Visual Quill Blog

Character Naming

VQ Staff - Thursday, July 09, 2015
You sit down to start writing a new book. You have the plot, the setting, and some ideas for characters, but you don't have one critical part - character names! The names of your characters will help your readers identify who is who and give them insights into the character's personality and more. We've come up with a few tips for you to look through:

  • The name should fit the character’s personality/think about root meanings – If your character is exceptionally strong, you could name them Angus or Breanna. Names like Abigail or Kevin mean beautiful or handsome. Though not all readers will catch on, some will know root meanings or names. Any baby naming book or website can help with this!
  • Use period-appropriate names – Names popular in the 90’s and today probably weren’t the popular names in the 1800’s. An idea for looking for period-appropriate names is to look through old yearbooks or census reports – these can usually be found online or at a library!
  • Alliterate – Some of the most memorable characters have alliteration in their names: Severus Snape, Junie B. Jones, Clark Kent, and many more!
  • Avoid famous names – Character names like Elvis, Madonna, Ichiro, or Katniss, unless you’re talking about the person or character with that name, may lead to confusion for readers or will give them preconceived notions about your character.
  • Avoid weird spellings – Choosing a unique character name is good, but something that can’t be pronounced easily or is spelled irregularly can also cause confusion for readers. Say names out loud and imagine if your book were to be written into an audiobook, how does it sound?
How did Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen come to be?

J.K. Rowling said, “He's not based on anyone I know.  So don't believe anyone who crawls out of the woodwork to claim to be Harry Potter. No, Harry is entirely imaginary … and the name … I was looking for a name that was really quite mundane in a way but a name that I liked. So he became Harry. And then I-- it took me a while to find Potter.  And Potter was the surname of a family I used to live near when I was growing up. And the son of that family then claimed to be Harry Potter, but he's not.  Yeah, I just took the name.”

Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games whose unique “first name comes from a plant called sagittaria or arrowhead, which is a tuber plant usually found in water; another name for this plant is katniss. The root of this plant can be eaten, as Katniss does in the book. Her father once said: ‘As long as you can find yourself, you'll never starve.’ The plant also shares its name with a constellation in the Zodiac called Sagittarius, or ‘The Archer’, which may also reference Katniss's skills in archery.” As for her last name, author Suzanne Collins says the name comes from the central character in Far from the Madding Crowd, Bathsheba Everdene. Collins said that, “The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.”

Still struggling with character names? Here’s a character name generator!


Twitter Riddles

VQ Staff - Tuesday, October 07, 2014

This is just one of J.K. Rowling's many crypic tweets this week and many Harry Potter fans have been trying to figure out the meaning behind these tweets. that we thought we'd round up some other twitter riddles! Enjoy!

Answer: yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Answer: Time

Answer: Prison. You'll have time to read plenty of books during a prison sentence.

Answer: Silence.

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-Tweet sources above


Banned Books Week

VQ Staff - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

This week, September 21-27, is Banned Books Week! This year is the 32nd year of observance and "more than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association".

In working and talking with schools and libraries across the country about banned and challenged books, the American Library Association "promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them."

The 2014 list of most banned books has not been released yet, but we've here are a few from the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books in 2013, followed by the reason(s) they are most often banned:

  • Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey - Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie - Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James - Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins - Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green - Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
For more information about banned books and the American Library Association, be sure to read through their "State of America's Libraries Report 2014".


Books, But Not Libraries?

VQ Staff - Friday, September 12, 2014

A recent study done by Pew Research has found that teens and young adults are more likely to have read a book in the past year than their elders have. At the same time, it was found that millennial don't seem to find the services that libraries offer quite as important, and "younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities", according to The Atlantic.

In the study, it was found that "Americans are buying more books than they borrow" and that "fewer Americans are visiting libraries than in recent years, but more Americans are using library websites". With the rise and advancement in technology, it is interesting to think about how libraries will continue to evolve over the coming years. Additionally, it has been thought that the millennial generation reads less than past generations because of the Internet, but that, as it turns out, is not the case. 

Here are a few facts directly from the Pew Research study:

  • "Overall, 88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older."
  • "Among those ages 16-29, 50% reported having used a library or bookmobile in the course of the past year in a September 2013 survey. Some 47% of those 30 and older had done so."
  • The survey "found that older teens (ages 16-17) are more likely to read (particularly print books), more likely to read for work or school, and more likely to use the library for books and research than older age groups", whereas "college-aged adults (ages 18-24), are less likely to use public libraries than many other age groups, and are significantly less likely to have visited a library recently". Adults in their late twenties (25-29), "re less likely than college-aged adults to have read a book in the past year, but are more likely to keep up with the news."
An article from The Smithsonian Museum states that libraries are pushing their boundaries and lending people things other than books. An example in the article is to allow someone to borrow knitting needles along with a book about knitting. Across the nation, libraries are offering a multitude of objects, as the article says: "It seems like everything is available for checkout at these libraries, from cake pans to GoPros. A library in Ann Arbor lends everything from telescopes to musical instruments and art. A library in Illinois lends out expensive digital equipment, and in Oakland, library patrons can borrow from thousands of tools."


Books to Movies: The Rest of 2014

VQ Staff - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This year has been full of books turned movies including "Divergent", "The Fault in Our Stars", and "The Giver", among many others. In this blog, we'll give a round up of some of the movie adaptations we're excited to watch during their release sometime in the rest of 2014.

If I Stay (August 22nd)

This movie, which comes out on Friday, covers the story of Mia, a teenage cellist who is in a major car accident with her parents and younger brother. After the accident, she has an out of body experience and has the decision of whether to live or die. The book is one of this social media intern's favorite books and I am looking forward to seeing the movie.

The Maze Runner (September 19th)

Here's an overview from Buzzfeed: "When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he remembers is his name. His memory is blank, and he’s surrounded by a group of boys in a place called the Glade, a large space entrapped by tall, stone walls. Every 30 days another boy is delivered, but when a girl named Teresa appears in the lift the next morning, her presence is almost as unexpected as the message she delivers."

Mockingjay (Part 1) (November 21st)

The third installment in The Hunger Games trilogy is split into two parts, with the second part coming in 2015. Mockingjay (Part 1) will continue off from where Catching Fire ended, with Katniss continuing to rebel against the government.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (December 17th)

The third installment of The Hobbit, the prequel to Lord of the Rings, "is the story of Bilbo Baggins's journey — and adventures along the way — through Middle Earth."

These are just a few of the upcoming adaptations coming this year. Book-to-film adaptations coming in 2015 include: 50 Shades of Grey, Insurgent, Frankenstein, The Kite Runner, The Jungle Book (a live action version, not an updated version of Disney's cartoon), and more!


16 Books To Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year

15 book-to-film adaptations coming in 2015

36 Books Becoming 2014 Movies

Crazy Grammatically Correct Sentences

VQ Staff - Tuesday, August 12, 2014
What do buffalo and ships have to do with crazy grammar? Sometimes only sentences with a few words can be the most confusing! Here's what we mean:

The following sentence is grammatically correct: 
"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo."

What does that sentence even mean? The word is used in three ways, as a noun (the animal), an adjunct noun/adjective (the city, Buffalo, NY), and as a verb (the action of bullying).
Here it is broken down: "Bison from Buffalo, New York, who are intimidated by other bison in their community, also happen to intimidate other bison in their community." In researching this repeated word sentence, we found tons of others! Here are a few of our favorites:"James, while John had had 'had,' had had 'had had'; 'had had' had had a better effect on the teacher."
An article from Business Insider helps break down the meaning of this sentence of many “had”s:"Two students, James and John, were asked on an English test to describe a man who, in the past, had suffered from a cold. John wrote: 'The man had a cold,' which the teacher marked as incorrect. James, however, wrote: 'The man had had a cold.' Since James' answer was right, it had had a better effect on the teacher.A few word substitutions and brackets to identify clauses will make this more clear.
James, [while John had written 'had,'] had written 'had had'; 'had had' had left a better effect on the teacher.
The double 'had' — called past perfect tense — puts the action further back in time, suggesting that the man had had a cold but doesn't anymore.""This is a ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships."
Think you're getting the hang of it? Here's a picture to help you figure this one out!

We'll leave you with these to think about:
  • Can-can can-can can can can can can-can.
  • Will, will Will will Will Will's will?
  • If it is it, it is it; if it is it is it, it is.


The Writing Process: The Rough Draft

VQ Staff - Thursday, July 31, 2014

So you decide to start writing a book...

It all starts with an idea.

You begin doing research.

And you start brainstorming more about the plot of your story.

After you start a rough outline for your book, you begin writing.

Once in awhile you get stuck with writers block.

And you do anything except for write.

Other times you are very productive.

Occasionally, you doubt yourself,

But then you realize that your story must be told and are more determined than ever to finish.

After long, days, weeks, months, and maybe years of writing,

And long periods of time sitting in front of your computer,

You realize you're almost done with the book!

And when you finish your first draft, this is what happens.

Then, even though you're extremely tired, you go through and make edits and revisions.

Finally, it has come time to send it to your editor.

GIF Sources:

Word Limit? Don't Let it Limit Your Story

VQ Staff - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We thought we’d give you some tips and tricks for writing short stories this week. We’ve compiled a list from articles around the Internet that have simple, yet effective techniques to help write the best possible short story:

  • Huffington Post suggests to, “Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message”. In short story writing, it is imperative that the writer makes every sentence count. The article adds that, “If you over-stuff your plot by including too many distractions, your short story will feel overloaded and underdeveloped”.
  • An article from WikiHow says to limit the breadth of your story. A novel can take place over a longer period of time and has the time to delve deeper into the setting and lives of the characters. In a short story, however, “The main events of a short story should occur in a relatively short period of time (days or even minutes), and you typically won’t be able to develop effectively more than one plot, two or three main characters, and one setting.”The publication Dubliners by James Joyce is an example of short stories that, at first glance, are intertwined solely by the setting being Dublin. Each story, however, centers around a character who experiences some sort of self-understanding or realization. Though Dubliners was published 100 years ago, the short stories included in the collection are examples on how to narrowly focus on a singular event effectively; a few of the stories take place over the course of only a few minutes.
  • Though you only have 1000 words to tell your story, be sure not to get caught up writing on one aspect of the whole. An article says, “Something has to happen in the story (or at least the reader has to feel as though something has happened). Things like conflict and resolution achieve this effect.” While building the character(s) and plot are necessary, make that some type of action actually occurs.
  • Have you gone over the word limit? An article from NPR states that condensing writing is just like tweeting. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, much as this short story is limited to 1000 words. NPR notes that a hashtag popular in 2011 was #TweetYourThesis. It was a challenge to see how narrowly focused their writing was. Writing a tweet-length version of your story can help you to narrow down your focus if the word limit is limiting your ideas.
  • Writer’s Relief advises that authors “paint your world vividly” in a short story. Word choice that appeals to the five senses is essential in short story writing. The article says, “Whether it’s a bustling metropolis or the middle of the unforgiving Sahara, the setting in which your story takes place influences everything that happens within it. Don’t just plop your characters into a generic town—create your own world and reveal to the audience the intricacies therein.”

How to Write a Short Story

Book Apps

VQ Staff - Friday, July 11, 2014

You love reading, but sometimes you get stumped on what to read next. There are apps for that! Here are a few free apps to try out:

Novel Engagement is a brand new app launched yesterday by Romance Writers of America. It is a "book discovery app, focused exclusively on romance novels, that helps readers discover new romance novels and connect with authors."

In the app, users can follow their favorite authors to stay up-to-date on book releases and find author events near them. Users are also able to manage their reading list and participate in contests!

Overdrive is a fantastic app to utilize with your library card! With your library account, you are able to download and put e-books on hold. Once on your phone, tablet, or e-reader, you can read without worry, there is no late fees because titles will automatically be returned when they are due. Each library system  has their own collection of e-books available, you can view King County Library System's e-book library by clicking here.

Goodreads is not only a website, it is an app ready for on-the-go recommendations and reviews! This app includes the cool feature of a barcode scanner to allow you to add books to your 'to read' list with ease. You can also "see what your friends are reading, write book reviews, and keep track of what you want to read" by searching through one of the most popular book reviewing website.

What are your favorite book apps to use?


Apps for reading could be your Netflix of books

iTunes photos and descriptions of apps

Got Writer's Cramp?

VQ Staff - Friday, June 27, 2014

You're sitting at your desk, and you've been writing for hours upon hours to meet a looming deadline. Sitting at your desk, hunched over, staring at the computer screen, typing and scrolling away, completely engrossed in the task. Well, it's time for you to take a quick break and give your body a rest for a few minutes. While you may not have enough time to get outside to take a walk, there are plenty of fast exercises to stretch.

Here are some wrist and forearm stretches:

Some ideas for stretching fingers include:
-Alternating making a tight fist and spreading and stretching your fingers out as wide as you can.
-Make circular movements both clockwise and anti-clockwise from the main knuckle joint with each finger.

And while your arms, wrists, and fingers may be tired of typing, you can ease additional tension in your shoulders and neck by stretching as well. For your neck, "gently move your neck from side to side in a smooth motion" and repeat for about a minute. Another exercise to try is to "slowly lift your chin up from near your shoulder to point towards the ceiling." For your shoulders, swing your arms from side to side to squeeze and extend your shoulder blades.

Taking a few minutes to look away from your hard work and to stretch your body, or even just walk around your house for a little while, is very beneficial. Though it's important to meet deadlines, writing, typing, or editing for hours on end strains our bodies and staring at the screen for long periods of time is not good for our eyes.

Is your body still tense, but you need to continue writing? Try listening to an endless playlist of film soundtracks. There are no distracting lyrics, and it can help motivate you and give you just the push you need to finish: 

Good luck, and keep on writing! We'll be cheering you on!