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Scott Lax Blog

On Naming Fictional Characters

How do you name your fictional characters? For me, it's this simple: I give characters the names they have. This is where writing gets a little Zen. Just let go, and ask what the character's name is. It should come to you. I think it's good to stay away from being clever, or having any agenda, such as naming a bad character after someone you don't like. The character, if he or she is alive in your imagination, will let your subconscious know his or her name. The character may also have you research - for example, for a foreign name. When you find it, you'll know if it fits. Trust your writerly self. Read More 

Greatness and Humility

The greatest writers in history were not arrogant, know-it-all ranters. They were often full of self-doubt. They were humble. They understood that the better they got, the farther they were from their potential. This paradox was part of their greatness. Humility gives an artist the need to probe his or her depths in the quest to be better.

This paradox reminds me of some self-help gurus: the motivational weight-loss speaker who's tubby; the financial wizard who makes her money by speeches about making money; the religious wing-nut who is filled with animosity toward the "other."

When a writer boasts, be it on a Web site or on a TV show, you might want to look elsewhere. You won't find beauty, or wisdom. You'll find empty conceit.  Read More 

What is Voice in Writing?

What is "voice" in writing? Having just read Joseph O'Neill's NETHERLAND, I again see that voice is really tone. Maybe that's more confusing. Think of it in terms of music. Let's say that one saxophone player plays a song well. Then you listen to John Coltrane playing the same song. Let's say that even the notes are the same (which wouldn't be the case, but let's say so anyway).

Coltrane's tone is what set him apart. It's the tone, the voice, that sets apart great writers from the rest. It comes from somewhere different than the usual pathways in the brain. It comes from deeper than thinking. It comes from the writer's soul, just as Coltrane's playing came from his soul.

Voice is not simply being original. It's being true to yourself -- your unique self. If you learn the form -- say writing, saxophone, whatever -- you can express it. Don't grasp for words. Let them rise up in you like a great sax solo. Learn the art form, the craft, and allow its expression.  Read More 

To Flu Shot or not to Flu Shot?

Non-writing advice for the day: If you can, get your flu shot. H1N1 is no picnic. Trust me on this one.