Revising Leah

May 18, 2008

What’s In A Name?

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:22 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been working on the new chapter 5, which contains one of my favorite scenes in the early part of the novel.  It’s the scene where Leah almost makes a friend during her first week of school, but because of her inexperience communicating with other people and expressing herself, she misses the opportunity.

In the 1996 draft, I named the character who tries to befriend Leah “Carrie.” Later, for — let’s just say — extratextual reasons, I decided that I didn’t like that name.  So one of my tasks in chapter 5, along with my usual revising, was to choose a new name for the character.

Choosing a name for a character is always a significant event.  Unlike choosing a name for a newborn baby, who is a blank slate in terms of experiences, personality, and destiny, a writer introduces a character into a story knowing what the character’s role and personality will be.  Thus, a writer must choose a name that is suggestive, in some way, of that character.  There is, of course, a subjective element to all of this, too.  Different names suggest different things to different people, depending especially on whether we have ever met anyone with that name before.

So after giving it some thought (and after browsing some lists of common names that I found through Google) I decided to rename Carrie “Megan”.  Why?  Well, for one thing, I wanted a name that wasn’t too “flashy” or “girly” like, for example, “Tiffany”.  I also didn’t want to choose a name like “Emily” which, in my mind, has connotations to other isolated, hermetic individuals.  “Megan” is a good, ordinary girl’s name.  Finally, in my own personal experience, every Megan that I have ever met has always been overweight (there may be some skinny Megans in the world, but I’ve never met them).  In chapter 5, the character is described as “chubby” — not necessarily fat, but somewhat overweight.  Megan, in my mind, seems like the perfect name.

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3 Comments »

  1. Based on your description of the character, the choice of “Megan” is spot on. The name exhibits ordinariness, which is very fitting for your character.:)

    Comment by leafless — May 18, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  2. That notion of “ordinariness” is one that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I revise my novel (and it came into play in my other novel). “Ordinariness” is not only an important idea in the story (as a theme, perhaps), but it also plays a part in how I approach my stories generally. Leah Nells, as peculiar in some respects as she may be and despite what other characters in the book think about her, is ultimately an ordinary girl. I’ll definitely post more on this idea later.

    Comment by jmreep — May 20, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  3. Megan sounds just about right. Originating as a pet form of Margaret by way of Meg, Megan doesn’t *quite* stand on her own etymologically speaking, so it works well for a sidekick.

    My blog, which is intended for baby namers, might also be some help in the character naming department: http://www.youcantcallitit.com

    Good luck with the book.

    ~Elisabeth

    Comment by youcantcallitit — May 28, 2008 @ 4:39 pm


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