Author Topic: Need help with a character  (Read 6454 times)

Offline Cathy C

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Need help with a character
« on: January 20, 2009, 07:08:13 PM »
I’m using a character in my book: Female, Chinese, from a wealthy background, sent to a private school in England when she is 11.

She’s clever, but constrained by her formal upbringing and a domineering father who believes that girls are only a means to an end. (His reason for sending her to this school is the wealthy connections she might make.)

I know this might sound clichéd, but it’s not meant to be. I want her to come across as real, but still on the cusp of a culture that once viewed woman as less than human. (This point is necessary for my plot)

I have 3 questions:

1.   I know Chinese people put their first name last so, in my characters case, while her name is Mei Ling, would she be called Ling Mei in her country, and, would she refer to herself that way to her English friends?


2.   I want her to use the more formal mode of address when speaking about her father (in this instance, in an email) I’ve looked this up in a Chinese/English dictionary but can’t get a definitive answer. What would she call him?


3.   I write thrillers, and there are quite a few murders in my book so I need her spooked by ‘ghosts’. The closest I can find to suit my needs, is a ‘demon’ – Kuei-shen – a hungry ghost. Defined as a spirit: not happy, perhaps because it had a bad death, who might attack humans to prompt them to meet their needs and draw attention to their plight. Is this right?

The more I research the Chinese culture, the more intrigued I become. It is fascinating, but incredibly complex and I really need some help. So, if any one can shed any light on any of these points I will be eternally grateful. :-*


 Thanks

Cathy C
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GondorianPrincess

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2009, 07:26:26 PM »
I am not sure if the Chinese do this, but the Japanese do put their last names first.

I think that you may be getting your cultures mixed up but I am not an expert on the Chinese, though I was terribly interested in one point in time, I love the Japanese culture and want to live in Kyoto someday.

I suggest you try out your myths, you may be able to find a Deamon there.

Offline ma100

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2009, 07:43:09 PM »
Hi Cathy
I don't know if this will help, but they may have something to point you the right direction.

http://www.filmsasia.net/gpage87.html

Wolfe

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2009, 08:57:03 PM »
Ah, right up my alley.  ;)

1. Totally depends on the background.  For example, Amy Tan and Michelle Yo go by Ms. Tan and Ms. Yo.  However, more traditional Chinese names, not Westernize, go by the example you describe.  So, NBC superstar Yao Ming goes by Mr. Yao - not Mr. Ming.

Here's more information:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_name

2. This is waaay more extensive than you would believe.  So extensive, I could not begin to describe it here.  Instead, I'll point out a web site.

http://app1.chinadaily.com.cn/star/2003/0626/cu18-1.html

Bàba literally means 'Dad' and is more common when not used too formally.  Interestingly enough, Baba is also Dad or Father in other cultures.

3. The ghost issue will be a problem.  I know of no traditional Chinese or Asian family who will not abandon a place the moment a ghost or spirit is seen.  Unlike Western culture, this is very taboo unless the ghost is a family member in need of help to cross over.  Rarely, if ever, does anyone speak of such an event.  This is slowly changing in Japan where  'ghost' shows have gained some popularity, again due to Western exposure.  However, most know these 'ghosts' are fake and used as entertainment.  However, most Japanese refuse to speak of it.  It is considered bad Chi or luck ... especially among Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thaiwanese.  Please note this is not the same as Ancestoral Worship.

Ironically, this is the very reason Feng Shui is used:  To draw good Chi into a home and force bad Chi (ghosts and negative forces) from it.  Somehow, this got translated into some strange belief about good house keeping and decorating.  Finally, to demonstrate how taboo ghosts are ... have you noticed how most Chinese homes and businesses have those tinny bells and wind chimes near their doors?

This isn't to warn the owners of bad weather or customers, it's to keep bad spirits out and welcome positive energy into the residence.

All said, I don't know much about 'Chinese' ghost terms because of that reason.  Again, not a topic for dinner conversation as it were...

Good luck.  ;)

Wolfe


« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 09:28:59 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Cathy C

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2009, 10:09:42 PM »
Quote
I think that you may be getting your cultures mixed up but I am not an expert on the Chinese, though I was terribly interested in one point in time, I love the Japanese culture and want to live in Kyoto someday.

I think both are the same GP and, like you, I love both cultures. If you ever get to Kyoto, let me know – I just might place my next book there. ;)

Quote
Hi Cathy
I don't know if this will help, but they may have something to point you the right direction.

http://www.filmsasia.net/gpage87.html

Thanks Ma, the link is great, informative, but doesn’t answer my specific question, but ta for trying. :-*


Quote
1.   Totally depends on the background.  For example, Amy Tan and Michelle Yo go by Ms. Tan and Ms. Yo.  However, more traditional Chinese names, not Westernize, go by the example you describe.  So, NBC superstar Yao Ming goes by Mr. Yao - not Mr. Ming.

Here's more information:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_name

Thanks, Wolfe, that’s what I thought, but (and isn’t there always) would she make that distinction with her English friends?

Quote
2.   This is waaay more extensive than you would believe.  So extensive, I could not begin to describe it here.  Instead, I'll point out a web site.

http://app1.chinadaily.com.cn/star/2003/0626/cu18-1.html

Trust me, I know! It’s totally fascinating- baffling, but fascinating. I’ve checked your website and it’s still not giving me what I need to know. The nuances in this language are so particular that I think I’m gonna be stuck unless someone more informed than us can jump in. :-\

Quote
Bàba literally means 'Dad' and is more common when not used too formally.  Interestingly enough, Baba is also Dad or Father in other cultures.

I did note that, isn’t it strange how dialects come together?

I’ve also got:

Ba
Chin
Fu
Fu gin

(All without their accents or inflections, ‘cause I can't flippin’ find the button to do that :-[)

I can pronounce them thought – go Google!

Chin    – sounds like – Scween
Fu        - sounds like – foo
Fu gin   - sounds like foo chine

I
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know of no traditional Chinese or Asian family who will not abandon a place the moment a ghost or spirit is seen.

Oh dear, now I’m in trouble. :-\ But, I have a quote that says: “ if you believe it, there will be, but if you don’t, there it will not. (It’s a rough translation)

As for Feing Shui…

Quote
Ironically, this is the very reason Feng Shui is used:  To draw good Chi into a home and force bad Chi (ghosts and negative forces) from it.


In my research I thought Feing Shui meant: heaven & Earth? Wind/Water. Please don’t tell me that means ghosts and all? :'(

Quote
Finally, to demonstrate how taboo ghosts are ... have you noticed how most Chinese homes and businesses have those tinny bells and wind chimes near their doors?

Oooh, had forgotten about that – what a great plot point. Do you mind if I use it, seeing as you are the one to remind me?

Thanks so much everyone for answering. This has to be the most fascinating culture I’ve ever studied (apart from the Romany Gypsy’s –and, for sheer depth and mystic, they are still top of my list :-*)

I still need help though. If anyone wants to jump in, please feel free.

Please. :-*
Novel: Where There’s Smoke. Published by Fireborn publishing http://amzn.to/2tZKNCn

Short Story: A Killer Week Published by Bridge House http://amzn.to/2rhLVAX

Wolfe

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2009, 10:20:51 PM »
It's all good.  ;)  Hope someone with direct experience can help you further.

Wolfe
« Last Edit: January 21, 2009, 12:15:33 AM by Wolfe »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2009, 10:35:55 PM »
Cathy, I don't have any direct experience unfortunately. But I wondered, have you read any of Amy Tan's novels?  I'm thinking especially of The Bonesetter's Daughter.

It was Wolf's comment about ghost that this book came to mind. The MC, the bonesetter's granddaughter goes out to collect bones that her grandfather uses in his healing.

They are referred to as Dragon Bones, I suspect to both hide the reality of them being human and to enhance the receptive attitude of those being healed. At least, that's what I remember about it all these years since I first read the book.

Thinking about it makes me want to read it again. 
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Nelodra

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2009, 04:38:13 AM »
Cathy, We've got Chinese neighbours.
We don't see them very often, as they're usually either sleeping or working at their family's restaurant. They don't appear to have a lot of free time.

If I can get hold of them, I'll try asking them your questions, although I think I should probably better refrain from asking them about the ghosts...  :-\

Offline bailish

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2009, 07:45:17 AM »
I think I can help with the names a bit.

Mei Ling sounds like the second and third names for a girl, i.e. no surname. Mei is a common Chinese name that means beautiful. So, assuming her surname is Wang, her full name would be Wang Mei Ling. She would be known formally as Miss Wang or commonly as Mei Ling. It would be uncommon for one person to call her Mei, and another to call her Mei Ling, but not unheard of.

Hope this helps.


GondorianPrincess

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2009, 11:02:28 AM »
For other Chinese/Japanese names try behindthename.com
It  is the one site that I  go to for all of  my names. I even spend time there just to look. If a name strikes me as being awesome. I'll write it down or remember it  for later.

I don't know if you know this but the Chinese woman, when married does not take on the last name of her husband as is Western tradition. I know this because I worked at a bank a while ago and a Missionary Chinese family came to cash their check. We had a bit of trouble because of the names. But they explained it to us and we noted it on their account. So, it was all good.

Offline Cathy C

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2009, 06:45:16 AM »
Quote
Cathy, I don't have any direct experience unfortunately. But I wondered, have you read any of Amy Tan's novels?  I'm thinking especially of The Bonesetter's Daughter.


Haven’t read them, Alice, but they seem right up my street.  ;D I will make a point to look out for them in my local library – thanks. :-*

Quote
Cathy, We've got Chinese neighbours. We don't see them very often, as they're usually either sleeping or working at their family's restaurant. They don't appear to have a lot of free time.
If I can get hold of them, I'll try asking them your questions, although I think I should probably better refrain from asking them about the ghosts...   


Thanks Nelodra – I'd appreciate anything you can do.

Quote
I think I can help with the names a bit.
Mei Ling sounds like the second and third names for a girl, i.e. no surname. Mei is a common Chinese name that means beautiful. So, assuming her surname is Wang, her full name would be Wang Mei Ling. She would be known formally as Miss Wang or commonly as Mei Ling. It would be uncommon for one person to call her Mei, and another to call her Mei Ling, but not unheard of.

Hope this helps.

I did get Ling from a Chinese surname site, but I can see what you mean. (Didn’t notice before how much like a first name it is – d’oh *Slaps head* ;D)

Hmmm, might be an idea to add another surname and keep her first name as Mei Ling. Thanks Bailish.  :-*


Quote
For other Chinese/Japanese names try behindthename.com
It  is the one site that I  go to for all of  my names. I even spend time there just to look. If a name strikes me as being awesome. I'll write it down or remember it for later.


Looks like a great site GP, thanks.
 
Quote
I don't know if you know this but the Chinese woman, when married does not take on the last name of her husband as is Western tradition. I know this because I worked at a bank a while ago and a Missionary Chinese family came to cash their check. We had a bit of trouble because of the names. But they explained it to us and we noted it on their account. So, it was all good.

Oooh, I didn’t know that. Different cultures are so fascinating to learn about, aren’t they?
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Offline CoreyBlake

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2009, 10:00:33 AM »
I worked with a Chinese author for a year assisting her with her novel, "China Girl". From her experiences growing up in Hong Kong. the kids were VERY formal with their parents, but they had made up American names with their friends. they lived two completely separate lives in that regard: the old culture vs. the new.  Our story was set in the 60s up to present day.  You can check out the book at www.chinagirlbook.com if it helps.
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Offline Cathy C

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2009, 01:19:54 PM »
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worked with a Chinese author for a year assisting her with her novel, "China Girl". From her experiences growing up in Hong Kong. the kids were VERY formal with their parents, but they had made up American names with their friends. they lived two completely separate lives in that regard: the old culture vs. the new.


That's what I was thinking, Corey, plus she's actually writing her father's name in an e-mail so I'm assuming she will be using the more formal mode of address. Now, if I only knew what that was. :'(

Quote
Our story was set in the 60s up to present day.  You can check out the book at www.chinagirlbook.com if it helps.

Thanks for the link to your book, (will definitely check it out) and for taking the time to answer.

Novel: Where There’s Smoke. Published by Fireborn publishing http://amzn.to/2tZKNCn

Short Story: A Killer Week Published by Bridge House http://amzn.to/2rhLVAX

GondorianPrincess

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2009, 01:58:25 PM »
How's the writing coming along, mate?

Offline Cathy C

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Re: Need help with a character
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2009, 01:42:00 PM »
Er, slowly, Nilonimir. :(

I'm at that point, you know the one, where you will do almost anything except write. ;D

How's your writing going?
Novel: Where There’s Smoke. Published by Fireborn publishing http://amzn.to/2tZKNCn

Short Story: A Killer Week Published by Bridge House http://amzn.to/2rhLVAX