So, I’m writing this novel, or supposed to be writing this novel — the line gets blurred at times so it’s hard to tell if I am writing a novel or merely making myself feel guilty about not spending enough time with it. A few weeks ago I hit a wall.
Names of characters. Some of you have read the flash fiction which has generated this novel, which I tend to think of as the “Donnie and Sam” stories. There were a few instances of people hating the name Donnie. Why Donnie? they’d say, It sounds so unintelligent. I think those people just have bad connotations with the name, Donnie, and as a result can’t get past it. To them, I say deal with it. This is where my problem started. I toyed with changing the names, because let’s face it, Donnie is a goofy name. So I wrote a section with the names changed to Ethan and Lilly, but it was like everything was different. Who are Ethan and Lilly? Those names seem much more mature than Donnie and Sam, (Sam is short for Samantha). It was like starting over again, and I didn’t feel the same sense of energy that caused the prolific writing of the Donnie and Sam stories.
This week, I sat down to write some more. I didn’t look at the Ethan and Lilly section, but just started a new section with the old names. Everything returned. I knew these characters.
It may be sacrilege to some of you for me to say this, but I think Shakespeare is wrong. There is much to a name (just look at all the Google Scholar hits on, brand name). Again, I’m sure some people are saying that doesn’t relate! Shakespeare and brand names, how dare you. A rose may smell as sweet by any other name, but would you rather smell a flower called a rose, or one called a stank blossom?
All of this is to say that names matter. A name brings with it certain ideas and concepts. It’s hard to imagine a character named Bubba being an intelligent investment banker brought up in private schools. Don’t get hung up on what to name a character, when the right one comes along, you should know, but also don’t take it lightly — you may find yourself stuck unable to write with too much time to pause and smell the stank blossoms.