Monday, April 5, 2010

What's in a Name?

Ron has Stoner2. Well, my current work in progress is something I've been calling Thin Ice 2--TI2. Thin Ice is a book I wrote in the late nineties. Since then, every now and then, one of the characters would pop up and whisper to me. So this past year I finally got to it. TI2 is not a YA, but another attempt at adult hen lit. The main character in TI2 was a secondary character in TI1.The brother's girlfriend. Pretty quickly into the project I realized the new novel was only dragged down by keeping the ties to TI1. The main character in 2 shares only a couple of things with her 1 character: she's a single mom of two girls and a naturalist/science teacher. So, I've kept three characters but jettisoned all other carryovers.

I've known all along that the three carryovers can't and won't have the same names their origin characters had. But I just didn't get around to changing them. For months I've been thinking of them as Claire, Hannah, and Gwen.

I'm about four scenes from finishing the novel and I realized this morning that it was time to do it. You'd think I could wait a day or two until I get those scenes written, but no. Like a dog with a bone, I spent the whole day playing with names. The girls weren't much of a problem, but renaming the main character has been a nightmare. I pored over lists--women scientists, rose varieties, characters from the Bible. Just when I got one that seemed right, I'd get up and head for the coffee pot and by the time I was in the kitchen I knew it was a lousy name. I took a long walk and during that time I settled on and then discarded several possibilities. At about three this afternoon the perfect name appeared out of the ether. I celebrated by going out to work on the flower beds. I didn't even have my gloves on before the perfect name was smelling like decayed leaves.

I do think I've got the right names now. Not to be coy, but I'm keeping them under my opening-day baseball cap. Don't want to jinx it. They're nothing special, I'll say that. Simple, serviceable, Midwestern names. I haven't written a word of those remaining four scenes of course, but it still feels like I've put in a good day's work.


  1. I thought I had a title for Stoner2, but decided to keep it under my fedora, also. I've been asking around for possible titles and made up a thousand to no avail. Maybe secrecy is the way to go. (Not easy for a blabbermouth like me.)

    But, frankly, the more time I spend away from it, the more it starts to smell like Marsha's compost heap. Shucks.

  2. At the res last summer, in one our workshops (was it Kelly's? or Mary L?)we were encouraged to play with titles. The title I came up with that day is not one I'm considering using, but it really helped me crystallize the essence of the book. Once I had that in mind, so much became clear about my character and her ultimate growth that I was able to figure out where the story needed to go. Yep, it was all in that title.

  3. Love hearing about your novel, Marsha, and can't wait to read it.

  4. I think of Mary L. as the title queen. I totally suck at titles, and agonize over them at the last minute--so be warned, don't ever ask me for one. In fact I may be asking you all for a title in the near future.

    Yay, Marsha for your novel!