Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A Character by Any Other Name...

So it turns out the biggest problem with moving on from The Second Realm is that creating a new set of characters for a new story means coming up with a whole bunch of new character names. My next project is a short story with a named cast of four (perhaps five), and I've been hung up on it for almost a week now because I couldn't find a name that fit the lead.

Everything else is ready to go, besides a couple of details that I'm leaving to the flow to sort out. I know how the opening scene will work, down to exactly what the first two sentences need to say, but at least one of those sentences needs to have the main character's name in it, and I've been looking for that for days. Worse, I'm pretty sure I had a good name at one point and it slipped away before I could write it down (we're redecorating the house at the moment - freeing a hand to reach for pen and paper isn't always practical).

There are some writers, I'm sure, who'd shout at me for getting stuck on something like this. It's something I struggle with fairly often, after all. Atla, in season 2 of The Second Realm, took a long time to come together just because in most of my planning he was '[season 2 new character]' (more often '[noob]' for short). I do a lot of planning work with unnamed characters, and a lot of pages of my plans have 'NTFC' at the top (it stands for 'name these characters'; I'll let you work out the 'F' for yourselves).

But I can't start writing with placeholder names. I'm not good at rough first drafts generally - I fuss over every sentence enough as it is. There's something almost synaesthetic about the right character name, too; it's not just that it's appropriate to the setting, and the character's demographic within that setting. The right name just feels like it encodes something about the character.

This is, of course, completely irrational. This lead character needed a feminine-sounding name, loosely renaissance in feel, built around 'o' and 'l' sounds. To me, those are the sounds of her toughness and ingenuity, and those are the characteristics of hers which drive the story forward. Experience suggests that if I try to work with the wrong name, I'll stray and lose focus, and in a story this short there really isn't room for that.

I do now have a name, and I might go and get at least those first two sentences down once I've finished this post (there's still decorating to be done, so I don't have a lot of time for writing right now), but it's been a tough ride. Fortunately, working out this one name gave me enough to work from for the other character names - the characters are all from the same region, so their names need to fit a single style, and one of them is the lead's father, which gives him an even stronger tie. Hopefully the story will stick to just these four characters...

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