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  • Changing your characters` names
    by debac at 10:24 on 12 May 2013
    I'm on a 3rd draft of my novel. Some of the character names popped into my head with no effort and were perfect, so I haven't felt any need to tinker with them. However, with some of the characters I just can't settle on a name and be happy with it, so I keep changing them.

    Do you think there comes a point in writing a novel (probably earlier on) when you shouldn't tinker with names unless there's a very compelling reason to do so?

    Does changing a character's name change the way you, as the writer, think of them, and therefore unwise beyond a certain point in novel development?

  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by EmmaD at 16:23 on 12 May 2013
    I don't think it's necessarily unwise - if it needs changing, it needs changing.

    I think if this happened, in line with my policy of Not Fiddling, I'd tend to go on using the unsatisfactory name until I was sure that I had the perfect one - or as near perfect as I was likely to get. Which might well not be till I'd finished this draft.

    Whether that would risk my finding it almost impossible to imagine the character with another name, I'm not sure. It's certainly true that the longer a character has a name, the weirder it is to try to think of them differently.
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by AlanH at 05:18 on 13 May 2013
    What about the rhythms you build up with a certain name?
    I thought hard about a recent name change. In the end I used one with the same syllable count and the same ending.
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by debac at 10:16 on 13 May 2013
    Ah, not fiddling. Yes. I am fiddling, I suspect. And sometimes I have changed the name and then found myself referring to them as the previous name, which says something...

    Thanks - that's really helpful, Emma.

    Thanks also, Alan - something I hadn't considered.

    Note to self: stop fiddling!!!!!!!

  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by CarolineSG at 10:32 on 13 May 2013
    I have this too at the moment with a character. But I can't actually write about them with the 'wrong' name. It's silly, but they aren't real to me unless I can sort it out. I couldn't just write them with that name and change later. Would be really hard..
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by MariaH at 10:45 on 13 May 2013
    I often change names too, usually, tho not always, of minor characters. I think, when a character develops over the course of writing, a name change comes with it eg Billy (to me) sounds immature whereas a Bill seems self-confident.

    I try to avoid names of people I know well unless it's a very common name but, oddly enough, I have used my own name twice! Tried to change it when I did, but nothing else seemed right.
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by EmmaD at 12:15 on 13 May 2013
    A propos Alan's point, I can't remember the details, but I do remember being unhappy with one character's name, deciding it was right and doing a search-and-destroy, and then realising that in other places it didn't work so well.

    Then there's the issue of the new, right name turning out to start with the same letter as someone else (which I posted about in Private Members here: http://www.writewords.org.uk/forum/112_439085.asp)

    And that's before you've got into how it does or doesn't work with the surname - which is an issue if you've got several people with the same one.

    I do love names, though. I had a particularly good time with the names in A Secret Alchemy - the modern family were all from Malory, who was a character in the 15th century bit, and the modern surnames were all medieval job names - Una Pryor, Mark Fisher, Isode Butler...


    Sorry, that link's misbehaved itself:

  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by CarolineSG at 12:18 on 13 May 2013
    How do you pronounce Isode, Emma?

    I read Maggie O Farrell's latest book recently and had to look up how to pronounce Aoife. (I think it is 'Ee-fa' if anyone else wants to know!)

    I must admit that I find it a little distracting, not to know how a name should sound...
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by Account Closed at 13:29 on 13 May 2013
    I agree, Caroline. Luckily I have Irish friends to pronouce the ones that I'm not sure about. Like Niamh - which is Neeve and, yes Aoiffe, which is Ee-fa. Then there's Siobhan - Shi-vaun. Oh, and Gaius...
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by debac at 15:35 on 13 May 2013
    Yes, distracting if you don't know a name's real pronunciation, or even if you find it amusing.

    My husband and I used to take great (childish) delight in mispronouncing the name Eoghan when he was on (whisper) X Factor...

    As a child I thought Gladys was pronounced Glades, since I'd only ever since it in print and never heard it.

    Siobhan and Aoife and Niamh are all delicious names, really lovely, but I have worried about using them in fiction in case they annoy or trip somebody.

    I think it may be that I am trying to feel the character and struggling with that. Changing the name may be a symptom of that.
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by billy p at 07:29 on 14 May 2013
    I have a situation where I was perfectly happy with my MC's name(Tom Barrow) but felt I had to change it, when another fictional character turned up with the same name!
    I had settled on this name years ago(there's a lesson here, don't procrastinate -get on with it!) when, while sitting through an episode of Downton Abbey, it dawned on me that one of the main characters was a Thomas Barrow. Gutted, I loved that name!
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by CarolineSG at 07:42 on 14 May 2013
    Billy, I don't think it matters about the Downton character?

    It's not like it's, I don't know, Willy Wonka, or Zaphod Beeblebrox - v recognisable from other fiction.

    Especially if yours is the shortened Tom. I think you should go for it!
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by EmmaD at 08:34 on 14 May 2013
    Yes, I don't think you should let Downton put you off, Billy, for all the reasons Caroline says.

    How do you pronounce Isode, Emma?

    It's Malory's version of the name Wagner has as Isolde, so I always hear it as i-ZO-duh. No idea if that's right, but I couldn't spoil things by going for the German version.
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by billy p at 08:55 on 14 May 2013
    Thanks, that's really helped. I still think of him as Tom Barrow anyway!
  • Re: Changing your characters` names
    by Jaytee Conner at 11:52 on 14 May 2013
    Names drive me mad.

    I seem to home in on names that begin with A and C and J
    I constantly name several characters with the same first letter and realise that at some stage someone's name is going to have to change.

    Now I've got an MC who is hiding her identity (this seems to be a theme of mine!) and starts with one name but changes to another. I think the reader will get it, since she reverts to her real name at the end of a dramatic scene.

    As far as names that are hard or unfamiliar to pronounce. I have to say when I'm reading I find this irritating and in my mind would say a name like Aoife that I don't know how to pronounce as Aoffeaahy.... and slide over it.
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