A Trip to the Zoo

I have two reason why you’re getting a rambling post about how I spent yesterday rather than a nice, neat article:

1) NaNoWriMo

50,000 words in 30 days = one novel, and not much sleep. I’ve done it twice before, and I’m trying again this year with a Young Adult novel full of super humans (click to visit my writer’s website). I’m prepared with enough Lindt hazelnut truffles to reward myself every 5,000 words (plus a few extras, just in case).

2) Zoo Day!

Months ago we got half-price tickets to the Columbus Zoo, and just never seemed to find time to use them. Then we realized they expired in February, and it wasn’t getting any warmer, so we went yesterday. It was so cold that most of the South-Asian and African animals weren’t out, but the predators were very active.

Amur leopards
the Amur leopards were moving too fast for my camera

Very, very active, in some cases. The brown bears were chasing each other all over their exhibit, my family saw a tiger try to pounce on one guy through the glass, and there was a cheetah stalking a child being pulled in a wagon.

brown bears
huge brown bears

We also saw an extremely rare creature — an awake koala. They sleep 22 hours a day if given the chance, and I think this is the only time I’ve ever seen one moving.

hungry koala

I’d say the dinosaurs were even more rare, but they weren’t moving much. Didn’t even try to snatch a tourist out of the boat ride, so I suspect they were animatronic.

it's a dinosaur
It’s a dinosaur!

The aquarium in Columbus might not be huge by public aquarium standards, but it’s certainly one of the most impressive at a zoo. I love the manatees. Columbus and Cincinnati are the only aquariums in the U.S. outside of Florida that help with manatee rescue and rehabilitation.

Stubby can’t be released into the wild because of propeller damage to her fluke and an autoimmune disease that affects her skin

And last but not least … I found a yurt!

yurt, a.k.a. one of the cutest structures known to man
yurt, a.k.a. one of the cutest structures known to man

Thank You For Your Service

Dear Service men and women,

“Thank you” isn’t something I’m likely to tell you in person. I’m not someone who will walk up to you in a store or on the street and express my gratitude for your service to this country, but it’s not because I’m ungrateful. It’s because 1) I don’t usually even say “Hi” to people I recognize unless they see me first, and 2) I don’t like people striking up random conversations with me, so I assume in the absence of definite evidence to the contrary that you won’t either. My modus operandi is to smile (just to make sure you don’t think I’m one of those I-hate-you-because-you-wear-that-uniform people) and then let you go along uninterrupted with whatever brought you here.

So, here’s a long overdue “Thank you” presented in the best way I know how — writing. Thank you to the people throughout our nation’s history who died for our freedom and for the freedom of people in other countries, like my grandpa’s brother who didn’t come home from WWII. To the people who did come home like my great Uncle Bob, who never called himself a war hero and most people didn’t know until his obituary that he was awarded the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster and five bronze stars. To my Grandpa, who’s latest reminiscence about his exciting Navy life was about being disciplined for letting himself get sunburned. To the families who are praying for their dear ones overseas, and for the families who have lost someone they love. To the children who Skype with Mommy and Daddy because it will be months before they see them in person. To those currently serving overseas and those who are about to ship-out, like my family’s newly-wed friend whose wife cannot accompany him to South Korea. And to those of you here, who I walk past with a smile. We are praying for you, and we thank you.

The Power of Names

A friend of mine wrote a post about names last week that provided the inspiration for this post (he doesn’t post very often, but everything he writes is worth reading. Check out his blog here). He didn’t cover any of my main points — he took the discussion in a Biblical direction that I’m largely going to ignore for this post, but which I certainly find intriguing.

It has been several years now since I started researching names and wondering about the importance of name meanings. The meaning of my own name is hard to pin down, and searching for its origins lead me to looking up names of people I know, which lead me to collecting other names that I like.

Meaning of Names

In many cultures, names are something to be taken very seriously. Sometimes it is the meaning of the name which is important in determining a child’s destiny and character. Sometimes names are changed after a major event in a person’s life, as when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sara (Gen. 17:4-6, 15-16). Some belief systems say that knowing someone’s name gives one power over them, and certain cultures make a practice of keeping true names a secret.

“The Power of Names”by marissabaker.wordpress.comMy own name has a confusing array of meanings. My mother tells me she saw the meaning “wished-for child” and that was what she thought my name meant when she and my dad named me. Since then, I have seen several different possible meanings for “Marissa” depending on which name/word it is derived from. If it is from the Hebrew mara, my name means “bitterness.” If it is from the Latin maris, then my name means “of the sea.” The “wished-for child” meaning is apparently associated with the Hebrew in some way, but I can find little information on it. Usually, I go with “of the sea” as my name meaning.

Naming Characters

I think part of the reason I like reading about, collecting, and researching names so much is that I’m a writer and all my characters need names. Some writers pay very close attention to the names they give their characters, and fit either the meaning or a historic significance to the character. For example, the character Cecil in A Room With A View by E.M. Forster is figuratively blind in many ways. His name is of Latin origin, and means “blind.”“The Power of Names”by marissabaker.wordpress.com

In my own writings, one of my favorite characters is a man named Bryant. His name is from the Irish, and means “strong, virtuous, and honorable.” From another story set in the same world, Jamen has a name derived from Benjamin and meaning “son of the right hand.” He and his twin brother are vying for their father to name one his heir, and Jamen would like nothing more than to be his father’s right hand.

My Favorite Names

Some of the names I collect have nothing to do with my fiction. There are a few names I like that I would be hesitant to use in my writings because I might like to give the name to a child some day. I don’t think I would want want my children to think I named them after one of my fictional characters. Typically for these names, I try to put them together so the first and middle names have meanings that fit together. Most of them are just names I like, but Eileen was also my Grandmother’s name and Renee is my sister’s middle name.

“The Power of Names”by marissabaker.wordpress.comJason Alexi. “God is my salvation and protector”

Christopher Hugh. “One who holds Christ in his heart, mind and soul”

Derek Callen. “Ruler and rock of the people.”

Eliana Eileen. “My God has answered with light”

Melody Chasia. “Music protected by God”

Liya Renee. “I am the Lord’s reborn”

It’s NaNoWriMo Time!

National Novel Writing Month is well underway, and I am happy to report I have not yet fallen behind. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a single month (which requires 1,667 words per day). I completed NaNoWriMo in 2011 while taking a full class load, working part time, and writing my undergraduate research thesis, so this year can’t be any harder, right?

This year, I very cleverly decided to begin NaNoWriMo by going to a church lock-in over the weekend. I frantically wrote 3,400 words on Friday, and wrote another 1,383 on the drive home before my laptop battery died (and another 1,100 before I went to bed). I was surprised how much I could write after only 3 hours of sleep (maybe 4 if you count the nap in the car).  I’m not going back to re-read for quality until after November is done, but the quantity part I was able to manage.

If you’re interested in the story I’m writing, you can look me up on the NaNo website under the name ‘linnon.am.meleth.vin’, or check out my writing blog under the pseudonym Maris McKay, where I’ve been writing about outlining my NaNo novel and drawing maps for the new fantasy world.

Of Kayaking and Love Languages

image from stock.xchng

In keeping with my decision to blog every day of the Feast of Tabernacles, I’m going to share a story from a previous Feast for today’s post. I originally wrote this account to read aloud in a creative non-fiction class in 2011. The only thing I’ve edited from that version is changing the guys’ names, and my sister asked for her name to be taken out.

It was so hot in Panama City Beach that my glasses would steam up stepping outside from the air conditioned hotel. My family was there two years ago, in the fall, meeting with a church group that had chosen Florida as the location to observe the week-long Feast of Tabernacles, one of our annual Holy Days. Just a couple days into the Feast, my sister and I met two brothers, Quentin and Declan. Somehow, in the course of our conversation, the idea of kayaking on a nearby lagoon came up. Not entirely comfortable going anywhere with two guys we’d hardly known more than an hour, I was trying to politely refuse when Quentin suggested our whole family come. Well, surely he couldn’t be that dangerous if he was willing to include our Dad, Mom, and younger brother, so my sister and I agreed to the plan and invited the two brothers to eat lunch with our family in the condominium.

Of course, something had to go wrong. Mommy sliced her finger open on a can of pineapple, not too seriously, but enough to keep her from kayaking. Since she was laid-up, Daddy and my brother also stayed behind and my sister and I set out with Quentin and Declan. We split the cost of kayak rentals, but still, (or so my mother informs me) it was my first “date” as well as my first time kayaking. As it turned out, I enjoyed the kayaking part a lot more than the “dating” part. Quentin and I shared one kayak, and Declan and my sister shared the other. Both brothers had quickly lost interest in my sister after learning she was under 18, and I learned later that Declan and my sister hardly spoke the whole kayaking venture. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was convinced that lagging conversation would have been preferable to mine and Quentin’s discussion.

The kayaking adventure began promisingly. We watched pelicans ungracefully plop into the ocean and laughed at terns diving like missiles honing in on fish in the water below. The water was so clear you could look through the ripples and see fish swimming through snaky sea-grass while crabs skittered along the sandy bottom. Occasionally, a fish would randomly leap from the water, as if it was so happy to be alive that simply swimming was no longer enough and it had to take flight.

We had stopped paddling for a moment to take in the scenery when Quentin suddenly asked, “Have you heard of the book The Five Love Languages?”

I drew out my “Yes…?” like a question, which he took as permission to reveal that his love language was “Quality Time.” Then, as if the conversation were not awkward enough already, he went on to explaining that he particularly liked time spent with someone in a natural setting.

You mean like a lagoon in Florida, alone with someone you met just THREE HOURS AGO? I thought while mumbling something non-committal. Picking up my paddle, I cut short the conversation by steering our kayak back towards my sister’s and Declan’s kayak, vowing there was no way I was going to tell Quentin one of my primary love languages was “Touch”.

Writing Heroines

Last week, I wrote a post about the eight hero archetypes listed in The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master ArchetypesI’ve used this book extensively since I discovered it in the library, and I’ve found it a great help in crafting dynamic characters. Characters I wrote before reading it even fit in the archetypes, which I’m taking as a sign that I was on the right track with character development. For these characters, the descriptions have helped me edit them to be stronger and more consistent.

If you’re a writer and you can find a copy of the book, I highly recommend using it. If not, here’s a brief overview of each description for the eight female archetypes. All the quotes below are from the descriptions in the book.

Heroine Archetypes

Heroine ArchetypesThe Boss

This is a strong, tough character who wants to win at all costs. Typically, such a character always got her own way growing up and wants that to continue. “She will shade the truth in order to gain her objective and she is not above manipulating circumstances to make things go her way.”

The Seductress

Assertive, strong, and clever, this type of character learned at a young age she could charm people into doing what she wanted. She is cynical, driven, manipulative. “Her true desires and motives are carefully concealed behind a sensual smile. Knowledge is power, so she makes sure no one knows her” and instinctively distrusts people.

The Spunky Kid

This is the “heroine underdog.” She has a sense of humor and is reliable, supportive, unassuming, and skeptical. Sometimes, she “hides behind her sarcastic wit, and her lack of confidence may make her play down her best attributes, but she is spirited, cheerful and the most loyal of friends.”

The Free Spirit

Sincere, upbeat, and imaginative, this type of character can also be impulsive, meddling, and undisciplined. They have a strong sense of individuality and never plan anything, but always seem to land on their feet.  She is a natural entertainer, and “may be a handful for anyone who has to deal with her, but she makes the experience worthwhile in her zany, high-spirited way.”

The Waif

This character is trusting, easily influenced, kind, and insecure. She inspires others to want to save her, and is generally content to let herself be rescued. “Her delicate fragility makes her an easy target … [and] she adapts to any situation she falls into without complaint.” You’re far less likely to see her in fiction of today than the other archetypes, but that does not mean she should be avoided.

There is something refreshing about a heroine who does not talk back or fight every battle, but rather, allows a man to be a man and believes that if left well enough alone, situations will resolve themselves.

The Librarian

This type of character likes to organize everything. She is efficient, serious, dependable, rigid, repressed, and a perfectionist. She assumes she has all the answers and, “more often than not, she is right, but she can be a bit stubborn about considering other opinions.” She is also portrayed as having a passionate side when she “lets her hair down.”

The Crusader

“This is a heroine in the truest sense — deeds of valor are right up her alley.” She is courageous, resolute, and persuasive. Her flaws include obstinacy, rashness, and being outspokenly opinionated. She wants to set the word straight and “has no faith in the intrinsic merit of human nature; no belief that all will end well if left alone.”

The Nurturer

A character of this type needs to be needed. She is optimistic, capable, idealistic, self-sacrificing, and willing to compromise so she won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Before thinking of herself, “she makes sure that all her loved ones are happy and content … Her serene, capable and patient manner invariably soothes troubled souls or hurting hearts.”

Writing Characters

There are three approaches to using these archetypes to create characters. A character could be a “core archetype,” fitting into a singe archetype and remaining consistent through the course of the story. Characters can also evolve, changing from one archetype to another because of the events of the story. Layered characters have elements of two archetypes, which may take turns being dominant but will not change over the course of the story.

An example of evolving archetypes is the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, who changes from a Lost Soul into a Chief as a result of Belle’s nurturing character. Layered characters include MacGyver (Warrior and Professor), Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Waif and Spunky Kid), and Princess Leia (Boss and Crusader).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these character types, and that it sparks an idea for your own writing (or at least provided some interesting reading while procrastinating from writing 😉 ).