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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What's In A Name?

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other word would smell as sweet."

Well, Will Shakespeare certainly had a valid point when he wrote Romeo and Juliet, but I’ve discovered that my writing has a few instances where names caused me a few problems.

Take my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow. The hero, Rory O’Brien, comes to the village of Ballycashel under an assumed name, David Burke. His true identity is eventually unveiled, of course, but before that happens, I had to be very careful what I wrote.

Rory had to be “David Burke” to the people of the village. But when I was in his POV (Point of View, for any non-writers), I had to have him think of himself as Rory. And when I was in another character’s POV, a character who didn’t know he was really Rory O’Brien, I had to have them refer to him as “Mr. Burke,” while he thought of himself as Rory.

There were times when it got really confusing.

So what happens? I create another character in another work in progress. This time it's Lucas Howard. Or is it Lucas Davenport? Or perhaps he's Luke Davenport.

Lucas Davenport is the younger son of a Philadelphia businessman. Estranged from his family, he left Philadelphia to become an actor and took the stage name of Lucas Howard. His father and sister call him Luke, his mother calls him Lucas.

In Coming Home, my upcoming release from Highland Press, none of the characters have nicknames, or aliases. My heroine is just plain Ashleen O'Brien, my hero Cavan Callaghan. They may have a few secrets from one another, but thankfully, those secrets have nothing to do with their names!


Pat McDermott said...

I know too well how a character's assumed identity causes confusion, Cynthia! Another challenge for authors is keeping the characters' eye color, hair colors, scars and other distinguishing marks straight. Even their names can get lost in the shuffle if the cast contains a lot of players. I find it helpful to keep a file of character sketches.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Pat, thanks for visiting! Yes, eye color, etc. can get a little complicated at times, can't they? Even hobbies can sometimes mix you up. I have a character sheet that lists everything about a character, from physical characteristics to favorite foods and music, to memories from their childhood. But that's all part of the fun of creating a character, isn't it?

Keena Kincaid said...

I had to smile at your post, Cynthia. I usually do OK with keeping my characters' names and eye color straight, but I can't keep track of where they are in the room. Standing? Sitting? Leaning against the wall? Looking out the window? All four at once? LOL!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Keena, that's another one of those "technical" problems, isn't it? I'll be writing a scene, pause, and suddenly think, "Now where should that character be?" Thanks for stopping by!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I don't as the norm confuse names in a story, but a couple of times one of my CPs has found that I have called one of the main characters by the name of the hero or heroine in a former story. Funny thing is, I probably read it eons of times and didn't catch it.

Cynthia Owens said...

I think that's because you see what you expect to see, Paisley, and that isn't always the right thing. Thanks for visiting!

Cathie Dunn said...

Lovely post, Cynthia. Yes, I can see where the confusion comes from.

What I tend to do is that I forget minor characters' names, then invent them anew, only to realise later that they're already on my list of characters. And then, of course, I have to double check their physical description. Does it match? No! ;-)

Happy writing!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Cathie, glad to know I'm not the only one who's done that! LOL Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah J. said...

I think other than the main characters, I don't have a very distinct mental image of the side characters I read about.

Do you plan on reading any of the new Carina Press books?? I just found out about them today, I think you can buy them from booksonboard.com. They seem to have a lot of new releases coming out for this summer, it's gonna be so hard to decide what to read! Agh!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Sarah, thanks for visiting. One of the nicest compliments I received about In Sunshine or in Shadow is that the secondary characters were memorable, as was the setting. I think it's an author's job to make sure that every character, no matter how minor, stands out.