Friday, April 8, 2011

'WHAT'S IN A NAME? ...

… That which we call a rose, by any other name …” would be inappropriate, seeing that I am casting about for a name for a male character. Not just any male character but the leading man. In my half-finished novel. Which has been in the bottom drawer for, oh, ten years or so. Abandoned. Derelict. Bo-o-o-ring. Rather like the character’s current name.

(Think. How about Adam? Boris? Charles? Dougal? Edwin? …) The four people who read the first thirteen chapters have stopped nagging me to finish the novel. No stamina. A fifth reader has recently popped up, read all thirteen chapters in one go, and has taken over the nagging. I feel a stirring of interest and I’m tempted. But, ten years on, everything needs changing: the style, the pace, the language – and the name of the leading character.

(… Malcolm? Norman? Odin? …) Reading through the manuscript so far, and after so long, I can see that the story itself has a fairly decent basic structure. Alright, it needs kicking along a bit but that sort of tinkering can come later with the revision process. And I happen to like tinkering. As long as there is plenty of material to play with, I can make adjustments, cut and polish until the manuscript is gleaming. And the plot, so far, holds up – yes, there is a plot in this novel, there has to be, it’s that kind of novel. But if I am to re-activate it, and believe in it enough to finish it, I have to start in a small way, by giving the wretched leading man a new name. It’s a bit like changing one’s hair colour, or buying a new pair of shoes – a fillip (… Philip? …), something to ginger things up and get me going in a fresh new direction.

I don’t know yet if this manuscript is any good, but I’ll never find out if I don’t finish it. The leading man (Thomas? Ullrich? …) has to wake up and assert his authority, get a move on, do something. Maybe that’s the problem – he’s not very alive yet. The name of the leading character in a work of fiction is important in that respect. It has to reflect the persona that has been created for him or her, and the character has to stand out and be significantly alive. The name has to sound right in context and not clash with other names. And it can’t be anything like, say, Adolph or Hannibal, that might carry unfortunate connotations. Connor? Now there’s a thought. Yes – I think – Connor! Connor Page. That’s a definite maybe, as Sam Goldwyn may or may not have said.

P.S. Fifth Reader has vetoed "Connor" for a variety of very good reasons and the new name for the character is Daniel - I think - at the moment - unless ...

2 comments:

  1. I chose Connor as the surname of my main character. But he was written to be a bit of a loser, so for me the association has stuck...

    Why not give your character an unusual and old-fashioned first name and combine it with a plain surname? How about Peregrine Black? Not the sort of name you'd give to a human, but it strikes me as 'main-charactery'.

    Just a thought. Best of luck with choosing!
    Robert

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  2. Names can sometimes be really hard to choose - other times they choose themselves and stick, no matter what. Thanks for suggestions - perhaps Peregrine will appear at some stage, in some form ... Joan

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