Revising Leah

August 27, 2008

Have You Googled Your Characters Lately?

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 9:23 pm
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If you are writing a story and have characters with both first and last names, it can be very interesting to Google them and see what results you get. Try not just the standard Google search, but the Google Image Search too. I tried my two main characters, Leah Nells and David Parks.

“Leah Nells” turned up absolutely nothing — other than posts from this blog. :-) There is a “Leah Nell” (no -s) but no one, at least no one that Google knows about, shares the same name as my character. Leah Nells truly is alone.

“David Parks,” however, is a different story. Google found a lot of people with that name, including politicians, soldiers, singers, and a fellow with an IMDB credit.

I rather like the idea that Leah doesn’t share her name with anyone else, but David Parks does. It just seems to reinforce Leah’s isolation and David’s popularity.

May 18, 2008

What’s In A Name?

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