Happy Halloween!— WeWriWa: Halloween surprises

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year’s Halloween-themed excerpts come from the eighth book in my Saga of the Sewards series (formerly known as Max’s House). It needs a great deal of editing, rewriting, and revision, along with a new title, so I’m doing preliminary edits and fleshing it out as I go this month.

It’s now near the end of Halloween night, and Mr. Seward’s stepdaughters and younger children have finally come home from trick-or-treating. He’s very displeased, to say the least, when he learns about what happened without his knowledge or permission.

“It’s eleven-thirty!” Mr. Seward raged. “Where have you been all night? It never took that long to trick-or-treat before!”

“We were at the older kids’ party at school a lot of that time,” Harold said.

“Gene ran off, and we searched everywhere!” Cora Ann yelled. “When his mother dropped him off at the party, neither of them apologized for scaring us so much.”

“Mommy gave me really good candy and cocoa,” Gene said. “I got bored of trick-or-treating, and it was cold, so I decided to visit her.”

“That was illegal!” Mr. Seward shouted, shaking his fist in the air. “Clara knows damn well I have full custody and that she’s not allowed to see you again unless it’s by accident in public!”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

Gene peeled the paper off of a candybar and began eating it. “I don’t care if you tan my hide for visiting Mommy. We had a lot of fun, and I’ll visit her again whenever I feel like it. She missed her favorite child.”

“Clara said many times she had no interest in motherhood, and made no attempt to even pretend to care in all those years before our divorce. Even her spoiling of you was constantly interrupted by her many trips abroad with her much-younger lovers. I refuse to believe she’s had a radical change of heart after so much time.”

“I’m sleepy, Daddy,” Amy whimpered.

“Who are you?” Mr. Seward asked. “Did you follow my kids home?” He took a double-take.  “Four strange kids followed you home!”

“What?” Adeladie asked. “Who? There are only ten of us, not fourteen.”

“My God!” he went on. “Where are the other four quints? Did somebody steal them?  Who’s the only quint here?”

“All the quints are here. Take off their costumes if you don’t believe me.”

Mr. Seward yanked the sheet off the ghost to reveal Andrew. Peggy was underneath the seal costume, Paula was under the peanut, and Amy was under the marshmallow.

“Quints, that was terrible, dressing in different costumes! You are not individuals! I’ll have some serious words with Elaine when she comes home, since she was the one who bought you these costumes instead of all five clown outfits.” His jaw clenched as he pointed at the staircase. “Go on up to bed, all of you. Thanks to Gene’s stunt, it’s well past all your bedtimes.”

WeWriWa—An unpopular costume choice

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year’s Halloween-themed excerpts come from the eighth book in my Saga of the Sewards series (formerly known as Max’s House). It needs a great deal of editing, rewriting, and revision, along with a new title, so I’m doing preliminary edits and fleshing it out as I go this month.

The Sewards are now at a costume store, and Mr. Seward, who has very rigid ideas about almost everything, decides for his youngest children, 20-month-old quints, what they’re going to dress as.

“Clown,” Susie said.

“Ghost,” Andrew said.

“Peanut,” Paula said.

“Marshmallow,” Amy said.

“Seal,” Peggy said.

“Oh, no, you five will all be clowns,” Mr. Seward said.

“Clowns scare me, Daddy!” Amy bawled.

“No want face paint!” Peggy wept.

“Itchy pants!” Andrew said.

“Itchy wig!” Paula sobbed.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Mr. Seward found five matching clown outfits in the quints’ size.

“Peanut, peanut!” Paula wept.

Tiffany glared at their father. “Why do you treat them like one person with five bodies? At least your attempt to make them as famous and exploited as the Dionnes didn’t last long.”

Mr. Seward glared right back. “Multiples are supposed to always do everything exactly alike. If quints weren’t so rare, I’d demand they marry another set of quints too. Elaine, would you check the costumes out while I take the younger children to the limo? The other patrons don’t deserve to be subjected to this tantrum.” 

The moment her uncle left the store, Elaine put four of the clown outfits back on the rack. She then got the other four desired costumes.

WeWriWa—Pumpkin antics with the Sewards


weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year’s Halloween-themed excerpts come from the eighth book in my Saga of the Sewards series (formerly known as Max’s House). It needs a great deal of editing, rewriting, and revision, along with a new title, so I’m doing preliminary edits and fleshing it out as I go this month.

The year is 1943, and as always, chaos and comedic mayhem reign supreme in the Sewards’ large blended family. Max just went upstairs to help his older sister Tiffany with carving the jack-o-lantern and found her instead making out with her secret fiancé Marc. Mr. Seward forbade Tiffany to see Marc again after discovering they began sleeping together two years ago, and now they’re constantly meeting in secret.

“The pumpkin guts are over there.” Tiffany pointed without looking away from Marc. “You can stall Dad for time by baking pumpkin seeds.” She began tousling Marc’s hair.

Max picked up the bowl of pumpkin guts and went back downstairs.

“Why don’t we cook the seeds?” he asked when he returned to the parlor. “Tiff’s doing a really intricate design, and won’t be done for awhile. It’s great to have a cook, but sometimes it’s fun to do your own cooking.”

“Since when do you like doing anything that’s not fun and doesn’t provide instant gratification?” Mr. Seward asked. “This is a Halloween miracle.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“Maybe we can bake Halloween cookies, cakes, and pies too,” Elaine suggested, guessing the real reason Max had made such an unusual request. “By the time the last one comes out of the oven, it’ll be just about time to leave for the costume store.”

“That’s a good idea,” Adeladie said. “I’ve collected a bunch of Halloween dessert recipes torn out from magazines, and each one looks more delicious than the last.”

“I want to decorate my cookies with jack-o-lanterns, witches, black cats, and bats,” Cora Ann said.

Mr. Seward tightly pursed his lips as he led his large brood towards the larger kitchen.

A pumpkin for the Sewards

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year for my Halloween-themed excerpts, I’ll be sharing from the eighth book in my Saga of the Sewards series (formerly known as Max’s House). It needs a great deal of editing, rewriting, and revision, along with a new title, so I’ll be doing preliminary edits and fleshing it out as I go this month.

The year is 1943, and as always, chaos and comedic mayhem reign supreme in the Sewards’ large blended family.

The next day, Mr. Seward brought home a pumpkin.

“Are we making a scarecrow?” Cora Ann asked.

“No, it’s for a jack-o-lantern,” Mr. Seward said. “Don’t all volunteer to help carve it at once.”

“Can I carve it?” Max asked.

Elaine gave him a mock-sweet smile. “Sure. You need to carve sixty jack-o-lanterns for the school dance and party; what’s one more?”

“Maybe it’d be better if I carve it,” Tiffany said. “It’ll relieve Max’s burden.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

She took it upstairs to her room with a carving knife.

“Tonight we go out to look for your Halloween costumes,” Mr. Seward went on.  “No vandalizing during trick-or-treating!”

“You yourself vandalize on Halloween!” Max protested.

Marc put a ladder up against a side of the house.

“When do we go shopping tonight?” Max asked.

“At six. I plan to spend no more than fifty dollars at the Halloween store.”

Marc climbed through Tiffany’s opened window.

“I’m going up to help Tiff with the jack-o-lantern,” Max said.

His sister was wildly making out with Marc as he entered the room.

How to avoid or minimize duplicate names with an ensemble cast

I’ve often seen the suggestion to avoid using the same letter or starting sound for characters, like Amelia and Amber or Jonas and James. This is sound advice, if you’re working with a fairly small cast. When you’re dealing with a large ensemble cast, particularly when it continues growing with the addition of new generations, that advice is no longer practical. However, there are some ways to minimize the risk.

Realistically speaking, you can’t always give a different name to each and every single character. You always want to avoid the extremes of gut-loading your book with current Top 100 names and only using outliers. A book quickly dates if every single character has a name like McMadysynne, Aidanjadenbradencadenmaiden, Ellabella, and CowboyHunter, just as it stands out for the wrong reasons if everyone is named Polyxena, Wolfgang, Ghisolabella, and Demetrius. In real life, social circles are more likely to have a mix of trendy, classic, unusual, foreign, and invented names.

Particularly when we’re dealing with historical characters or characters from traditionally more conservative cultures, it’s not really plausible for everyone to have different names. Let’s be honest, it’s not unusual to find numerous Johns, Marys, Williams, and Sarahs in the same generation of one family tree. During its last century or so of existence, the Russian Imperial Family pretty much used the same dozen or so names over and over again (with some notable exceptions). Even the name Pyotr was only used once after Peter III, on a grand duke born in 1864.

In my Russian historicals, duplicate names include Andrey, Natalya, Aleksandr, and Sofya. The trick is using these names on characters who don’t really appear together because they’re not so closely connected, or using different nicknames. My older Sofya goes by Sonya, and Lyuba and Ivan’s next-youngest child goes by Sonyechka. For now, she’s still young enough to use that nickname. You can also use a name on a major character and on a minor character s/he’ll never share a scene with.

**************************************

There’s also the trick of distinguishing characters by titles vs. first names or nicknames. I don’t care how old-fashioned this supposedly has become; I’ll always call my adult or older characters Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Miss. This way, there’s no confusion between, e.g., a grandfather and grandson who share the same name.

In my Atlantic City books, the wealthy Sewards have an unbroken custom of alternating the names Maxwell Stanley and Stanley Maxwell among firstborn sons. Father and son share their name, and the grandson starts over. So far, I’ve had Great-Great-Grandpa Max, Great-Grandpa Stanley, Grandpa Stan, Mr. Seward, Max, Fudzie, and Stan. The name Fudzie came to Max in a dream when he was eleven, and he was so attached to it, he used it as his son’s nickname. Mr. Seward threatened to cut him out of the will if Max didn’t kowtow to family tradition by naming his son Stanley Maxwell.

*****************************

I have a number of Kat- names in my Russian historicals, and I similarly use different nicknames and titles. Lyuba’s mother is Mrs. Lebedeva (formerly Mrs. Zhukova), Katya, Machekha (Stepmother) Katya, Tyotya (Aunt) Katya, or Babushka (Grandma) Katya, depending upon who’s addressing her, but she’s always a Mrs. in the narrative.

Radical Katariina Kalvik-Nikonova is called Katrin in the narrative and by most people, though her husband and sister often call her Kati, and her friends’ children call her Tädi (Aunt) Kati.

Little Katerina Vishinskaya goes by Kittey, a non-Russian nickname I found justification for keeping because of its usage in Anna Karenina. The nicknames Kitty, Dolly, Betsy, and Annie are spelt phonetically, as English, like French, was a fashionable language among the upper-class at that time. I just think the spelling Kittey looks a little more believably Russified than Kitti, Kiti, or Kitty.

Kittey’s sister-in-law Katriyana goes by Kat, which I kept by justifying as her way of standing out from the crowd of 15 sisters and not wanting to be just another Katya. I found out later Katriyana isn’t such a traditional Russian name, but I innocently copied it from Felice Holman’s The Wild Children, trusting those were all real Russian names. I think it works because a number of Kat’s sisters have less-traditional/common names, like Yelikonida, Alisa, and Rozaliya, and by the time you get to your 15th child, you kind of have to think creatively.

Lyuba and Ivan’s fourth-born child (Ivan’s special pet), Yekaterina Koneva, goes by Katya. Her family also calls her ptichka, “little bird.”

When Katya Chernomyrdina appears with Katya Koneva, they’re Older Katya and Younger Katya.

***********************************

Some Russian names are lucky enough to have several base nickname forms, like Anastasiya (Asya, Stasya, Nastya), Nadezhda (Dusya, Nadya), Aleksandr/a (Sasha, Shura, Sanya), Yelena (Lena, Lyolya), Lyubov (Lyuba, Busya), Dmitriy (Dima, Mitya), Georgiy (Zhora, Gosha), Pavel (Pasha, Pavlik), and Vladimir (Vova, Volodya). In English, names with multiple nicknames include William, Elizabeth, Katherine, the Jul- names, John, and the Al- names. Using child vs. adult forms of a nickname is a perfect way to distinguish characters, like Joe and Joey or Lizzie vs. Beth.

You should always try as much as possible to use different names for every character, but sometimes it’s just not feasible.