Help! And poetry!

Happy holidays! Happy New Year! Next post in 2016!

First off, this is an appeal: I need title help again. I wanted to call the Two Princesses prequel just plain Bamarre. But my editor nixed that, alas, so I’m back in title misery.

This no more than what is revealed in the first chapter, but I think you need to know something to get in title mode: The story starts off Rapunzel’ish. Peregrine, nicknamed Perry, is born into an underclass Bamarre family. Impoverished, the father steals from the local Lakti lord’s garden and is caught by Lady Klausine, who takes toddler Perry to raise as her own daughter (concealing her Bamarre origins), and she takes her older sister to be Perry’s maid. Perry isn’t to be told about her birth family or that she was born Bamarre.

I don’t know if this is enough to go on, but I hate to give more away. However, if you need more, please ask, and I’ll answer if I can without too many spoilers. Please post your ideas, whether they look good to you or not. This is no time to activate your inner critic–I need you!

And, as in the past, if you come up with a title, I will acknowledge you in the book and you will get a free copy.

Now for the post: On October 18, 2015, Bug wrote, I love poetry, and would love to be able to write it well. But I’m also not very good at it. Does practice help with this kind of thing? With writing in general? Or do you have to actually figure out exactly what’s wrong with what you’re writing and try to fix that?

Last week, in my poetry class, my teacher asked us, all students in the MFA Creative Writing program at NYU and most of us going for the Poetry degree, if we read mostly poetry as children.

Not a single hand went up. We all read more fiction than anything else and fell in love with poetry later. We became writers, I believe, because of fiction, which gave us our fascination with language along with story. Most of you, I’m guessing, read obsessively. The words get inside us. The first step in becoming fiction writers happened without our noticing, a lot like learning to walk and talk.

But to become poets, since we’re older, we have to take that first step deliberately. We have to read poems, lots of them, old poems and new, rhyming poems and ones that don’t rhyme. Since we’re older, we can sample widely and then concentrate on poems and poets that speak to us. I don’t think reading poetry should be bitter medicine; we should mostly go with what we like. If we’re very virtuous, we can occasionally sample poems that are harder for us to chew.

A warning, though: For those of you who are younger than high school age, get guidance. The erotic is a frequent (and legitimate) theme in poetry.

Another warning: Reading poems by other beginning poets doesn’t count. Read poems that have been published somewhere, picked by an editor. You can find many important poets and poems online. The Poetry Foundation website is a great source of poems, and the poets on the site have been published. Here’s a link: But Warning #1 applies; some of the poems won’t be appropriate for all ages.

A confession: I tend to read poems at the same breakneck speed I read prose, which is better than not reading them at all though not ideal. But if a poem grabs me, I reread and reread and remember. My favorite poems lodge in my brain. And by taking up residence there, they make me more of a poet. Same as with fiction.

If you like a poem, reread it. Read it out loud. Observe the tools of poetry at work! Notice the sounds. Pay attention to the sentence structure. Does the poet vary her sentence length? Or not? (No way is better than any other.) Do most of the lines end in punctuation? Or not? Is the poem punctuated at all (it’s up to the poet)? Is the punctuation regular? Are the lines long or short or varied in length? Does the poem tell a story? Or not? Does it even make sense? Do you understand it? You don’t have to, and it doesn’t mean you’re stupid. (I am susceptible to feeling stupid if I don’t understand, and I’m not fond of poems that leave me feeling that way, but some poets are more interested in sound than meaning, and some readers enjoy that. You may discover that you’re one of them.)

Does it rhyme? Does it rhyme sometimes? Are the rhymes unexpected? Does the tense change surprisingly? Does the person (first, second, third) stay the same or shift? Are there metaphors and similes (not all poems have them)? Is there a surprise near the end? Or anywhere else?

And pay attention to what you feel as you read. Some poems are intellectual, but many go straight to the gut or the heart. I love the emotional wallop a poem can pack.

So reading poems is the absolutely essential, sine qua non step to becoming a poet. A lovely collection to get you started is Step Lightly: Poems for the Journey, anthologized by Nancy Willard. Though I haven’t read it in a long time,  I think this one is fine for middle school and up, but check with an adult to be sure. Nancy Willard is a wonderful poet with exquisite taste. Years ago, I took a workshop led by her.

As you read, notice how vast the world of poetry is. Some poems are short and as light as air. The poet isn’t making a STATEMENT. Some are deeply emotional. Some are intellectual. Some advocate causes.

When you write poems, experiment! Poems are generally short enough that we can play around and try many approaches and many kinds of poems. Write serious and silly. Rhyme and don’t rhyme. Learn about meter and try a metrical poem. Go for feeling, and go for intellect. Write long poems and short. Try some of the short forms, like haiku, cinquain, tritina. Try other forms, like sonnets, pantoums, sonnets. If you’re feeling like a challenge, try a sestina. You’ll find descriptions of all these forms online. And my go-to reference book on forms is The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett (high school and up).

Suppose you write ten poems today… Don’t judge them! Put them aside for, say, ten days. Read poems by other poets in the meanwhile. Look at your poems again. Still don’t judge them, but revise without judgment. See if you can push the sounds by switching to synonyms with more alliteration and more assonance. Try breaking the lines in different places. Put them aside again and write new poems. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Most, maybe all, learning is subconscious. In reading, we writers give our brains poems and stories, which they churn while we’re unaware, and learning happens.

Aside from improving as a poet and becoming friends with great  poets decades younger than I am, what has poetry school done for me and for my fiction? Most of all, I’ve become more aware of sounds in my prose. I notice especially when I use alliteration, which I push sometimes and take out others. I’ve gotten better at noticing words and clauses I don’t need, because poetry is often compressed, so my prose has become leaner, which I like in my work and in everybody else’s. Sometimes I’ve used poems to try out in this short form ideas that I might use in a novel. For example, I’m thinking that I might like my next book to be a strange fairy tale variation on “Beauty and the Beast,” and I explored the idea in a poem.

Back to Bug’s question. Improvement in poetry and fiction comes with practice, more than with identifying what’s wrong and fixing it, although that helps, too. If we can figure out what doesn’t work, of course we should look for ways to address the problem, but we should avoid that negative voice. What we identify should be concrete, like too many adjectives and adverbs, not enough thoughts and feelings, taking too long to get to the conflict. Not: Today I’m going to transform my writing from lousy to good.

There are lots of prompts above, and here are three more:

∙ Write an unsentimental poem about a pet. An example of this is a disturbing and funny poem by Billy Collins. A dog dies and its soul reveals that it never liked its owner.

∙ In a poem, argue a position you feel strongly about, but also bring yourself into it. Show in the poem why you care, why you have something at stake.

∙ Pick a last line from one of the many poems you’ve been reading and make it the last line of your own new poem. This isn’t stealing, because you’re going to acknowledge your debt. Under the title of your poem, write After Name of Poem by Name of Poet.

Have fun, and save what you write!

  1. Bamarre’s Bird (b/c Peregrine is a bird)
    The Secret of Peregrine
    Perry’s Secret
    Peregrine’s Secret
    Peregrine’s Origins
    Rooted in Bamarre
    Born in Bamarre
    Bamarre’s Daughter
    Or any combination of the above.
    Is Lakti the name of the country Peregrine grows up in?

  2. Peregrine’s Flight (I can’t imagine one of your heroines wanting to stay locked up in a tower! 🙂 )
    The Hidden (or Two) Sisters of Bamarre
    From A High Perch
    Through Peregrine’s Eyes
    Witches and Wings

  3. Butterfly Yulia says:

    Hey there,
    I’m afraid these questions got lost on the last post, so I’m reposting them.
    1. My screenplay’s looking pretty good, but it has several scenes with sports in it and there’s a lot of technical sports lingo; is that all right? Should I include a glossary so Mr./Ms. Director understands what each move is?
    2. I’m writing a story with three main characters, but two thirds of the way through, one dies. I’ve grown really attached to her (she’s actually the Eponine I talked about in an earlier comment). I’m not sure if the audience would allow me to kill her, but that’s kinda how the story’s supposed to go. Is that OK?
    Thank you so much!

    • The Florid Sword says:

      2. If you need to kill her, go for it. If your audience has grown so attached to a character that they are sad when she dies, I’d say you’ve got an accomplishment. You don’t have to kill anyone but if your story requires it, don’t be afraid of what people will think. Do what your story tells you to do.

  4. Butterfly Yulia says:

    As far as the title for the prequel goes, I’d be happy to help but I can’t accept a free copy because my mom’s not real keen about me blogging here (she’s opposed to social media in every form). If you want to acknowledge me (as if I could come up with that much of a killer title), please just call me Butterfly Yulia from the blog.
    Question #1: are Lakti and Bamarre not getting along and is that why Perry doesn’t know she’s Bamarre?
    Question #2: Is Perry’s sister a major character?
    Question #3: Does Perry marry a prince? If she does, then you could call it the Princess of Bamarre (because your other story is the 2 Princesses of Bamarre).

    Off the top of my head, here are some ideas:
    The Lady of Bamarre
    Hometown Glory
    True Roots
    Roots to Grow, Wings to Fly
    Peregrine Takes Flight
    Flying Home
    A Thousand Secrets of Lady Klausine
    Klausine’s Secret

    Hope something helps.

  5. Hmm! Here are some titles, which may or may not be of any help:
    The Lady of Bamarre
    The Lady of Lakti
    The Two Hostages (or Orphans or Sisters or Paupers) of Bamarre
    The Secret Sisters of Bamarre
    Conflicted Loyalties
    Bamarre: Hidden Identity
    Bamarre: The Girl Who Grew Up in Lakti (or “Laktian,” or however that would be spelled)
    The Heir of Latki, the Maid from (or “of”) Bamarre

    I’m just pulling these out of the air. I think something that ties in with “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” would be something cool, like if it had the same sentence structure and/or described the two sisters. I also really like just using “Bamarre” as the title, harking back to “Ever” and “Fairest,” which are also one-word titles, but I can see how new readers might find it confusing. I hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck coming up with a great title for your book! It sounds like it’s going to be amazing.

  6. Here are a few suggestions:
    Song of Bamarre/Perry’s Song
    Fractured Home
    Imprisoned Sisters
    For My Father’s Crime
    Displaced Duo
    Unearthed Roots
    Flying Free
    My Sister’s Secret
    Klausine’s Deception
    Leaving Lakti
    Becoming Bamarre
    Captive Sisters
    Finding Home
    Lakti’s Lies/Secrets
    Building Home
    Freedom’s Flight
    Sisters in Sorrow
    A Time To Fly
    Growing Wings
    Hidden Home
    Forgotten Home
    Sisters of the Sky
    Freedom’s Home

    I just can’t wait for the book to come out! Two Princesses was the book that introduced me to your work and I fell in love with all of it.

  7. I tread the above ideas and all of them are great. I have a few that come to mind.

    Born Bamarrian
    Caged Bird
    Peregrine’s Flight (though this one may have been mentioned before)
    The Two Paupers of Latki
    Latkian Liar

  8. Hi,
    I know you’ve already gotten some pretty amazing title ideas, but one idea that sticks in my head as a great title in general is Shatterpoint(not 100% on the spelling) . This could work for your book because, like, at some point, the lies and non truths are gonna reach a breaking point, or shatter point, and the truth will have to be revealed.
    Wishing you luck and a Merry Christmas!

  9. My Sister Is My Maid
    The Caged Bird
    Flight To Home
    The Bird And The Tower (if, like in Rapunzel, she lives in a tower)
    The Fake Home
    Lady Klausine, ‘Mother’
    The Latki Lord’s Garden
    Good luck with finding a perfect title! I know that one will come around someday, you just have to be ready to catch it 🙂
    Also, the Beauty and the Beast story sounds interesting, and I hope that it turns out well!

  10. Jenalyn Barton says:

    Peregrine Lost
    Peregrine Found
    Peregrine and Annet
    Peregrine and Klausine
    Are You My Mother? 😉
    Lady Perry
    Perry Perfect
    Perry Pristine
    I’m Not Who I Thought I Was
    Stolen Life
    Stolen at Birth
    My Sister’s My Maid
    My Maid is My Sister
    Perry of Bamarre

    Hope that helps!

  11. Hi Gail! I really love your books!

    Here are my ideas:

    Simple: “Of Bamarre”
    Or maybe “My Bamarre” … mysterious and makes me want to pick it up!

    Is the book in 1st person?


  12. WriterGirl4Life says:

    I have one idea and one question.
    Question: Is story all bout Peregrine, or just the beginning?
    If the answer is all about Peregrine, then a title could be:
    Bamarre’s Rapunzel.

  13. The first thing that came to mind was Stolen Sisters, but you already have a Stolen Magic, and I guess you don’t want people to mix them up.
    Two Daughters of Bamarre. Samething, but this time the similarity might tie two books together rather than confuse them.
    The Girl in the Tower
    Lady of the Tower
    Peregrine’s Tower
    Lost Daughter of Bamarre
    The Lady’s Bargain

  14. Hi there! I could use a little help with titles myself!

    I looked at the title of the first book in the fan-fiction trilogy I’m writing. And (in case any of you were wondering) the main characters are Elsa from Frozen, and Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians. They fall in love. (Aren’t they perfect for each other?) : ) The story’s inspired by some videos I saw on Youtube.
    Anyway, the original title was Once Upon a Winter’s Love story. Me and my cousin came up with that one.
    I realized it’s too long, and kind of mushy. I decided it needed a shorter, fuller title.
    I read Mrs. Levine’s earlier posts on titles (Thank you, Mrs Levine!) and after some thought, I came up with: Snow Queen and Frost.
    I personally think it’s much better. It’s mysterious, and it hints at romance. But whether you agree, or disagree, I could use your feedback!
    Thank you very much!

    P.S. Merry Christmas!

    P.P.S. All the possible titles for Mrs. Levine’s new book are awesome, but my favorites are Lost Daughter of Bamarre, Born Bamarrian, For My Father’s Crime, and Imprisoned Sisters.

    • How about just Snow and Frost? Or a play on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, like A Midwinter Day’s Story. That has hints of romance, by allusion.

    • Gail Carson Levine says:

      I like Snow Queen and Frost. Also, shortening your original title might be another possibility: Winter’s Love or Winter Love. Thanks for your suggestions for me!

    • Hi, Poppie! I agree with Gail that maybe you could just shorten your original title, maybe to Once Upon a Winter? Just a suggestion. 🙂 I’d be interested in reading your story! Are you writing it on a fan-fiction website?

  15. A few of my thoughts:

    Daughter of Bamarre
    Lady of Lakti, Daughter of Bamarre
    Stealing Peregrine

    I don’t know if this feels relevant at all to the story, but I get a kick out of the idea of “Peregrine’s Progress”. Perhaps there’s something later in the story that would fit the “Peregrine’s ______” paradigm…?

    Peregrine’s Choice
    Peregrine’s Home
    Peregrine’s Peace
    Peregrine’s Place

    I’m looking forward to reading it!

  16. Titles are so tough! After brainstorming a while, here are my best suggestions:

    The Stolen Child (it’s also the title of a poem about fairies by Yeats, but besides that I think it’s an intriguing phrase)
    Bamarre’s Child
    Back to Bamarre (for alliteration) or Return to Bamarre (more formal; also fun because you, the author, are ‘returning’ to Bamarre)

    Other than that I’d say if there’s any strong image that runs throughout the story maybe derive a title from that? Best of luck, I’m excited to read it whatever the title turns out to be!

  17. A few more thoughts:

    Bought at Birth
    Beyond Lakti
    My Handmaiden’s Secret
    Two Lives, One Heart
    Price On Our Heads
    Sisters Of Shadow
    Heart’s Home
    Finding Wings
    Forgotten Home/Wings
    Secret Lives
    Home on the Horizon
    Treacherous Tower
    Beyond The Tower
    Finding Home
    Abandoning the Tower/Lakti

  18. Hey, this is Elisa, by the way, just to avoid confusion.

    I have a question: What do I call the parents in my story. I find myself saying “Mace’s mother” or Mace’s father” which seems dreadfully impersonal. I could just call them “mother” and “father” but I can’t seem to remember to do that, and they aren’t EVERYONE’S parents, which probably doesn’t matter, but it sorta bothers me anyways. Or I could use their first names, “Ava” and “Calamity” which makes them seem more like integral characters, but also seems to break the parent/daughter relationship between them and my MC. What ought I to do?

    (Oh, the story is in 3rd person POV, by the way.)

      • The Florid Sword says:

        I’m writing a book in the third person, and the main character, Esma, refers to her parents as Mama and Father. However, in the narrative I call them Bernathel and Martin, because they are very important characters and several of the subplots revolve around them. You could try it both ways and see what the most natural thing is.

  19. More title suggestions
    Bamarre blood
    Blood of Bamarre
    Baby of Bamarre or Bamarre’s Baby
    Perry for a Plant
    Lost heritage
    Born Bamarrian, raised Laktian
    Adopted Lakti
    Under to Over
    Taken for stealing
    Stolen for stealing
    Bound for Bamarre
    Caught in the Garden
    In the Garden
    Beginning in Bamarre
    All for a plant
    Lost in Lakti
    Because of father
    Goodbye Perry
    Paid with/ by Perry
    Protecting Perry
    Hush, Perry
    Not what you think
    Bought/ Borrowed
    Brought from Bamarre
    Bamarre by Birth
    Born in Bamarre
    Far From Bamarre
    Bamarre at heart
    The day you were born
    Locked in Lakti
    Perry of Two Places
    Perry Pretending
    Almost Adopted

  20. Thank you for this blog.
    I still use the tools you gave me when I was lucky enough to have you critic a manuscript years ago.

    Title ideas:
    Bamarre Birthright

  21. Hi! I see there’s been lots of title suggestions already, but I thought I’d give it a shot! 🙂 Here’s the ones I came up with that I didn’t see already listed:
    Stolen (But since your newest book is “Stolen Magic” this might be too similar.)
    The Lost Bamarrian (Or however citizens of Bamarre are designated…I guess I need to read The Two Princesses again!)
    The Two Sisters of Bamarre (If it’s not too similar, it kind of goes along with the title of the first book. 🙂 )

  22. Wow, there are a lot of good titles here, but I will give it a shot.
    Two of Bamarre
    Two from Bamarre
    Bamarrian at birth
    Bought from Bamarre
    Perry of Bamarre
    Flightless Bird
    From Bamarre
    I hope you like them!

  23. I have a question. I’m a very strong christian. And my writing clearly reflects it. But I don’t want to label my book christian, it simply has christian morals in it. But what I’m afraid of is that when I query an agent, who will most likely not be religious (but who knows, they could be), that they will reject it! And when I do find a agent, that when they try to sell the book to a publishing house, that none of the publishing houses that I want will take it up because it is to “christian”! Should I just go ahead and find a christian agent, and a christian publisher? Or should I just go ahead and dive into the secular world?

    • The Florid Sword says:

      That’s interesting. I am a Christian too, and my writing does reflect it. But I don’t know if agents would be dismissive of your work just because we are Christians. I think that there are plenty of books that have religious threads and have been published anyway. I wouldn’t be an authority, but I would say, just go ahead and submit.

    • I’ve had the same question, mostly with books I have not yet written or not completely written. Those I’ll have to wait and see just how they turn out when done. The book I’m currently trying to shop is certainly “Christian” since the MC’s faith journey is a large part of the plot. So my question for it is more which types of Christian publishers should I try.

      There are certainly books published by non-religious houses that are written from a Christian perspective. The Perilous Gard is one that jumps to my mind (an excellent fantasy for any reader, whether Christian or not).

      But one thing I have thought of (and I’m NOT speaking from any kind of experience), is the idea of getting a Christian agent who knows his way around various types of publishers and what would work with each.

    • Answer number one goes to Marry Norton. Number two may apply to those with similar concerns.

      1. “Christian themes and values show up in my work. Will this impede my success?”
      You and a whole lot of other people. Christian (and other religious) themes are present in all kinds of books. Ms. Levine has dropped hints that The Big Book of Bamarre was inspired by elements of Jewish history. C.S. Lewis’ novels have extremely prominent Christian themes and values. I took a religion studies class last semester where my professor built an entire lesson around a scene in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But…they’re also fantasy. You can read them as Christian stories, fit the values into your own non-Christian beliefs, and see them as moral tales not tied to any particular religion. Or you can let them be fun stories about a talking lion and a magic wardrobe.
      If it’s just the themes and values, no. Carry on.

      2. “I write Christian characters and Christian situations. Will this impede my success?”
      I interned with a Christian publisher last school year. When I evaluated a novel, one of the questions on the form was along the lines of “How much religious stuff do we have in this book, and how hard would it be to remove it?”
      Scriptural time travel, religious historical fiction, contemporary romances where the characters attend a Christian college-those kind of books could only be sold at local religious bookstores. Only local religious reviewers would review them. Other books could be sent to reviewers and booksellers at the national level.
      Most authors I met do a combination of religious and secular fiction.

      Don’t censor yourself. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, whatever, you have the right to tell your stories. People of your faith want to see characters in familiar situations and it doesn’t do people outside your religion a bit of harm to learn about something new. Just know that minor religious elements might have to be cut to give a book its best chance in the publishing world and major religious elements relegate your book to a smaller market.

    • Madam Butterfly says:

      Hi, Marry Norton, I read your question and just got through a similar dilemma, so I’m going to try to help. If I’m not helpful, I’m super sorry.
      I’m Buddhist, and a lot of my favorite authors are Christian. I have absolutely no problem with that. I don’t discriminate against authors because they believe different things than I do. (Heck, my latest manuscript is about the Holocaust). If a story has a few Christian-ish things in it (think A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle), I don’t really care; I understand that the writer and I are different backgrounds and keep reading.
      I don’t mind if, say, my character follows the 10 Commandments in her actions as long as she’s not obviously pointing it out on every page. If she goes through the story without lying, stealing, cheating, etc, then I get that that’s what she did and I don’t feel like this is a “religious” book. But if she starts saying “My faith in god pulled me through it all”, I get a little like, “Okay, are we in church?”
      Basically, if the character happens to be a Christian, I call it a “regular book with Christian MC”. If the character starts preaching, then I call it a “Christian book”.
      (I really hope I haven’t offended anybody—religious or otherwise—with this post. If so, I’m really sorry)

      • Thank you so much for your help! It makes me feel so much more confident in my writing. Now I can write to my heart’s content without anything to hold be back! And I thank the rest of the people who commented back, y’all have all been a blessing for me. (Maybe one day if I ever get published I will sent you a free copy of my book.)

  24. More title ideas:
    Perry’s Price
    The Price of Perry
    Secrets of Bamarre
    Sisters of Bamarre/Latki
    Lain in Latki
    The Two Sisters of Latki

  25. Hello! Here’s a few more ideas to add to your list:
    Peregrine Rising
    Tower Tale ( I wasn’t sure how much like Rapunzel you were going to make the story and if there would be a tower involved)
    My Lady, My Mother
    Hope that’s helpful. Can’t wait for your new book!

  26. Butterfly Yulia says:

    Hello, I have a question about character personalities. My current MC is very feisty, angry, and bossy (think Enna in Enna Burning or Lizzie Hearts in Ever After High). She’s cocky and short-tempered, and overall kind of cranky. She has to be victimized by a horrible family who sells her hair and beats and enslaves her. She’s forced to stay for years and all, but I have trouble with her because I don’t know how to keep her there.

    Also I’m having trouble with another character. She’s shy and prissy and I find myself not drawn to her because she’s too nicety-nice. The coarser tougher one is just more interesting, but I want my pretty princess to be the MC who wins.
    Any tips, please?

  27. Madam Butterfly says:

    (formerly Butterfly Yulia)
    Okay, just curious, how much involvement should a screenplay writer have in making a movie? In the screenplay I’ve written out this whole choreographed dance thing, and there are costumes and hairdos and all this stuff that probably should be handled by the producers. But I don’t want them running off with my idea and making it something I don’t even recognize!
    So right now it says things like “Penelope is gliding around the ice on one leg. Jessica is doing a jerky little dance, and Hannah is spinning beautifully. Noelle is taping the show on her phone. Simon does crossovers past Hannah and performs a backflip.” Is that okay to write, or is that none of my business?

  28. This is for Butterfly Yulia. About character troubles.
    For the first one about keeping a feisty girl kept at the house where’re they’re mistreating her: it depends on the story, and the setting. If it takes place in a fantasy world, maybe she could be under a curse to serve that family forever (sort of like the house-elves in Harry Potter.) You could even make it so that she doesn’t know she’s cursed, so if she ever tries to escape or fight back, something bad could happen, and she wouldn’t know why.
    If you’re going for a more realistic setting, the family could live in a manor with a bunch of guards if they’re rich. If they’re poor, they could live in really small quarters, with an adopted old guard dog.

    About your nice character. It sound’s like she’s a little bit “Mary Sue.” (Mrs. Levine has posts on Mary Sue’s and how to avoid them. Also, a couple about creating likable characters. I suggest you read them. They’re really good.)
    And also, what situation is she in? Is she struggling for survival? For freedom? For peace? To find love?
    Or is she living in splendor with a doting family, all the while leaning on a handsome suitor’s arm? Character’s are more sympathetic the worse their circumstance is.

    One last thing: what does it mean to have the “pretty princess win” ? Is the fiery girl the villain? Or are they merely rivals?

    Your story sounds interesting! I hope all this helps!

    • For Madame Butterfly Yulia. Just some ideas . . .

      One reason some people stay in bad situations in real life is from an extreme loyalty (not at all a bad thing in itself!). It may simply be an unwillingness to expose one’s kin, or someone could stay in order to protect a younger or less resilient sibling. But if your aim is to have them force her to stay when she would get out at any possible chance, you could have them hang some sort of threat over her – a threat to herself or to someone she cares about.

      As for the shy and prissy character – dig deep. Why is she shy? Something in her past? or just self-conscious? Does she wish she were more out-going? or does she wish she never had to show up in public at all? Is she prissy because she doesn’t want people to think she’s sloppy, or because personal beauty is her form of art expression? Like for any character, ask what she wants and what’s keeping it from her. There’s always more to a person than just shyness and prissiness. Maybe there’s nothing she likes doing so well as hunting around in the woods after a spring rain, looking for morel mushrooms.

      People who lived with my sister for three weeks think of her as quiet and nice, and they say they didn’t get to know her very well. It makes me laugh. She jumped out of bed this morning and within minutes was singing a crazy song at the top of her scratchy morning voice. That’s something she wouldn’t do while living in a house with “polite company.” Think what your character might do when she’s by herself.

      If you’re having trouble connecting with your character, maybe you should spend a day or two with her on your turf. Imagine transporting her to your world, and see what she thinks of your family, your friends, your activities. What would she miss about her own world?

    • Madam Butterfly says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for all the help on this; this is more than I could ever ask for!
      The setting is 1905 real-time Russia, and the family is pretty rich, so I suppose we could have some guards there.
      I’ll get right on reading the Mary Sue posts. Thanks for that tip!
      The feisty girl (her name is Xenia) is stuck with the cruel family because her father wanted a son and was trying to get rid of her. Xenia grows into this scrappy little thing with a wicked tongue, but she’s not really mean. She lives with the family because she has no money or relatives to live with and a young unmarried woman would be in danger living in the streets. Also, the family threatens to kill her if she is caught trying to escape.
      Xenia is rivals with the “pretty princess” (her name is Sofya) because Sofya was once a slave for the wicked family but she got rescued and Xenia was left behind.

      Sofya is all prissy and shy because she’s rarely been exposed to people (she’s been kind of shut away by a well-meaning guardian). She likes getting dressed up and being a pretty little Cinderella, but she’s a little awkward in conversation. She wants to see the world because she’s been locked up for way too long. She’s super attracted to this hot law student, and there’s instant chemistry.

      The reason why Sofya has to “win” is because it’s a Les Miserables retelling, and Sofya is Cosette and Xenia is Eponine. In the original story, Eponine’s supposed to die and Cosette’s supposed to get the guy. To mimic that would mean I’d have to kill off Xenia.

      BTW, the story about the “scratchy morning voice” reminds me of one of my old friends. One year at camp, she rolled right out of bed with her hair sticking up (she cut her hair really short so she’d look like Anne Hathaway), went into the bathroom, and started singing the jingle to the Brady Bunch. Mind you, she has a really dry, crackly voice. She even hums when she’s gargling.

  29. This is for Nessa. I read your comment on my post today. I appreciate your interest in my book! I’m writing it on a google drive. Maybe when I finally finish editing it, I’ll look into putting it on a fan-fiction website. 🙂

  30. I keep thinking of possible titles…
    A plant for a/ her life
    A plant for a girl
    A minute for a life
    Pauper to Princess
    Precious Perry
    Pauper Peregrine
    Promise Me
    Under to Upper
    Hidden Well
    Sister for a Servant
    The Servant’s Sister
    Lakti, Sort of
    Never Tell
    Bamarre Forever
    Always Bamarre
    Back to Bamarre
    Part of Bamarre

  31. So, um, hi. I don’t really have any good titles, but I guess I thought of “Peregrine Lost” because it reminded me of “Paradise Lost”. I really don’t know if it’d fit or anything. I just liked how it sounded. I haven’t looked at any of the other ones people’ve said, though, so I’m sorry if I just repeated something up there.
    And now I have a question about writing:
    My friend and I have been writing a story together for a year and a half, and we finally finished and have started editing/revising and whatnot. Basically what we’ve gathered and jointly agreed on is, “They talk too much.” All their information (practically) is told to them. Some of it is unavoidable, but a lot of it is told to them simply because we don’t know how to get them information in other ways. So essentially I’m asking how we can give characters information without out-and-telling them…

    • Is there a way for your characters to discover some of the information themselves, through clues? Maybe they could reason through some problems or conundrums. Another way you can get information to them is through the written word. Maybe one of your characters is very curious and likes to research things in books or something. I know that if my family goes on a trip anywhere my dad will read many books to get us up to speed on the history and such. I don’t know if that applies to your character’s world, but I find a good way for my characters to get information is for them to go and find it themselves, whether hacking into the mainframe of the scifi world and filtering through all the information there or deciphering ancient elfin runes carved into the side of a mountain.
      I hope this helps (and that it made some sort of sense)!

  32. I’m thinking about `Madam Butterfly’s Les Miserable based story. In `Le Mis’ one of the big reasons I don’t mind Cosette winning is because I saw how sad her early life was, and how pampered Eponine was. Having them switch places seemed ironic, even though I felt bad for Eponine. Maybe you are having trouble sympathizing with your Cosette character because the two aren’t properly balanced in your mind. If all you see is Eponine miserable and Cosette in luxury the unfairness of the contrast is overwhelming and puts a person strongly in Eponine’s camp.

    I’m not saying you have to start the story earlier, but maybe some strong back-flashes to show what your Cosette escaped from will help win your sympathy for her.

    You mentioned that she is awkward in company. Is she self-conscious about it? Perhaps terrified that someone will guess that she didn’t grow up in good circumstances? That could add suspense to her sections, and make the readers (and you) root for her. Maybe the young lawyer wants to know all about the girl he’s falling in love with, and she’s frantically trying to keep him from learning the truth because she’s afraid he’ll reject her if he knows, and that strains their relationship.

    I may be all wrong in my suggestions since I don’t know exactly how your story is going, but I do hope I’ve at least given you some ideas to munch on. (Mmmm, yummy ideas…. crunch, crunch, crunch.)

    • Madam Butterfly says:

      Happy new year, everybody!
      The story starts from Cosette’s perspective as a little girl, when the bad innkeepers (the Thenardiers) are enslaving her. Eponine (who’s not the innkeepers’ daughter in my version) is also enslaved with her, and she gets left behind when Jean Valjean takes Cosette.
      Cosette starts out very poor and mistreated, and she’s this sweet little thing. Eponine is actually a rich, kind of cranky girl the innkeepers use as a maid. She gets thrown in a riches-to-rags situation.
      After Cosette escapes with Jean Valjean, the Thenardiers’ inn burns up. Eponine lives as a homeless street beggar. The only person who takes pity on her is the law student (based on Marius). She falls in love with him, but he’s already with Cosette.
      I’m thinking about making Cosette a little older when she escapes the Thenardiers so she can suffer a little more and we feel bad for her. She might be 14 or 15 when she gets away.
      The narrative goes back and forth between Cosette and Eponine with a few scenes from Marius’s perspective. Cosette gets thrown in a convent for a while, so Eponine takes over the narrative while Cosette is shut away in a convent.

      Cosette is awkward and naïve because she’s been sheltered, doesn’t know her family history, and has no idea who her parents are. Valjean tries to make her comfortable, and she’s happy, but he’s really strict and she wants to see the world.

      I was thinking about giving Marius the law student a really snobby family that doesn’t approve of her because she’s “some waif with no lineage”. Would that be good?

      You’ve got some great ideas and thank you so much for all the help!

      • That’s actually kind of what happens in the book, the part about Marius’s snobby family. His grandfather (Whom he’s living with since one or both of his parents are dead) , a member of the bourgeoisie, not knowing Cosette’s real identity or social class, at first thinks that Marius is in love with a factory girl, and suggests that he (Marius) make her (Cosette) his (Marius) mistress. This isn’t received too well by Marius, who storms out of the house. Later, after the whole barricade incident, in an attempt to win some brownie points with Marius, his grandfather allows him to marry Cosette, still thinking that she’s some poor factory girl. Until Jean Valjean walks in and tells him that Cosette will have a dowry of 6,000 (I think) Francs.

        They don’t have this scene in the movie/musical, but during the Heart Full of Love reprise scene there are a few shots of Marius’s grandfather’s expression that are priceless.

      • Writer of Magic says:

        This blog encourages me a lot. I have rold my BFWs (Best Friend Writers) about this blog and how inspiring it is. You’ve inspired me to write my own blog.

    • I love any such title that is similar to “The Two Princesses of Bamarre”.
      I think someone said this, but something like “The Two Sisters of Bamarre” would work well, because it’s easy to remember. On the other hand, it’s also so similar that if someone was not a hardcore fan of yours they might get mixed up!
      What is the series as a whole called?
      I also like:
      The Hidden Sisters of Bamarre/Lakti
      The Stolen Sisters of Bamarre/Lakti
      The Two Sisters
      Peregrine of Bamarre
      Perry of Bamarre
      Hidden Hope
      Hidden Heart (yay for alliteration!)
      The Bamarrian Two
      The Bamarrian Sisters

      I apologize if some of these have already been said!

  33. The book I’m writing is pretty much figured out, but I’m still having trouble making the scenes a bit longer so I don’t jump through them all in just a few pages. I can’t seem to work it out.
    By the way, I thought up some titles. You don’t have to acknowledge me in the book or anything, I love thinking up titles.
    Peregrine’s Imprisonment
    Wish for Freedom
    Thank you for the blog. It’s helped me a lot.

  34. suzzettemirunet says:

    *surfing goodreads, sees post for Two Princesses prequel, instantly excited, clicks link only to find it won’t be out til next year, suddenly bummed* I am now counting down the days til this book comes out. Anyways, here are my title ideas.

    Inspired by a title already listed:(Perry for a Plant by Melissa)
    Plants for Perry
    Perry’s Plant
    Planted Perry
    Plant Payment Perry
    Paid by Peregrine
    Perry Provides/Providing Perry

    Peregrine, Latin Peregrinus, is a name originally meaning “one from abroad”, that is, a foreigner, traveller, or pilgrim.- Wikipedia. Peregrine: adjective meaning foreign; alien; coming from abroad, or wandering, traveling, or migrating. As a noun refers to peregrine falcon. With that in mind I got these titles:
    Pilgrim Peregrine/Perry
    Perry’s Pilgrimage
    Peregrine’s Flight
    Perry’s/Peregrine’s Place
    Perry’s Proper Place
    Peculiar Perry/Peregrine
    Peripatetic Perry/Peregrine
    Passing Perry/Peregrine
    Prosperous Peregrine/Perry
    Perry’s/Peregrine’s Peril
    Perry’s Predicament
    Peregrine Proposal/Perry’s Proposal

    Personally, at this point I like the possibility of just calling it Peregrine. I don’t know why exactly but I love short, simple titles. Hope my ideas help, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for Perry and Annet.

    P.S. I adore the idea of you writing a Beauty and the Beast style story. I’m more than a little curious to see how the story would unfold. I can honestly already see it sitting next to Ella Enchanted on my bookshelf.

    P.P.S. Great poetry advice, makes me want to dive back in and give it another shot. 🙂

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