What’s in a name?

I’m not very good with names.

Specifically, coming up with names when I write. I’ve made a point to sort of ignore coming up with names. I tend to mostly write short stories, so I don’t feel the need to give a name to every character. Mostly because I never feel like the names are right. I feel like I know the characters I write so well that it’s unnecessary to waste time with something that doesn’t further the plot. It’s definitely not because I’m too lazy to think of names…

When I started writing this novel, I knew I had to actually sit down and develop a name for my main character, as well as the other important people in the story. I know that there are some books that have unnamed main characters, and it works for them. My story is not one of them.

I think I spent more time working on names than I spent working on the first chapter. Yeah, I’m that bad with names.

I quickly put together some names for the minor characters, trying not to obsess about it too much. After a few months, I had somewhat settled on a name for the main character. It was a name that I had always liked, so I thought it’d be perfect or her. It definitely wasn’t. I declined telling anyone what her name was because I was still so uncertain. It just didn’t fit.

I didn’t actually find a name until almost a year later, when I had decided to stop just toying around with the idea of the story and actually sit down and write it. I had been talking with Meghan, and going through old texts and encyclopedias when it came to me. It’s perfect for her, and fits into the story so well. I finally felt like she was ready.

I’m sure many people are going to mock the amount of time I spent working on names. Unnamed characters have never stopped me from writing. It hasn’t even briefly delayed me. That’s the wonderful part about computers; it’s so easy to just go back through a document and replace a highlighted space where a word should be.

I think a good part of the reason I worked so much harder on naming my characters for this story is because I wanted to challenge myself as a writer. I want to get better at it so that in the future I can waste less time worrying about names and more time just pushing through the writing.

I’ve been told a few times now not to get too attached to names in my story because publishers like to change them. I think for the most part, I wouldn’t mind if they changed any of the other character’s names. A few of the names I’ve picked are designed to give a hint about the character, and I’m pretty pleased with them. Other names, I don’t care too much about. My main character’s name can’t be changed, though. It’s too perfect.

So after all my hard work, getting my shit together and finally put my ideas together into cohesive chapters, I allowed my mom to read the first chapter. It was a huge mistake.

My mom has always been a big supporter of my writing. She is encouraging and asks too many questions. It can be a little straining, but she does it because she loves me and wants me to be happy.

At the risk of sounding like an angsty teenager, sometimes my mom just doesn’t understand me. She seemed oddly disappointed after she read the first chapter. She asked a few questions about the plot, then immediately went off about the names of the characters. She didn’t like the names. Any of them. She told me that one character’s name was too similar to the name of a girl I used to be friends with, and that girl would figure it out and be angry. She wouldn’t listen when I told her that the character wasn’t based off of the girl I knew, and then went on to tell me who she thought each character was in relation to the people I was friends with. I knew it was pointless, but I couldn’t stop myself from arguing. Of course, writers are influenced by the people around them, but that doesn’t mean that every character in a story is a direct reflection of everyone they’ve ever been friends with. *sigh* 

Despite my arguments, my mom would’t let it go. The main character has a brother, so my mom continued to ask me which of my brothers it was supposed to be. I was stumped because the brother wasn’t intended to be modeled after mine. He was created to support the main character.

It was frustrating to hear my mom’s complaints because I couldn’t get her to focus on the story or even my writing. She was too focused on deciphering who she thought each character was to look more objectively at each of them. She was disappointed in my writing because she wasn’t really reading it. She was just searching glimpses of people she might recognize.

I have since decided not to let her read any more of it until it’s all done and edited and bound together in book form.

Thanks for reading this mini rant. I needed to vent my frustrations, and was wondering if any other writers had faced similar problems with people trying to read too much into their characters, specifically people they are close to.  Sometimes writing can be frustrating. 

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather! Stay cool and hydrated!

About Jess

I'm just going to keep writing until I run out of words
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3 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Pingback: If the name fits | Words can change your life

  2. run4joy59 says:

    Sometimes my characters come to me and tell me their names. Then there are those times they want me to guess…I think they laugh at me and my struggles when I log off at the end of the day.

  3. jblamping says:

    Sometimes I feel like that too! It’s always an exciting process.

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