votes are in and names are up

Wow, thanks for everyone who voted on the NaNo novel! The numbers are in and it stands as this:

Option 1 (comic urban fantasy): III

Option 2 (children’s adventure): IIII

Option 3 (literary fiction): IIIIĀ I

So it looks as if I’ll be attempting some literary fiction. That’s a new one for me and I have to tell you, I’m a little intimidated by it, but in the end, challenges are good, aren’t they? Help us to rise above ourselves? Make us better and stronger people?

… alright, it did sound more convincing in my head…

Okay, I’ll be serious. Serious about planning, that is. Since it’s already the 18th (!!! gahhhhh! how did that happen?!?!?) and there is lots and lots to plot and plan. Some things I already know though. The names. I don’t how how you guys deal with names, but for me, it’s pretty much one of the first things I know about a character. Not always. Sometimes I know who he or she is and then find a name that fits them. But usually, the name and the character of the person come to me in a bundle. And then, once they have that name, that’s it. There’s nothing I can do about it. I might want to change it later on, because maybe the name has to sound different or maybe it conveys a ‘wrong’ cultural background or two names in one story sound too much alike, but in that case, it’s just bad luck. Nothing I can do about it.

I mean, just imagine if you took it into your head that you really didn’t like your own name that much and you decided to go by another. Maybe you have a second name, maybe you’ll change your surname to something else… but underneath, in your own head, wouldn’t you still think of yourself by your original name?

I can see how a change of name would help if you wanted to become a different person. Just like clothes, I guess: you put them on and you just feel different. They allow you to leave your personality and pretend, for a little while, that you are more fun or more quiet, more outspoken or more professional, more this or that or anything else that you can think of than you usually are. That’s one reason why people dress up for job interviews or for dates or for festive occasions – it’s an outward signal to themselves and it bucks them up to be professional or at their most charming or in their best festive mood. It helps. It’s certainly part of why I only really use make-up and fancy jewelry at certain times (like interviews and exams and parties and so on). In the end though, you’re still yourself when you take the clothes off.

A change of name, of course, is more permanent than clothes and I’m sure it would help you change, just by always reminding you to be different and act as a sort of guide to the new you. But that’s exactly my point with characters: once they have a name, that is them. I cannot change the name without changing the personality. And the other way round, if I think that that secondary character (or even, in one case, the main character herself) really has to be different to fit in the story, then I need to do them from scratch: new personality, new name, new character. The old ones gets put in a back corner of my head, where they sulks for a while, crossing their arms in front of their chests, huffing and kicking at the dusty furniture and pretending not to be hurt, until they snatch up a random particle of inspiration and hold it up above their heads, its light reflecting back on their faces and lighting it up with a wild hope and glee and they shout at me: “That’s my story, right there! All mine! My story! Do something about it! Move, come on!”

(I don’t know if your characters sulk or are hurt or angry at you or shout at you and order you about, but I fervently hope they do, because if they don’t, it might mean I’m crazy after all.)

So, yeah, names are IMPORTANT. They define people. They define characters in novels. And I have the names for my next book, and attached to that, the personalities of the characters. That’s a good start, right?

All the writers out there: do you find names as important as well? Are you able to change them in the middle of the story or is that utterly unthinkable for you?


About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on October 18, 2012, in writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Aww, the option I wanted didn’t win. The third one is still awesome though!
    Names are pretty important to me. I feel they enable me to know my characters better. It’s not uncommon for me to begin writing a story inspired by a particular name, haha. For example, I once came across the name “Petra” and loved it so much I went and created a whole story for it.

  2. Ohh, didn’t see the previous post but I probably would have picked two or three! Good luck! šŸ™‚ Beth

  3. Mieke Zamora-Mackay

    This sounds a little rehearsed, but it’s true, for me anyway. Sometimes my character’s names just come to me when I start writing a story. There are other times, that I tend to match up names to certain features/characteristics of the character I am writing. I have a character named Natalia because her birthday is on Christmas Day.

    • No, I love that! I always research the meaning behind all of the names – where they come from, what other names they are related to and if there is an explicit meaning to it. Sometimes it’s surprising to find out that a name that you have already chosen has a meaning that will add something to the personality, even if it’s only in your own mind. Like you say, it matches something about them… I have a character called Taima, which is ‘thunder’ in some Native American language, and she’s actually very quiet, self-disciplined and self-contained. At least, she is at the beginning of the story… šŸ™‚

  4. Names are really important. I’ve changed names twice with a character, but that was hard. The first time I had to change the name. I started the novel in 2008 with a character named Callie. Never finished it. Two years later I wrote a novel about someone named Kali. Different spelling but same name, and I couldn’t use the same name for both characters, so I changed Callie to Chloe. It’s close enough that I don’t feel it changed her too much, but it’s still weird.

    The second time I decided I no longer liked the MC’s name. I still haven’t decided on a suitable replacement. It’s either Adelyn or Addison, and I can’t decide. It’s really annoying.

    I’ve also had times, though, when I’ve tried to change a character’s name but she won’t let me. For instance, my MC for this year’s NaNo is named Maggie. I’m not particularly fond of the name (nothing against it, just not one that I’ve ever said, ‘ooh! great name!’ about), but she’s decided that that’s her name, and she won’t let me change it. šŸ™‚

    • Your Maggie sounds alright, a woman who knows what she wants! šŸ™‚
      About Adelyn/Addison – both names bring very different characters to my mind. Maybe you can do a mini-brainstorming session and see what you connect with each one. Might help you decide?
      And poor Chloe – she had the name first! That’s quite unfair… *sigh* We do put our characters through a lot, don’t we? Not only turmoil, danger and facing their fears, but also having their identities tampered with! šŸ™‚

  5. ģµœė‹¤ķ•“ gongjumonica

    Oho! You’ll write your novel? How cool is that! Good luck creating your literary fiction. I’d be happy to read it šŸ™‚

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