Category Archives: Writing

Research Ramblings: Character Names in Historical Fiction: Joseon Era Korea

In the last twelve months, I’ve written stories in three settings: 19th Century New England, Cultural Revolution China, and Joseon-era Korea. Something that each project required was suitable character names, but each of those searches sent me to very different places.

Thanks to the movie selection during an Asian flight, my husband learned about Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, a Korean hero celebrated for repelling the Japanese during Korea’s Joseon era. His story was so inspiring that after my husband told me about it, I decided to write a story based on one of Admiral Yi’s most famous battles.

Researching Yi was a little difficult because there’s not much English language material about the Joseon era and I can’t read Korean. Fortunately, I was able to access a number of books at Stanford University (although I could not check them out), which provided the names of the key characters. For side characters, however, I turned to a different source.

TV and Movies

If you’ve had any exposure to Korean dramas, you’ll know that they are highly addictive and that historical dramas comprise a huge part of that market. Pretty much every royal person of note has at least made an appearance in a K-drama. Admiral Yi isn’t a royal, but his exploits have been the subject of one movie and at least one drama.

So I asked a Korean-American friend of mine to pluck names out of Joseon-era dramas (including The Admiral: Roaring Currents, the film my husband saw on his flight). While picking names out of a TV and film might not be the most scholarly method, these entertainment media were released in South Korea, and I figure if the names are good enough for a native Korean audience, they’ll be good enough for my story.

Table 1: Character Names from Various Historical Korean dramas

Male Female
돌쇠 Dol Swe 언연 Uhn Yuhn
준사 Joon Sa 숙 Sook
수봉 Soo Bong 순이 Soonee
오죽이 Oh Jookee 숙자 Sook Ja
동이 Dongee
달래 Dal Rae
소사 So Sa
육순이 Yook Soonee
Surprise Resources

My friend graciously gleaned the names listed on Table 1 above. In addition to that, she sent the following screenshot.

For those (like me!) who can’t read Korean, it shows a naming scheme. Apparently, way back during the Joseon era, Koreans would make up names by matching the month and day of their birth. For instance, if your birthday was on the fifth day of the fifth month, then your name would be Yong Nom. Pretty interesting!

I’ve included a translation of the table below. So if you’re writing a Joseon-era story and need some names, perhaps this will be handy for you.

Table 2: Joseon Era Naming Scheme

Month Day
1: Oong 1: Shik
2: Swe 2: Gu
3: Dol 3: Sam
4: Mahn 4: Suk
5: Yong 5: Nom
6: Yook 6: Nyun
7: Chil 7: Ggot
8: Ssang 8: Dol
9: Sam 9: Min
10: Uhn 10: Guht
11: Gae 11: Dol
12: Soon 12: Bok
13: Dan
14: Nyang
15: Ddong
16: Gap
17: Sook
18: Dan
19: Chang
20: Park
21: Sohn
22: Ryong
23: Bang
24: Deuk
25: Guk
26: Poh
27: Rae
28: Guhl
29: Yang
30: Jung
31: Seum

 

 

 

 

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Research Ramblings: Character Names in Historical Fiction: 1950’s China

In the last twelve months, I’ve written stories in three settings: 19th Century New England, Cultural Revolution China, and Joseon-era Korea. Something that each project required was suitable character names, but each of those searches sent me to very different places.

Living Contemporaries

I’ve heard that stories set in early 2000 are now considered to be “historical.” That being the case, depending on how recent your setting is, you might find someone who lived through the time you’re writing about. When I wrote my Culture Revolution short story, I reached out to my friend Shu for help. As it turns out, her parents grew up in Communist China during that time, and the three of them graciously helped fact-check my story as well as named my cast.

Please note, English-speakers aren’t the only one with naming trends. For instance, my Chinese given name is comprised of two characters. However, my friend Shu, who is about ten years younger than me, was born in mainland China at a time when the trend was to give single character names.

In addition, Chinese names can indicate a person’s social status. One of my characters was a girl from a scholarly family that had fallen on hard times so Shu’s parents suggested that she have “Lan” (orchid) in her name. Apparently, female names with “Lan” are associated with daughters of learned families. Although most readers won’t notice this nuance, it is my I hope that those who do will appreciate it.

Next: Naming Characters in Historical Fiction: Joseon Era Korea

 

Research Ramblings: Character Names in Historical Fiction: 19th Century Springfield, Massachusetts

In the last twelve months, I’ve written stories in three settings: 19th Century New England, Cultural Revolution China, and Joseon-era Korea. Something that each project required was suitable character names, but each of those searches sent me to very different places.

Interestingly, my 19th Century New England cast took the longest to name. This is partly because it had the most characters and partly because I wanted to make absolutely certain the names fit the era. Trends in names are more subtle than in clothing or hairstyle, but they do exist and for various reasons. For instance, although Mildreds are rare in America today, they were common a century ago, and when Twilight became popular, boys named Edward spiked. In addition, regional differences exist.

I’ve heard some writers visit graveyards to glean names off appropriately dated headstones. Sounds like a good trick if you’re within driving distance of a cemetery near your setting. However, I’m on the West Coast, and my story takes place in Springfield, MA. So I had to resort to other resources.

Legal Documents

As part of this project I went to the National Archives in College Park, MD to dig up 150-year old depositions for a lawsuit involving my main character. This provided actual names of people involved, which I used for the majority of my cast. Unfortunately, the downside was a quarter of the men were named Charles (which apparently was a REALLY popular home then). As such, I made the decision to rename two Charleses to avoid character confusion.

Local Publications

For the replacement names, I referred to Springfield: History of Town and City 1636-1886. In addition to handy descriptions of the town’s landmarks and businesses, it includes anecdotes about prominent citizens and lists of participants of various events. I count myself fortunate that this book was scanned as a free resource on the internet. Other local publications, such as newspapers, are usually only available through historical societies and would’ve required more effort to access.

Literature

If I didn’t have Springfield: History of Town and City 1636-1886, I likely would have resorted to Louisa May Alcott’s books. They’re classics today but were contemporary at the time they were written, and they coincide with my time frame. Better yet, they’re set in New England. Although I didn’t use Little Women to search for names, I’ll probably be using it to check my vocabulary and speech patterns.

Next: Naming Characters in Historical Fiction: 1950’s China

Just Published: The Boy Who Drew Cats!

“The Boy Who Drew Cats” is featured here!

Halloween is just around the corner, and on that note, Golden Fleece Press published a poem of mine in HalloWEEn Tales magazine! As you might guess, HalloWEEn Tales is a Halloween-themed journal aimed toward grade school kids, and the poem I wrote is “The Boy Who Drew Cats.”

“The Boy Who Drew Cats” is actually a Japanese folktale that I put into verse. While the original tale doesn’t have anything to do with the Western Halloween holiday, it is a spooky story that involves a demonic rat. At any rate, I’m thrilled that it’s in print and hope you’ll venture to the Golden Fleece Press site to check it out!

New on the shelves: the Mysterion anthology!

It’s out! My  sixth short story “Yuki and The Seven Oni” is now available in Enigmatic Mirror Press Mysterion.  The Christian spec fic anthology is comprised of twenty stories that include dragon infestations, aliens, a 17th century automaton, and my own Snow White retelling. You can find Mysterion on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo.   Please check it out!

Coming soon: Yuki and the Seven Oni!

Now some exciting news on the writing front: my sixth short story “Yuki and The Seven Oni” will published in the Christian spec fic anthology Mysterion! Mysterion is the first publication of Enigmatic Mirror Press and will be available next week on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo. However, you can find an exceprt of “Yuki and The Seven Oni,” which is a Snow White retelling, here.  Please check it out!

Just Published: Shifting Fortunes!

Now some exciting news on the writing front: my fifth short story Shifting Fortunes was published in Issues in Earth Science (IES)! For those unfamiliar with IES, it’s a website that provides resources pertaining to Earth and Space Sciences for writers and teachers.

IES has a feature called “Eww, There’s some Geology in my Fiction!” It consists of short stories for middle and high school students that illustrate  Earth Science concepts, and Shifting Fortunes was chosen for their fifth issue. Like all the stories in that series, Shifting Fortunes has an illustration and a science lesson to go with it, and it’s all free!

Shifting_Fortunes--Erin_Colson-small.34553700_std

Aki and Kageyama Inn from Shifting Fortunes. Illustration by Erin Colson

Shifting Fortunes differed from my previous projects in many respects. For one, this was my first time writing fiction specifically intended to educate. For another, it was my first middle grade work. I don’t usually write for that audience, but the concepts of Shifting Fortunes most naturally fell into that age group. This was also the first story where my engineering background came in handy. An added bonus was that a writer in my current critique group is a hydrogeologist at the sister agency of the place I once worked at. So in addition to the group’s feedback on plot and language, I had Yemia to vet out the technical aspects of the story.

Shifting Fortunes wound up taking more time and effort than I anticipated to get just right, but I am quite satisfied with the results. I hope you will be also!

Writing Contest Alert: 19th GLA “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest!

For those with finished YA manuscripts,  the Guide to Literary Agents (GLA) blog is holding its 19th (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest. The judging agent, by the way, is Eric Smith with P.S. Literary.

HOW TO SUBMIT

E-mail entries to dearluckyagent19@gmail.com. Paste everything. No attachments.

WHAT TO SUBMIT

The first 150-250 words (i.e., your first double-spaced page) of your unpublished, completed book-length work of young adult fiction (all categories of YA are acceptable). You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with each entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, you must mention this contest twice through any social media. Please provide a social media link or Twitter handle or screenshot or blog post URL, etc. and notes with your entry.

PRIZES!!!

Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com ($50 value)! 3) Their choice of any of Chuck Sambuchino’s 3 new books.

For more details about the contest, go to the GLA website!

Spear Among Spindles Now Available in Twice Upon A Time!

Spear Among Spindles was my very first published work, and it’s now available once more in The Bearded Scribe Press fairy tale retelling anthology, Twice Upon a Time!

Blurb:

Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn’t in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s?

Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

This collection features 43 short stories from the following cast of talented writers:

Bo Balder, AJ Bauers, Carina Bissett, Rose Blackthorn, S.M. Blooding, Rick Chiantaretto, Richard Chizmar, Liz DeJesus, Court Ellyn, S.Q. Eries, Steven Anthony George, Dale W. Glaser, Jax Goss, K.R. Green, Kelly Hale, Tonia Marie Harris, Brian T. Hodges, Tarran Jones, Jason Kimble, Shari L. Klase, Alethea Kontis, Hannah Lesniak, Wayne Ligon, RS McCoy, Joshua Allen Mercier, Robert D. Moores, Diana Murdock, Nick Nafpliotis, Elizabeth J. Norton, Bobbie Palmer, William Petersen, Rebekah Phillips, Asa Powers, Joe Powers, Brian Rathbone, Julianne Snow, Tracy Arthur Soldan, C.L. Stegall, Brian W. Taylor, Kenechi Udogu, Onser von Fullon, Deborah Walker, Angela Wallace, and Cynthia Ward.

Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover art by Luke Spooner.


Excerpt from Fire & Ash by Joshua Allen Mercier, a dark fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood:

THE cold, autumn gusts ripped across Salem’s port, stirring the angry waters, stirring the angry spectators gathered before the gallows—gallows which had not, until this day, been used since the Trials several years back. Men, women, children—all bore hateful eyes and twisted faces. All bore a deep-seeded fear of the woman before them; they watched and seethed, anger building like fire fed by the winds, waiting for answers, for closure, for justice—for the devil’s death.

Constance Archer stared at the sea of faces; she despised all of them, save two—two faces that weren’t supposed to be there. Her daughters, Rhiannon and Rowan, hid in the small grove of trees, but she could still see their watery, green eyes piercing through the shadows, their stares stabbing their fear and pain and confusion into her. They weren’t supposed to see her like this. With the gag still tightly secured about her mouth, however, her muffled pleas for them to leave went unheard.

Where was their grandmother?

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New on the shelves: Winter’s Regret!

Winters regret comp 2 (440x640)It’s finally out! My fourth short story is now available in the Winter’s Regret anthology.

The final volume in Elephant’s Bookshelf Press’s “Seasons Series,” this anthology explores that very human tendency to question decisions, even doubt our own abilities and capacities. Whether it’s because of a path not taken or a decision made for selfish or – perhaps worse – unselfish reasons, we all have had moments and decisions we regret.

My contribution, One Hundred Nights, features the legendary Japanese poet, Lady Ono-no-Komachi. But though the Heian era setting may seem far removed from our modern world, Komachi’s inner conflict between ambition and love is one anyone can relate to. Please check it out!