Writer Behind the Mask

“You have to be available to the invisible voices that are swirling around you.”
–George C. Wolfe

I’m happy to welcome Roz Morris to SunnyRoomStudio as my third guest this year.  Indeed, Roz is a creative artist of many talents, and admits to being obsessed with a giant radio telescope (Jodrell Bank) as a child.

“From my bedroom window I could see it, far away.  Where all else on the horizon was a flat band of blue, there was this great structure of steel, softened by the distance to a fine spiderweb.  It moved all the time, reacting to unseeable events in deep space.  Sometimes it was a bowl facing straight up into the air.  Sometimes a half bicycle wheel.  Sometimes it looked directly at me, a giant white eye.”

Sidebar: Mention to Roz this could be a wonderful story for children.

“I used to stare at it through binoculars, trying to catch it move.  Like one of those experiments that proves the earth is rotating even when you can’t feel it, Jodrell Bank showed the sky was only a thin veil.  Beyond was a black wilderness teeming with asteroids, quasars and machines on heroic journeys to other worlds.”

The writer behind the mask lives in London and is a professional writer, a ghost writer, and and an author (published under her name), as well.

Her blog is Nail Your Novel and her book, Nail Your Novel — Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, is available on Amazon (links provided at close of piece).

Roz grew up in Alderley Edge in Cheshire and mentions that it’s also the setting of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner.  “I used to roam for hours in woods that were full of mysterious caves — the very landscape used in Garner’s Arthurian tale.”

Sounds like a great background for a writer, doesn’t it?  Imagination, creativity, artistic expression.  Roz is clearly a kindred spirit, and I know you’ll enjoy her guest blog post about naming characters.  I was drawn to her energy, upbeat nature, and creative spark; she’s never short on ideas and once you visit her blog or find her on Facebook, you’ll want to get to know her better.  Recently, she was an “extra” in the new Clint Eastwood movie, Hereafter, which stars Matt Damon.  More about that on her blog!

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WHAT’S IN A NAME?  EVERYTHING

by Roz Morris

The three chambers of fluid, lacrimal caruncle, fornix conjunctiva, canal of Schlemm, choroid, ora serrata.  Where are these places?  Somewhere under the sea?  No, they’re right where you are.  They are parts of the human eye.

I sense an artistic sensibility in the world of ophthalmology, as though its members are preserving a sense of wonder about what these organs do for us.  Next door, the brain is another grotto – it has diencephalon, fissure of Rolando, aqueduct of Sylvius, cingulate gyrus.  There must have been pioneering neurologists who wanted to use names that were indelicate or dull but it seems that was not allowed.

In a novel, even if your setting is a known place and realistic, each name you choose is an important decision.

I don’t usually get names right first go, but while I’m writing I have to call the character something.  I use might use a placeholder, something I know isn’t right but lets me channel the person I’m writing about.  Or the place.  But I have constant dialogue with myself about what they should really be called.

My novel on submission is called My Memories of a Future Life.  Its names hint at themes and the characters’ roles.  The MC is a musician who cannot play any more, and gets drawn into a strange and nightmarish experience as she searches for a cure.  I named her Carol, thinking of Lewis Carroll, and because it is musical without being fey.

The male MC I called Gene Winter, because heredity is important in this novel, and I wanted him to give off a sense of elemental coldness.  The town where the story takes place is Vellonoweth.  A totally made-up place, because I wanted to invent a lot of its infrastructure – and also because I wanted a sense of the weather and the elements running out of control.  Down the road is Nowethland, a sleepier suburb, connected but less tempestuous.

I’m approaching names differently in my current WIP. It’s called Life Form 3, and I was lucky that title came to me at the same time as the initial idea.  I’ve just finished the second draft so I know what the people do, what they’re worried about and what is causing the story.  Now I am using this knowledge to name other people and places.

It was those characters who invented the name Life Form 3, because the world and the story is theirs.  Each name in Life Form 3 says something of the inventor’s tastes, their times, their hopes, or what they want to commemorate.  It’s taking me some time to find the right ones.

We all grow up taking names for granted; our own names and the names of places around us.  But they are rarely arbitrary.  Rarely is a name in a novel just a label.  They carry the soul of the story’s world, like a soundtrack does in a movie.

Like those doctors, who aim to classify and know, but at the same time preserve mystery, wonder and respect in the vocabulary of eye and brain.

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Roz Morris is a published ghostwriter now coming out from under the sheet with novels of her own.  Her blog: Nail Your Novel

“The novel is a pack of lies hounding the truth.”
–Carlos Fuentes

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