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Friday, 11 May 2012

It's All In The Name by Val Innes

Because of continued IT problems I turned my attention to my manuscript.  I wrote it eighteen months ago and has been buried under a pile of magazine cuttings on advice about how to develop characters, show not tell and finding an agent.  These snippets of information were supposed to help me over the fear of editing the manuscript but instead, I forgot the 86,073 words that lay festering beneath.
When I finished the novel I felt fulfilled; like I had reached the end of a journey. I now believe the writing of the story is the easy part.  Trying the take apart each character, subplot and excessive description felt like I was ripping out my soul.  So instead I put it aside to give the plot time to sink in for I felt I knew the story word for word and as Anna touched on in her last blog, it is difficult to self-edit.
But here I am, more than a year later picking it up and facing the fear.  I re-read my first three chapters. Whoops, it has 22 characters, five of their names begin with “A” and three of them are main characters!  I even had a female called “Rowan Beech”. Naming her after species of trees? What had I been thinking?  She wasn’t even the willowy, natural girl her name implied, but a sullen teenager padded with puppy fat and dominated by a nest of unruly black hair.
Turning back to my “advice” cuttings, it seems that a mistake we often make is giving unisex names to characters.  I have one called “Alwyn” - I don’t even know where that came from but I can’t bear to change it because she has BECOME Alwyn in my mind. Female friends who have read the manuscript like her name; male readers can’t decide what sex she is…! 
Art imitates life for me though, because people are confused by my children’s names.  My daughter has a name that can be attributed to a boy and my sons could be a nickname for a girl!  So my parenting and writing choices parallel each other. Since I can’t change my kid’s names, I will set about thinking of new ones for my book.  Do I sound like an amateur novelist? How do you choose your character names? Do you think they are important? I am interested to hear but don’t rush… it might take me another eighteen months to get around to looking at the manuscript again!

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