Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Chapter Two: A New voice and some dashed confidence May 7, 2010

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

My second chapter is such a treat to write because I am speaking in Mike Hayden’s mind–the chapter is his narrative.

I guess that’s kind of odd: what do I know about being a man in his mid-50’s? But, I am enjoying it. And as luck would have it, I have access to a handful of experienced “car guys” in their 50s who I’ve earmarked for future interviews.

When I completed my outline for the book I thought I was so prepared–I have notes on what happens in every chapter, so when I sat down to write the actual story, I (foolishly) thought it would “write itself.”

What I quickly discovered is that if my notes suggest Treva went to get groceries, that only opens the larger can of literary worms: was it a fast trip? do the details of what she bought matter? If I mention a particular food item, why, what relevance does it have? Does she run into someone at the grocery store, who? why? How do her food choices indicate her lifestyle as a single person–does she eat well or does she prefer snacky/microwavable stuff. Sheesh! There’s no hiding from detail, and it would be inexcusable to abandon an opportunity to delve deeper into what makes my character tick.

In Chapter 2, Mike walks into his competitor’s building to complete a weekly transaction. That should be it, right? As I had him enter the building (seeing the action from his perspective in my mind’s eye)  it occurred to me all the thoughts and emotions a person has about the stuff owned by someone we envy, and I had to give his impressions, even though he’s been going there for years. This is unexpected material I never made any notes about! I’m pondering and “watching” the action play out in my imagination as much as I am typing it out; actually more imagining goes on than writing, alas.

I’ll warn you now, Mike Hayden’s no saint. But he is a good and loving man with a lot of talents who is doing his best to make choices that benefit the people he loves, although he makes some mistakes along the way.

Learn more about my novel writing process!:

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Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character name crisis! May 6, 2010

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

As I mentioned in Fiction Novel Writing: Chapter Two Begins! my second chapter’s narration springs from the mind of Mike Hayden, Treva’s father and the owner of Hayden Autos, a Southern California used-car dealership boasting mediocre success at best. A man of heart and good intentions, Mike’s hard work over the years have fallen short of his dreams, and now that his beloved wife Camille has passed, he’s becoming just a little bitter. Orange County’s rich just keep getting richer, while Hayden Autos  continues to struggle. When will it be Mike’s turn to shine?

As I dove into the chapter, I introduced Lyle Langley, Mike’s hero, nemesis and competitor. For whatever reason–writer’s intuition?–I Googled the name “Lyle Langley” and was quickly deflated to learn the name Lyle Langley belongs to one rather memorable character from the enormously popular Simpsons show. Remember Marge Vs. the Monorail (1993), when Lyle Langley, played by Phil Hartman, convinces the town of Springfield to construct a monorail? Not coincidentally, there are similarities between The Simpson’s Lyle and mine, which just goes to show how certain traits can become attached to names in our brains.

As we writers and journalists know, resources on the web must be very carefully fact-checked. As I dug deeper, I learned from Wikipedia (not the most reliable source) that Lyle’s last name was in fact Lanley, On Phil Hartman’s IMDB page, the character’s name is listed as Lyle Lanely. TheSimpsons.com doesn’t even mention the character on its Characters page.  However, Google has the most references to Lanley, so I’m guessing that’s the real one.

Even though my character’s name is, after all, original, this event was a total turn-off and sent me back to the baby name origin sites to look for new name ideas. I created a short list of first names to go with Langley:

  • Leonard–“strong as the lion”
  • Logan–“hollow”
  • Lowell–“wolf”
  • Louis–“fame and war”

In order to avoid the same pitfall, I fact-checked all combinations and learned that Leonard Langley is a well-known boxer, and Logan Langley is a popular name for young American men who share a passion for athletics. Considering that my character is in his late 60s, the name Logan would be too youthful. But isn’t it interesting that among the Logan Langleys I found, most were mentioned in various team/sports rankings?

The winning combination and new name for Mike’s nemesis will be Lowell Langley, a name best fitting my character, and apparently the most free to use.

Now, join me in the hunt for the perfect title for my novel!

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