my characters – and it’s very simple to remember while a defining their characteristics. In Station Eleven by Emily Mandel, there is a theatre troupe, where the musicians are named after their instruments.

“They’d left Charlie and the sixth guitar…” (43)

“Start, for example, with the third cello…” (46)

“…there weren’t actually seven guitars in the Symphony, but the guitarists had a tradition of not changing their numbers when another guitarist died or left, so that currently the Symphony roster included guitars four, seven, and eight, with the location of the sixth presently in question…” (46)

There were guitarists, flutes, violins, each with their own characteristics, including personalities and personal wars against different individual musicians. I think these names were enhanced by Mandel’s strong characterization, stereotyping the instruments and individual players not as individuals but by their relationships with each other. It’s a quick way to add depth without spending forever on each of their backgrounds or goals.

But, these are only a few of the options. Feel free to pick and choose what works best for you! And, don’t forget, as with The Galaxy Game, your characters can have nicknames. Different people can call your characters by different names, and that’s okay. It only adds to the realism.

Lord, Karen. The Galaxy Game. New York, NY: Del Rey, 2015. Print.

Mandel, Emily. Station Eleven. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Print.

Neblett, BJ. Elysian Dreams. Chandler, AZ: Brighton Publishing, 2011. Print.

Warren, Robert. All the King’s Men. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1996. Print.