Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Beyond Names

I’m bad at names. I don’t mean that the way a lot of people mean it though. I’m usually able to identify the people around me. I don’t have trouble remembering names; I have trouble coming up with them in the first place. Too often when I name a character, the name sounds like something I just made up. Of course I made it up. That is the whole idea of fiction. I have no issues about making up the story, but for some reason the names feel awkward at first. They’ve usually grown on me by the end of the book.

Things were a little different for my upcoming children’s books. Beyond Wisherton and Back to Wisherton are fantasies. The characters can do things that no one in real life can do; it doesn’t matter if some of them also have names that no one has in real life. That was a very freeing experience. It also helped me just a little bit that I let my kids name half the characters. Okay, that was awesome. I’ll share some of those names within an excerpt from the first book. This is from chapter 1 of Beyond Wisherton.

 Yavic and Lolly Find Out

“I think I have a gift,” Sevra said, her eyes pleading with her brother to understand, “but I swear I don’t know how I got it.”
Yavic couldn’t make any sense of what his sister said.  She never did anything wrong.  She was the last person who would ever be tempted to join the Herders.  She was the last person who would even joke about it.  “What are you talking about?” he asked.
“A gift,” Sevra hissed.  “I have one.”
She did not have a gift.  Yavic was quite certain of that.  Sevra had barged into his room while he was trying to do his homework.  She’d looked into the hallway and closed the door behind her.  She was sitting on the end of the bed, wringing the corner of his blanket tightly between her hands.  Sevra was clearly upset about something and whatever it was, it was probably more interesting than the equations he was supposed to be solving.  Yavic turned in his chair, away from his desk and towards his sister.  “What makes you think you have a gift?”
“I don’t think it,” she said.  “I know it.”
“You said you thought it.”
“I was trying to prepare you.”
Yavic sighed at her overly dramatic tone.  “Prepare me for what?”
“For”  She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  “This.”
“This?  You wanted to prepare me for a boring conversation?”
“No, for”  Her head jerked sideways to look at the door as it opened.
“What are you guys talking about?”  Their little sister poked her head through the door.  Lolly’s deep brown eyes were wide with curiosity.  Everyone else in the family had green eyes.  And a safer level of curiosity.
“Get out!” Sevra snapped.
The eyes shifted in response to the reprimand.  Lolly closed the door slowly, watching her siblings the whole time.
Sevra was battling too much fear at the moment to register any guilt for dismissing her sister so roughly.  She still wasn’t sure it was a good idea to tell Yavic.  Lolly was only eight years old.  There was no way she could keep it a secret.
“Sevra,” Yavic said, “what is going on?”  He was looking at her with more concern now.
“I have a gift.”  It got a little easier to say each time.  Easier, but no less terrifying.
“You said that already.  Why do you think you have a gift?”
“I’m too strong.”
“How strong?” he asked.
Too strong.”
“How do you know you’re too strong?”
This conversation was not going at all the way Sevra had pictured.  She expected Yavic to be as freaked out as she was as soon as she told him.  She felt an odd sort of gratitude towards her older brother for peppering her with annoying questions instead.  She suddenly wanted to laugh.  “Stand up,” she said.
Yavic did as she requested.
Sevra also stood and she picked him up.
Yavic didn’t think that proved anything.  Though he was fourteen and Sevra was only twelve, she was two inches – all right three – taller than he was.  It wasn’t inconceivable that she would be able to pick him up.  The fact that she didn’t appear to struggle at all only made Yavic embarrassed about possibly being too skinny and not concerned that his sister might be “too strong.”
One look at her brother’s face made Sevra put him down.  “What do I need to do to prove it to you?” she asked.
“Um”  Yavic surveyed the items in his room.  There was a chest in the corner.  It was mostly full of books, and he knew he couldn’t lift it.  “Try that chest,” he said.
Sevra nodded and walked over to it without a word.  She lifted the chest easily.  Then, to make absolutely sure he believed her, she balanced it on one hand like a waitress with a tray of drinks.
“Wow,” Yavic said.
But his voice had an echo.  Lolly’s face was back by the door.  Her expression awed.  “How’d you do that, Sevra?”
Sevra quickly put the chest down.  The damage had been done though.  She sank to the floor with her head in her hands.  Panic threatened to swallow her whole.  They would find out.  This night could be the last she spent in her own home.
Yavic motioned Lolly into the room and tried to take control of the situation.  Sevra had a gift?  He knew in his heart it wasn’t possible.  There was no way she could have done anything to earn a gift from the Herders.  But how else could she have lifted that chest?  They had a serious problem.  Lolly knew, too.  That made the problem about three hundred million times more serious.  Maybe four hundred million times.
He looked up and down the hallway before he closed his door again.  The last thing they needed was for Samtry to wonder what the rest of them were doing.  He put a chair in front of the door to at least give them some warning.  “You cannot tell anyone,” he said to Lolly.  He tried to convey the importance of the command with his tone and his expression.  Though if Sevra’s crumpled form and whimpering sounds didn’t convey that they were in trouble, there was probably nothing he could add.
Lolly’s initial amazement had already disappeared.  She swallowed hard before she addressed her brother in a faint voice.  “Are they going to take her?”
He shook his head firmly.  He had no idea how he could make that true, but he was going to try.  “Not if we can help it,” he said.
Yavic lowered himself to the rug to sit next to Sevra.  Lolly followed his lead and looked between them.  No one said anything for what felt like a long time.  Sevra quieted at the show of support.  Her hands still mostly covered her face though.
“How did she get it?” Lolly asked.
Yavic glanced at Sevra, who did not have her ears covered.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “I’m sure it was a mistake.  Some kind of mistake.”
Lolly nodded with conviction.
Sevra saw it between her fingers.  She saw that neither her brother nor her sister believed she had crossed over.  A bit of the pressure squeezing the breath out of her loosened.  She put her hands in her lap.  “You believe me when I say I don’t know how I got it?”
“Yes,“ Yavic said.
“Of course,” Lolly added.
“Thank you.”
The way Sevra was looking at Yavic made him uncomfortable.  It looked as though she was about to hug him or something.  “Look,” he said, “we all know you’re the good kid.  It’s really obnoxious the way you go around trying to please everyone all the time.  It isn’t shocking to think you haven’t turned your back.”

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