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I am having a naming problem again. Luckily I am having it early… - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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[Mar. 11th, 2013|08:36 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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I am having a naming problem again.

Luckily I am having it early this time. A few years back, I named a character Laura, and she was Laura through the whole first draft. In the second draft I went to change her name to Lucy, and I had to change every single scene she was in. Because Lucy was just not the same person as Laura. She just...wasn't.

I have attempted to name one of my protagonist's dear friends Susan. And...it's wrong. It's wrongety wrong wrong, and I know it's wrong. I write a sentence like, "They left Susan behind." What could possibly be wrong with Susan in this sentence? It is a straightforward sentence. There is no sense of wrongness of description, nothing that doesn't match internally. The only thing that could be wrong is that Susan is not her name.

Maybe she's Laura.

This feels fiddly and psychotic, except that sometimes there are enough problems in the world without forcing yourself to name a character Susan when she'd rather be Jamilla or Zofia or Ginger or Jill.

(Nope, not any of those either. Damn. I will try writing one of the scenes without this character and see what happens.)
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: leahbobet
2013-03-12 01:47 am (UTC)
If it helps, we are psychotic together, because I do this too. All the time.
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2013-03-12 02:21 am (UTC)
I really want to just send you a list of names now. :D
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-12 02:22 am (UTC)
I think I have one to try at least. We'll see.
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[User Picture]From: lollardfish
2013-03-12 02:28 am (UTC)
This is just not a problem that I, non-fiction writer, have!! But I have plenty of other problems.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-12 02:29 am (UTC)
"Do I really want to name him Francis I? What if I want to name him Henry IV instead?"
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[User Picture]From: lollardfish
2013-03-12 02:31 am (UTC)
My issues are more like: There are two guys named Matteo Steno. One is in my hagiographical document. The other guy had some property next to the property being sold in roughly the right parish. Are they the same guy? Could be! Dunno. Never will know.
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[User Picture]From: athenais
2013-03-12 03:05 am (UTC)
Names are very important! They make a huge difference to how I read a character. If someone has a terrible name I can never take him/her seriously. It can be a perfectly fine name, but not for him/her. So I wish you luck in finding a good one.
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[User Picture]From: calendula_witch
2013-03-12 03:36 am (UTC)
Fascinating. I once had a character Sara who got renamed Susan partway through my writing the book...without my even realizing it. She just...BECAME Susan. When I finally noticed, I went with it. Why argue with the writerbrain?
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2013-03-12 04:57 am (UTC)
Amber! Marcia! Bethany! Adrienne! Zara! Jean!</p>

Well, I tried.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-12 01:18 pm (UTC)
Nnnnot so much, but thanks!
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2013-03-12 05:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I didn't think so. ;)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-12 01:26 pm (UTC)
With this setting, nobody would Anglicize a Chinese name, particularly not the heroine. Her grandfather, for example, is named Yang, and her childhood best friend was Xiang Ming. Nobody would dream of renaming them Jan and...I don't even know what Xiang Ming would be Anglicized to.

However, formerly-known-as-Susan is not from one of the heavily Chinese-settled regions like Our Heroine is. She is now Tessa. I figured out that one of the problems with Susan is that Sue and Susie were not at all working for me, and the character is one who needs variations of obvious nickname (Spike or Bootsie would not do). So Our Heroine can happily call her Tess when she's being brief or Tessie when she's worried and affectionate about her and Tessa the rest of the time. I think. I hope. Whatever else I come up with (if Tessa doesn't work) will have to have that level of nicknamability, at least.
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[User Picture]From: columbina
2013-03-12 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'm sympathetic. When a character comes into my mind, the personality comes first, then the name, then the appearance, and always in that order. (Actually sometimes I don't bother with the appearance, probably because I'm such a non-visual thinker, and then readers fuss at me about it and I have to go back and provide one.) Point is, the personality always drives the name, not the other way 'round.

I suspect this shows an alarming trend to try to second-guess people's personalities based on their names ("funny, she doesn't ACT like a Susan"), but so far I don't THINK I've ever let it prejudice me in the real world. At least I hope not.

(EDIT: Since you're the only Marissa I know, you may very well turn out to be setting the baseline there, as it were.)

Edited at 2013-03-12 04:22 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-12 09:17 pm (UTC)
I must admit that there are a few names that I do let prejudice me in the real world. If you are a grown woman who goes by Bootsie, you had better be awesome, because if you are a grown-up, you have chosen this name for yourself, and even if your birth certificate says "Bootsie Smith," you could have said, "But my friends call me Amy," by now.

(Also it was my cousin's dog's name when I was growing up.)
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