Tag Archives: how to write

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

22 Aug

Naming characters is really important! It can also be fun…and a little daunting. Choosing them can take hours, and on top of that, publishers might change them anyway. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. In this article, I’ll list a few aspects to consider while naming your characters, and I’ll include websites you can use as tools to find the perfect name.

Have fun!

1. Time & Culture

Is it believable that your character’s parents would name them something within the setting’s restrictions? Of course, there are exceptions, but consider the year. 1880 is going to be VERY different from 2030. Research your setting! If you want, you can actually look up popular names through the years at SSA, [Social Security Association.] Also, BabyNames.com allows you to explore baby names based on origin, ex. Irish names, Persian names, etc. Babynames.com provides thousands of names within cultures, meanings, genders, and more. You can even save your favorite names as you skip around. (Don’t be surprised if people ask you why you’re looking up baby names in public. I’ve been “congratulated” on a number of occasions.)


2. Last Names and Family Lineage

Remember most parents use iambic pentameter for names. The rhythm should work. On top of that, you can consider naming a character after another character. A son may be named after his father or grandfather. Last Name Meanings provides a list of last names and where they derived from, along with the meaning behind them.

3. Unique and Memorable

Of course everyone knows not to use names already used in very famous novels, but what about within your own book? Avoid repetitive names or sounds. You probably don’t want to name everyone with a “J” name. It’d be hard to follow Jack, John, Jared, and Jill around. Personally, I suggest making a list of characters names in alphabetical order so you can physically see what is represented. Consider start, end, and syllables. The exception generally happens within relationships. Example? If you have brothers, maybe they will have similar names, but don’t overdo it.

4. Mixing Names (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Listen, we all know sci-fi/fantasy generally calls for unique names, but tread carefully. Having a character names Zzyklazinsky is going to be WAY too hard for a reader’s eyes. Sometimes, your best bet is taking well-known names and simply mixing them to create something more relatable but unique, ex. Serena + Violet = Serolet. Try NameCombiner.com to see what you can come up with.

5. Look All Around You

There are so many references on the Internet to find names. Other than those websites stated above, get creative. Pick up an old yearbook. You’ll be surprised how many different first and last names (along with rhythms) you can find. However, I suggest not using a person’s exact name, but rather use it as a reference. Maybe a first or a last. When I recently atteneded a high school graduation, I kept the pamphlet with all the names on it. There’s nothing like needing a quick reference – a real one – that isn’t online. Even funnier? A real Noah Welborn was on there. (My male protagonist from The Timely Death Trilogy is named Eric Welborn, but his little brother is named Noah Welborn.) Sometimes, reality fuses with fiction. And, of course, life in general. If you’re at a restaurant and notice your waiter’s name on his nametag, jot it down. Even if you don’t use it now, you might in the future…which brings me to my last point.

Keep a list of names that you love (and maybe even why you love them). That way, when you’re ready to write another book, you have a notebook filled with ideas already, and you can start right away.

A mixture of all these things creates a list of believable characters, and I really hope you’ll enjoy playing around with names more than before!

Original posted April 29, 2013


Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Different Perspectives

8 Aug

I love writing from different perspectives. Both my YA series—The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods—are written in first POV but from two different speakers. I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character, especially when a scene would be better from a different perspective. So, I have two protagonists, and of course, there are complications that come along with this. What’s the most common question I am asked?

How do you make each voice unique?

I’ll provide a few aspects to keep in mind, but of course, this journey will be different for every writer and every novel. First, know that every character should have its own distinct voice. A reader should be able to open the novel and know who is speaking immediately. This is more difficult than it sounds, but it can get easier over time.

1. Perspective. 

The most obvious change between one voice to another is their unique perspective. What is their background? How do they feel? Where were they educated? Are they affecting the words, or are you? It’s important that characters have their own voice, and that voice will come out in combination with their personalities and backgrounds. For instance, your character who is a fashion designer would definitely use specific colors and fabrics to describe clothes, but your mechanic character might not.

2. Pay Attention to Diction and Syntax

Just like authors have their own “voice,” so do characters. Because of their backgrounds, characters will have different vocabularies. One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate. Consider their education, where they come from, and what they might know. The way they speak should differ, whether they are talking out loud or explaining the scene inwardly. Sometimes, syntax can be used to emphasize certain speech patterns, but be careful not to overuse syntax. Too many exclamations or repeated habits/phrases can become tedious and boring rather than unique and fun. Sometimes less is more. Little clues are normally enough.

3. Consider Rhythm

Honestly, I think rhythm is often overlooked, but paying attention to subtle changes in sound and length of sentences is important. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so their sentences are longer, while another might make short lists to contain their thoughts. Like everything making up your character, a person’s rhythm will depend on their personality, background, and goals. It could even change from scene to scene, but consistency is key.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

One of my favorite exercises:

Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Write it from POV 1, and then, rewrite the exact same scene from POV 2. Check to make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but then, compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean? Do they each bring a unique perspective? And out of those perspectives, which one is best to use?

As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise when starting out, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.

This exercise helps me understand the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene. (Sometimes, it even helps me choose which scene to use…and worse case scenario, you have an extra scene to release as an extra for your readers.)

Have fun and good luck! 

Original posted March 31, 2013


Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE across all eBook platforms right now! (And I’m dutifully working on the next installment, too!) Happy reading.😀

November Rain

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November Snow, 

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Bad Bloods Free Book

Bad Bloods Free Book


Website Wonders

27 Jun

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of June’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Fiction, Illustrations, and Photography/Film.

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Favorite Article:

Crap someone should have told you writers by now by Rebecca T. Dickson: I loved this list of truths for writers. It’s humbling and encouraging, while also explaining how things really are.


57 Tips For Writers, From Writers “The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook stage. It is like believing in dreams in the morning.” – Erica Jong

Chekhov’s Gun: How To Use It When Writing Your Novel: An interesting plot device often overlooked (but easily overused)

The Four Undramatic Plot Structures: I really enjoyed this infographic. It cracked me up.


13350382_1054368928003537_6252562232697559884_o20 Amazing J.R.R. Tolkien-Inspired Tattoos 

What’s The Fastest (Fictional) Spaceship In The Universe? 


Untranslatable Words from Marija Tiurina: Such a beautiful collection of art! 

Artist Turns Everyday Sayings Into Clever Pun Illustrations: Take Control was my favorite.


40+ Astonishing Photographs Of The World That Steal Your Heart Immediately. I love photography, and this is a great collection

Japanese Couple Beautifully Captures Their Cats Watching Them Eat! I love cats. This is perfection.

Fantasy of Flight captured in photo shoots: Gorgeous photos of people flying

Where the Sounds From the World’s Favorite Movies Are Born: An awesome video!

See you next month!


What are readers already saying about Bad Bloods?

“November Rain was thrilling and exciting and gets readers excited for more. It really focuses on the attributes of family, friends and loyalty, which was really refreshing to see in a dystopian novel. I will definitely be continuing on with this duology.” – Ronnie’s World Blog

Clean Teen Publishing is throwing a Facebook party on July 8 from 6-8 PM (EST), where you can win prizes and chat with authors. Click here to join.

CTP's Sizzling Summer Reads FB Party

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WW Website Wonders

25 May

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of May’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, and Exploring.

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Favorite Article: What is Your Magic Number? by Kristin Nelson

Kristin Nelson, as many writers know, is a literary agent (Nelson Literary Agency), and she’s a genius. She writes #PubRants and other helpful articles and tidbits to help writers get out there and stay confident. This article is a perfect example of that. It’s short, sweet, and too the point. Nearly everyone writes numerous manuscripts before getting published, and almost no one is an overnight success. I love her honesty and sincerity. Definitely recommended.


37 Free Online Writing Courses From Top Universities: For those looking for an awesome place to learn

The Shape of Stories (infographic) Every story you love can be retold with one of eight sentences

21 Pieces of Handwriting So Perfect They Are Borderline Erotic: I have terrible handwriting, so this almost killed me with envy.

How To Write (infographic)

22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing: Write your heart out.

Love this mug!

Love this mug!


7 Books to Make You a Better Critical Thinker

The Top Ten Literary Love Quotes: “Each time you happen to me all over again.” – Edith Wharton

10 Ancient Books That Promise Supernatural Powers: Because why not?


22 Breathtaking Photos of Abandoned Places: I love abandoned places. They are perfect settings for novels (or simply perfect for stirring the imagination).

Mindblowing Photographs of the Last Surviving Tribes on Earth

I’m still posting my usual Saturday post this week, and then, of course, the Ketchup (“catch up”) post on Monday.

After that, see you in June!


GoodreadsGiveawaySign up to win a Bad Bloods paperback in this Goodreads GiveawayI mean, who doesn’t want a free paperback? This was also this week’s Teaser Tuesday, but regular ones will continue next week. If you want SIGNED paperbacks, read my news below!

Come see me at the Barnes & Noble for B-Fest in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS on Saturday, June 11 from 1-3 PM for a book signing and author panel. More info on my Events page.

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WritingTips No, Reading Is Not An Option.

17 Feb

As an author and full-time editor, I’m coming across more and more writers who don’t read their own genre, or—even worse—don’t read at all. There are generally two types of these writers.

1. Writers who claim to read but obviously don’t (and I’ll get to how it is obvious later).

2. Writers who haven’t read anything since they left high school twenty years ago.

Spoiler Alert: Neither of these options is okay.

Writers, please, oh please, you must read—and you must read often, especially in your own genre. As the infamous Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” I adamantly agree with him.


Reading is the foundation of writing. Much like how crawling helps a child learn how to walk, then run, and so on, reading helps a writer learn how to form sentences, structure a plot, and introduce something new and interesting to the market. That last one is a big deal (and I think the most overlooked one). This is also the main way agents/publishers/readers figure out you’re lying if you claim to read but you don’t. Recently, I was reading an article from an agent who was talking about his number one pet peeve in query letters. There is a huge trend in writers saying, “My work is better than anything X genre has ever produced.” This signaled to him that A. You don’t read X genre, and B. You don’t respect your own genre, fellow co-workers, or your readers. So why are you writing in this genre? He’s not the only one with this opinion either. Another article by Writer’s Digest pokes fun of this trend: 10 Ways to Never Get Published.

Constantly reading allows you to familiarize yourself with the genre and to see how the genre grows. As an example, I’ve seen MAJOR changes in young adult since I was fourteen. (And they are awesome changes!) But if I had stopped reading YA when I started seriously writing it, I wouldn’t know what readers are looking for. I wouldn’t know what has been done already. I wouldn’t know the appropriate language, word count, or topics/themes for that audience. I, basically, wouldn’t know anything. I wouldn’t have those “tools” Stephen King talked about in regards to writing.

So pick up a book. Pick up five. Try a new one, try an old one, try one you never thought you’d read, research the latest releases, talk to authors in your genre, study Writer’s Digest and Publishers Marketplace, and stay up-to-date on publishing conversations like #MSWL. Even if you’re not trying to get an agent or publisher, publishing feeds are great (and easy) places to read about current trends and market needs.

You’re not losing writing time by reading. In fact, you’re enhancing your writing by reading.

So go pick up that book you’ve been dying to read and fall back in love with reading all over again. After all, reading is the reason you started writing in the first place. Reading is why every writer started writing. Reading is why every writer can write.


Have you checked out this amazing gift basket Clean Teen Publishing is giving away this month? It has over $130 worth of goodies including a Kindle Fire, several print novels, sweets, swag, and more! Enter to win here.


If you would like a signed copy of any book in The Timely Death Trilogy, e-mail me at shannonathompson.com. Barnes & Noble in Wichita has a few copies left, and they will ship you one.

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1: FREE 

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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This THURSDAY, I will host #AuthorinaCoffeeShop Episode 7 on Twitter at 7 PM (CDT) via @AuthorSAT. I normally host it on Friday, but a few of you have expressed Thursday as a better day, so I will probably test out the next four episodes (7-10) on Thursday to see which days are best. I hope to see you there!

Guest post: What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

21 Apr

Shannon, here, with two announcements and an introduction before the lovely Susannah Ailene Martin takes over.

Return Novel reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, stating, “Who will stay up after dark? Readers who value solid character development and realistic motivations in their supernatural romance series.” Read the full thing here or check out the novel by clicking here.

If you want to see what readers think of the sequel, you’re in luck. Endless Reading reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of the The Timely Death Trilogy this week. She stated, “Thompson did an awesome job of creating scenes that left the reader breathless and heart pounding as though they were at the forefront and head of battle.” Click here to read the entire review or click here to go to Amazon.

Susannah Ailene Martin is writing for ShannonAThompson.com today, and her post is below, but here is an excerpt from her “About Me” page, so you can get to know this writer a little bit first: “I am mostly interested in creating fiction novels in the long run, but you will more than likely not see any fiction in this blog. My writing covers a wide range of genres, but usually I stick to Sci-fi and fantasy. I’m a big fan of “fractured fairy tales” and Greek Mythology.”

Now, for Susannah Ailene Martin. Check out her website by clicking here


What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

One of the most often repeated pieces of advice for writers is, “Write what you know.” Okay, that’s great… if I’m writing about a white, middle class, homeschooled girl who’s never had a boyfriend. The problem with writing what you know is that, unless you’re writing your own autobiography, it’s not always possible. In fact, most of the time, it’s not possible. The path of the writer, especially the fiction writer, is to write what you don’t know.

So how do you do that? Here are four tips to help you write what you don’t know.

1. Read.

What if you’ve never been to the African Savannah, but you want to write a book on the life of meerkats? No problem. The first thing you’re going to have to do is hit the books. Read a book that tells you all about meerkats, and then read five more. This tip also pertains to writing in different genres. If you’ve never read a fantasy book, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. For the writer, reading is not only fun; it can be helpful for you as well. Through reading, you can immerse yourself in a whole different world. That way, you can learn to write about something that you have never experienced.

By the way, this tip isn’t exclusive to books. Looking on the internet for articles on subjects for your writing is a good idea too.

2. Watch.

Some people are more visual than others. If you’re one of those people, you have to see it before you can write it. We can’t go back in time and watch a battle during World War II (and most of us wouldn’t want to), but we can watch a movie or documentary that shows what happened during one of those battles. When I was writing my first book, I needed to write a kissing scene between two characters and I don’t have much experience (I’m homeschooled. Shut up). To remedy this, I went to YouTube and searched for kissing scenes.

This advice doesn’t just apply to watching movies and videos. One of the greatest tools in the writer’s tool box is people watching. Yes, it can get a little uncomfortable, and doing this might cause people to stare at you, but sometimes there’s no better option than going to the mall and watching people from the food court. Just don’t follow anyone around. That’s creepy.

3. Do.

Obviously, there are things you just can’t do, but in some cases, when you need to write a certain scene, going out and doing the thing in the scene can help you get a feel for what it’s like. If you’re writing a scene where your characters are in the woods, go camping. If your characters are trying to hail a cab in New York City, go do it. Admittedly, this tip can be a bit cost prohibitive.

You don’t necessarily need to do exactly the thing you’re writing about. Going back to my previous example of a battle in World War II, if you go out and play paint ball or laser tag, you can start to understand what it might feel like to be fighting in close quarters.

4. Ask

If you’ve never been skydiving, but you’ve have a friend who has, ask them about it. Don’t be afraid to dig in deep. Remember that whenever you ask someone about their experience, you want to try and make sure that the experience is recent. After a while, people tend to forget important little details, and that could get you in trouble with readers who are experienced in what you’re writing about.

Those are my four tips for writing what you don’t know. Whenever you’re using these tips, remember to keep a notebook and writing utensil handy. Doing these things won’t be very helpful if you forget what you’ve learned.

What about you? Do you have any tips of your own for writing what you don’t know?

New Page: Tips

10 Sep

If you follow my Author Facebook Page, then you already know I’ve been spending the day updating ShannonAThompson.com. I’m excited, because I’ve been talking about this update for a while, but I finally found some spare time (even thought it’s because I’m sick and sitting around in bed.) But I’ve added the “Tips” page. And, yes, it’s already up on the bar.

So what is the “Tips” page?

It is a collection of all the writing, editing, and publishing tips I’ve ever posted about. It also includes helpful websites and inspirational ideas at the bottom. From now on, I’ll be adding each of my posts to this list, so you can easily return to it in the future.

Check it out, and let me know if you’d like to see it set up different or anything else added! I’m always up for suggestions, and I look forward to continue on with more writing tips.

But, just for fun, the Minutes Before Sunset Facebook Page has a new cover photo:



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