Tuesday, September 28, 2010

T.S. Eliot Applies Here, Too...

The Naming of Cats - T.S. Eliot

I’m still nomenclature hunting.

I’ve got two of the main characters’ names and one for the minor-ish guy. But the main character that I already love the most... well, the jury is still out.

It’s not as if I’m entirely fussy. Okay, truthfully, I am fussy. Quite. But I mean, hey, shouldn’t I be? First of all, I need to be able to “work” with it and see it on the page – a lot. Second (and more importantly) character names can make all the difference. Would the world love Pansy O’Hara just as well? Or Sniffy (the original proposed name of Snoopy)? Or Alexander Darling leaving with Peter Pan? Possibly, sure, as it could just be a matter of what we’re used to... nevertheless, there’s no question of a name’s “power.” It has to ring true or “sound right.”

Part of the fussiness can be chalked up to just not liking them. But, of course, it’s by taste. One name on my list of potentials Bart and members of his family like a lot, saying it sounds upper crust. Me? I think it sounds like a hick. This character is neither of those. (If you’re wondering why it had been on my list then, it’s because it’s a bit unique, which, I think, is why they like it.) Buttercup has had a few suggestions [and doesn’t like the name they do either], but essentially naysays herself shortly after and those that she does like, I have issues. Perhaps they remind me of someone I’d rather not think about, or it’s too similar to a name I’ve used before or has a heavy association otherwise.

Then there’s the fact that I’m working within a restriction. For this book, the name has to be something from the late 1800’s. Subset factors are involved, too. I’m hoping for a polysyllabic name (it just feels right for the character) as well as it must actually sound archaic, or at least vaguely uncommon by today's standards. Plus, it needs to be appropriate for his character – not just personality, but his circumstances and situation in life.

All of these elements add up to a tricky ordeal. Needless to say, I’ve gone through quite a number of names on my list (circa 15). And you know what? Eventually the supply of names that fit the criteria are exhausted and one of them needs to be selected. Sure, I could just make one up, but that opens up a whole new set of issues (such as it can’t sound too outlandish or forced.)

Eventually a name will stick (actually there’s a place-holder name in my notes, but despite my gravitating toward it, that moniker sounds like it’s trying too hard to fit the bill) and I’ll be that much further along.

But in the end, the character has to approve. I mean, really, he would know what his name is, wouldn’t he? For me it’s usually the case that a character is more likely to reject a name... and thus makes me guess what s/he is called.  I’ve been “yelled” at by one for spelling his name wrong. So sooner or later they’re vocal about it... I just have to find the right one to start.

Fortunately I just might have stumbled across it. Who am I kidding?  I probably saw it many times and am just now starting to “cotton” to it. [Refer to remark about exhausting the supply.]

I’ll see what the peanut gallery thinks of it, too. But, yes, I  have the final decision.
(Until the character speaks up!)

Ever realize this much goes into the naming of characters?

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