Is it common and/or accepted to give male- or female-gendered babies names that are opposite-gendered in China? Or are name genders strictly recognized? I've been trying to find lists of given names in China organized by popularity (1 being the most popular, and then ranking names from there), but I keep finding very incomplete lists, which is frustrating because I can find extremely comprehensive baby name lists for America and a few other countries.






No, and not really accepted. 

The Chinese try to make unique names for their children so they stand out of the crowd and aren’t confused with others. It’s actually taboo to name your child after someone else. There are some common given names here.

Names in China are chosen very, very carefully and generational naming trends are common (it’s very common to give one generation of kids in a family a connecting character (Wenting and Wenming, etc).

There are names that sound the same but use completely different characters based on gender, generation, and decided important (Xiaoming can be a male and female name, but it can be written with different characters. It also is the vague equivalent of ‘John/Jane Doe’ in mainland China).

Though there are some names that are more common for men and some for women, it depends entirely on the characters and you absolutely cannot tell gender from names written in pinyin alone (and sometimes not even from the hanzi either).

Basically, you want to be really careful when choosing Chinese names, and you may want to ask someone for help if you’re not sure!

Hi, I’m a Chinese-American writer and I just went through the process of naming some Chinese characters of mine with my mom’s help. I’d still suggest maybe asking for the help of someone who’s native (and literate in Chinese) with the actual names but I can maybe provide a bit more information if you’re unable to do that. 

Chinese names aren’t generally chosen on the basis of gender. There are trends like flower names are generally for girls and dragon names are for boys but I think for the most part Chinese names are gender neutral. Well at least my mom didn’t think it was weird at all that I ended up naming a male character after her. Her name literally means “eagle” though so. Naming kids is a very intensive process. 

There’s generally three words in a chinese name. The family name, the generational name, and the individual name. 

The generational name used to be cycled ever 60 years, according to the book of life which informs a lot of Chinese feng shui belief. Each family tree would have their own list. That way if you found someone with the same generational name and family name, you could probably assume you were related.

However, during the Cultural Revolution, a lot of that was lost. Because the revolution was about casting aside tradition, many families threw away their family book thing, and some, especially those families who strongly subscribed to Communist thought never gave their children generational names. My sister, my cousin, and I all have the same generational name, but it’s not traditional. My mom found a new one she liked. Also, generational names were often split by gender. My dad has different generational names than my aunts. 

Names will also often be derived from the parent’s name. My mom’s individual name, 鹰, has the character 佳, in it, which is my individual name. Additionally, it’s pronounced jiā, which is pronounced the same as my dad’s generational name.  This is something she spent a long time pouring through Chinese dictionaries to find. 

Also to note, something that you’ll probably need someone who’s literate in Chinese for; zodiac and fengshui can and will be taken into account. According to Chinese belief, the day you were born influences a lot of elements. Because my sister’s birthday dictated that she had a lot of water and was lacking in wood, my mom made sure her individual name contained the symbol for wood. 

When creating names for characters, I don’t think you’ll have to go that in depth, but looking up the Chinese elemental system can make for good inspiration. I don’t know it very well but it’s like, someone who’s lacking in fire doesn’t have a lot of ambition, and someone with a lot of wood has the capacity for a lot of growth. 

It’s a bit tricky to approach naming chinese characters because of how closely it ties to the family aspect, but don’t let that discourage you! Just give a lot of thought as to which words you want to use and what meanings they will bring to a character’s life. 

I’m fairly certain this the way naming kids works but this also might just be my family. Anyway, I hope that was helpful!

More fyi, Chinese names can also be just two characters. The first one, the surname; the second one, the first/individual name. Homonyms are also a consideration, as parents try to pick names that can’t easily be turned into a playground taunt. 

ALL OF THE ABOVE. Many given names have two characters, most family names have one, but there are Chinese last names that have two characters! (I just spoke to someone with the family name of ‘Sima’ for example.) The Old Hundred Names are the most common surnames, but they aren’t the only ones out there!

(Don’t forget the many Chinese minorities either!)

Hello! I'm currently writing a fantasy story, set in an entirely different world. I'm trying to describe the physical appearance of an Asian character- but, it's a new world, so "Asian" cannot be used. Do you have any tips for describing character's race without actually telling the race? This goes for all races, not just POC... thank you!


This post ought to help you out. Check the tags for appearanceskin, face, hair, and eyes as well.

Bonus tag: colors!


Your Characters Aren’t Made of Stone


You often hear about how mental illness is being overused or somehow romanticized in literature these days, and even though I can’t actually disagree with that, I don’t think it’s something wrong to write about. 
But I’ve seen many writers go through an amazing plot with well developed characters just to fall into the trap of the consequences of those conflicts and whatever happened in them, especially in a series of books. Characters suffer just as much as real people, and they are going to suffer from everything that you put into their lives. Sometimes they change for good, sometimes they change for bad.
And as a disclaimer, let me just add that I do not support any kind of good word about mental illness because if you suffer from it you should get help and it should not become something people seek just because they think it’s cool. Romanticizing mental illness is something I dislike and it’s very offensive to a lot of people, and you shouldn’t do it. It’s not something pretty or trendy. This stuff is serious.
Dealing with tragic events isn’t something easy, simple or fast. Remember to give it some thought, because it will define what type of character you’re writing and how the reader sees him/her. How will a funeral, for example, affect your MC? Will she/he even attend it and if not, what does this say about him/her?

Dealing with Trauma

Professional Help



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Hello, my name's Damian. Your blog is a major help so for that thank you. I'm a bit stuck on one particular character and how to write her, i was wondering if you would have any advice! Her name is Selina Blackhall I basically want her to write her as someone who constantly chases taken men and ruffles feathers with a lot of women. She's very attractive & cunning. I'm struggling with the dialogue i want her to be teasy and flirtatious. Being a bloke i have no clue how women flirt with us help?


Hello and thank you! As much as I would love to tell you that I have just the advice you need, the reality is that I have no idea how flirting really works. Try these on for size:

Followers: any tips?



Heeeey, so I'm writing a story that I really love, but I've hit a road bump. There's a scene that I have to write that is crucial to the plot, but from a writer's (and likely reader's) perspective, the scene is boring. Do you have any advice on spicing up important but dull scenes???


Hello there, writerly friend~ ♥︎

I like you, because this is a question I have been meaning to tackle for ages! I’m super excited to finally get a chance to talk about this :D

Before we begin, though, I want to give the usual disclaimer that the following is not gospel. It’s just my take on this situation. Consider this advice as building blocks. Take the ones you like, play around with them, and make them work for your own writing style~ ♥︎

And, with that out of the way, let’s take it from the top!

There’s a scene that is crucial to the plot, but it’s boring to write. How do I deal with this?

Well, those of you who have been following my blog for a while know my stance on writing— and that it should be FUN. If you (as the writer) feel like what you are writing is boring, then your readers will most likely agree. Just ask your English teacher if they can tell when a student actually enjoyed writing a paper c;

But, what if this scene happens to be important to the plot? Well, I think that there are two ways to go about this, but before we talk about them— I need you to be honest with yourself.

Is this scene really that important?

Seriously. Take a deep breathe. Step out of your story, and look at it objectively. Do you really need to have that scene? If you were looking at it as a movie, would this scene make it to the final cut, or would it end up as a ‘deleted scene’? I have an example of this that I have been using for ages, so let’s look over it again c;

Barry Prespen is a Wizard working for the San Francisco Police Department as a freelance Detective.

In Barry’s world, there are lots of supernatural creatures bumping about in the night.

The Elves and the Vampires don’t like each other, they are going to hold a council to talk about a possible peace treaty. The writer of this story knows that this scene is important, because it will show the Elves and Vampires trying to find a happy medium but ultimately ending in bloodshed. This scene is important, as it will strike the match that sets the plot in flame (if you may c;).

The problem? The writer finds this scene to be incredibly boring to write. Who wants to listen to a bunch of old men talking politics for 30+ pages? Nobody, that’s who.

So, the writer finds himself at a fork in the road.

☆ One way to fix this: “Get To The Point” ☆

What I generally do in a situation like this is to define the point of the scene at hand. In the example above, the whole point of that scene is to show that the Elves and the Vamps where unable to reach a happy medium and that the bloodshed has launched the entire supernatural world into an all-out war. Now, take a deep breath, and consider the following:

"How can I give the reader this information, without boring them?"

Seriously, it’s as simple as that. Find a way to give this information to the reader, and then go about with your job (which is to tell the story c;). In the example above, the writer decided to do this:

The next morning, just as Barry wakes up from a horrible hangover— he gets a call from his contact in the Elven District. Barry’s jaw drops to the floor. The Vampire and Elven negotiations ended in the death of the Elven Prince. Shit just hit the fan. Barry picks up his coat and heads out the door, head spinning as he takes a cab to the Elven District.

Boom. Done. I’m glad we didn’t have to spend 30+ pages listening to old men talking about politics (of all things, politics). Now the writer get’s to do what they like the most— write about Barry trying to get himself out of yet another rut with the supernatural creatures of Chicago, er I mean, San Francisco :p

But, that is not the only way to go about solving this problem…

☆ The other way to fix this, “Make It Fun” ☆

Now, let’s say that you still think the scene needs to happen. What do you do now? You have a scene that you don’t find fun to write, but you must write it… so, why not MAKE IT FUN :D? Seriously. Step aside. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself: what would make this scene more fun to write? Here’s what the writer of the example story would do:

Barry is at the pub, drinking away the night after another shift of battling supernatural creatures… when suddenly a member of the Elven court taps on his shoulder. Barry is taken by force to the Vampire/Elf negotiations to act as a mediator. Barry of course tries to not get involved, but as the only person to effectively interact with all the leaders of the supernatural clans… he’s actually the most qualified person to be the mediator. Barry stands in the middle of the council room, Elves on one side and Vampires on the other. He does not know it yet… but the fate of two clans, and the people of San Francisco, balance on his ability to keep these supernatural creatures from killing each other.

Now, THAT is something that sounds fun to write. The writer loves putting Barry in horrible situations and watch him struggle to find a way to save his ass. This is exactly what the writer needed. He gets to show the death of the Elven Prince— except now the entire Elven clan will blame this on nobody but… our unfortunate protagonist!

Oh, can you taste the drama? I love it!

PS: If you’re looking for more advice on making a scene fun, I have an old video just about that c;

Sorry for the long post! I hope this helps~ I really do feel that, ultimately, writing should be FUN. You don’t have to write boring scenes. Seriously. Either do away with them— or find a way to make them fun. If you have any more questions, make sure to send them my way!

Want more writerly content? Make sure you follow my blog for your daily dose of writing advice, prompts and writerly inspiration: maxkirin.tumblr.com!

Can a character self harm unconsciously, so to say? It's a thing to keep said character from thinking about a traumatic event but he doesn't actively think about doing it. I mean, for example, he is very nervous so he starts scratching at his arm because he wants himself to stop being nervous, if that makes any sense.


It does, and they can. This is something I used to do, and is why I now keep things in my pockets to fiddle around with. I’m not sure I would call it self harm in so many words—when I did this, it was more a nervous habit than any deliberate desire to hurt myself, just something I did to work off nervous energy.

Self-Destructive Nervous Habits


Battling Clichés & Tired, Old Tropes: Going Home Again



It’s an age-old writers’ question: What do I do about clichés and well-worn tropes? This month, we’ve asked authors about the clichés and tropes they find themselves falling back on, and how they fix, invert, or embrace them. Today, Kristyn Kusek Lewis, author of the forthcoming Save Me, examines the problem of using a tired trope:

CLICHÉThe visit back to the main character’s childhood home

You can’t go home again, or so the old saying goes. And when it comes to overused tropes, it may in fact be true. Sending your character down memory lane and straight up the front steps (or dirt road, or apartment steps) to his or her childhood home is a device that writers love and for good reason.

Even the most well-adjusted of us know that a trip home is fraught with emotion and ripe for examination, which may explain why entire novels have been written on the premise of a homecoming. There are the tricky family ties, the threats of running into the people who knew you when, the memories—argh, the memories—that seem to lurk in every room of the house that you were raised in…

Read More





More info on artbecomesyou.com


Where was this in 2007 when I was struggling and looking grey :/

Dark with warm undertones in the house!

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I've researched unreliable narrator, but every website I find tells me what an unreliable narrator is, not how your write an unreliable narrator. Do you just outright lie in the story? I'm so confused.


It’s not an outright lie.

  • First Person: To write an unreliable narrator, use first person. You can use a third person POV if the narrator has a unique voice and if it’s clear that the narrator is a person whether they’re a character or not (like in A Series of Unfortunate Events). Either way, the narrator believes that what they are narrating is the truth. If third person is used, the “you can’t always trust/believe what you see” trick is used.
  • Exaggerate, Withhold: Unreliable narrators exaggerate events and withhold information. Holden Caulfield’s mental state affects the way he sees the world in The Catcher in the Rye, and thus his descriptions of the events in the book come off as a bit odd. When an unreliable narrator withholds information, it’s not like when a character refuses to give up important information until the right moment to create suspense. It’s when the narrator leaves out bits and pieces because they don’t fit the exaggerated view.
  • Vilify: Unreliable narrators vilify anyone who challenges their point of view. If a character comes along and their behavior or dialogue is about to make the narrator seem like a liar or if this character will create plot holes, the narrator will make them seem like an antagonist by exaggerating and withholding information. It’s like when you hate a person for no reason, but you try to find any reason you can to justify that hate.
  • Other Characters: Use other characters to show that your narrator is unreliable. Your narrator might exaggerate about a certain character, only to have the presence of this character and their actions prove what the narrator said to be wrong. Create trustworthy characters to show how your character is unreliable.
  • Dialogue: What your character says to other characters can reveal that they are unreliable. If they constantly lie to other characters, the reader might relate this to their narration. Other times, your character can say something they believe is true only to have other characters look at them funny or correct them.
  • Bias: All narrators are biased and unreliable to an extent, but unreliable narrators take this further and often refuse to see the world from another character’s viewpoint. They use their morals and values to judge and explain the actions of others. This creates an unreliable narration of other characters.

TV Tropes: Unreliable Narrator (includes examples)