Last week I was doing a polishing draft of a book of mine, working with my agent* to make sure it’s the best it can be when she shows it to editors. And one of the questions we’d talked about was a name change.
In the first version of this book, there was a major character whose name began with the Kj- dipthong. But when I was first writing this book, I had a different idea about its audience than I do now–specifically, I was imagining the average target a few years older. I don’t want to make young readers bounce very early in the story with something that can be fairly easily changed, and it turns out that this character’s name actually could be. This took me a bit by surprise, because the last time I did a name change on even a minor character, I had to change parts of her dialog and even some of her actions. She was going from Laura to Lucy, and Lucy simply would not do the things Laura would, or at least not in quite the same way. (This got even more difficult because my brain decided that Laura was Lucy’s younger sister, rather than being nonexistent, and now there is a Laura story rattling around somewhere in here waiting to be written. SIGH. BRAINS.)
But this time around, it only took a few hours of letting the idea percolate before I decided that Kjartan could become Tryg. Readily, happily, no emotional balking whatsoever. Hurray! Surprise! But. This meant switching from someone who mostly went by his full name (Kjartan) with occasional uses of a nickname (Kjar) to someone who mostly goes by a nickname (Tryg) with occasional uses of his full name (Trygve). So while it was a lot emotionally smoother than I expected, there was no way I could do a simple search-and-replace, even with a name that was not going to have any false positives. I had to read each line that referred to him and make sure that it was not one of the rare cases where his first name would appear.
This was not hard, but it was a bit tedious, and with obsessive brain tendencies, I ended up doing it and the rest of that polishing draft work…all in one day. So that was Friday. Go team Mris. But uff da.
I appear to be growing brain back now. I seem to be able to do useful things in a fictionward direction. But even when name changes appear easy, they’re not. Really, really not. Because names are complicated.
*Yep, as those of you who read the briefer social media (G+ and FB) know, I have an agent now. Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Agency will be representing my long-form works. Many thanks to my good friend Jaime Lee Moyer for introducing us.