Monday, 26 January 2015

By any other name…


We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a scene; your heroine de jour, Kim Kardashian, is a top secret agent about to save the world as we know it. Kim’s been formulating in your mind for months now – the strawberry blonde hair, the butterfly tattoo on her left knee – but you suddenly have a fluttering sensation at the back of your mind. Haven’t I heard that name somewhere before?


A quick Google search starts off the chain-reaction of gasps, shrieks and, finally, the strangled sobs.

Your best character name has been nicked.

Not only are you left out of ideas, you feel like you’ve done the Writers’ Walk of Shame. We’ve all heard the time-old phrase, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but why can nobody see you’ve been robbed? You don’t want any other name!

Friends and family will come out with gems such as, “It’s only a name, can’t you just pick another one?” and “Get a grip, you lunatic.” They’ll offer helpful suggestions like Looty McGubbins or variations on the classics – Oban Dover.


Friends and family will come out with gems such as, “It’s only a name, can’t you just pick another one?” and “Get a grip, you lunatic.”

They completely miss the point that you have spent months searching for the perfect name, the perfect mix of mystery, meaning and mischievous allure. Your heroine is now hung in limbo without a label, picking her toenails while you thumb rigorously through the baby name book.


That facepalm moment...
But hey, look on the bright side – no pesky lawsuit for you. Congratulations! There are definitely some perks to this situation. Looking for a new name can also open you up to new ideas about your character. When sifting through the Kerrys, the Gertrudes and the Malificents you might come across something which has a truly special meaning relating to your character – look at mythologies from other cultures, delve into old photo albums, or start a new craze and bring back something from the 1820s. Go retro.


When sifting through the Kerrys, the Gertrudes and the Malificents you might come across something which has a truly special meaning relating to your character.

It can be easy to launch into something without doing a touch of research: before I’ve popped my characters names into the search engine, I’ve had obscure singer-songwriters, famous Australian inventors and the odd porn star.

Secretly you’ll always call your character by their original moniker, but you’ve saved yourself a red-faced moment and a couple of awkward fan Q&A sessions.

However, not to panic! There is always a chance to develop, improve and enhance your character with a wild and wacky new name.




Jennifer Lane is a children's writer based in Lancaster. When not scribbling away at her latest fantasy novel, she is probably outside getting muddy and watching the birds.


3 comments:

  1. By complete accident, once chose the name of a notorious footballer's wife. The wife SO didn't suit her name. Sigh ...

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  2. The worst thing is when the character name is in the title of the book and you find yourself scrabbling around for something that works both on the cover and inside. And then there's the heroic challenge of finding and replacing without turning "skimmed milk" into "sGertrudemed milk"!

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  3. Snap, Nick. 'Ben' was a blighter to replace: amazed at the sheer volume of bends and benches which were Gertruded. The upside is that you've now coined a 'find and replace' single verb for me :)

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