Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My trouble with names

Been there, got the T-shirt. Wore it out…
I have a confession to make: I dither when it comes to deciding on names. I’m talking titles of books, names of major characters, names of locations, well, you name it, I have a problem with it. Occasionally, I’ll have a flash of inspiration, but that happens about as often as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford thinking before he opens his mouth.

Case in point: I recently started a new band. I’ve got all the musicians (and they are excellent), I’ve gotten rehearsals organized, made a demo tape so I can hustle a few club gigs to get us started and make a demo DVD to hustle more gigs. I’ve arranged an entire evening’s worth of classic soul tunes, and then some. Do you think I can come up with a good name for the damn ensemble? I have two pages of possibilities, and none of them are good enough.

In my soon-to-be-published novel, Roses for a Diva, I did manage to come up with the title very early on in the writing process, but to be honest, it was a bit of a slam dunk (you’ll have to read the novel to find out why), but I dithered for months over character’s names. I changed names more frequently than I change the oil in my car, then changed them back, then decided on a third name. I can’t tell you how many global searches I’ve done to fix the inevitable train wrecks. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (great James Brown tune, by the way) after dreaming that the book has come out and it’s got character name errors that weren’t caught.

My Cemetery of the Nameless had 15 titles of various awfulness before it got it’s fantastic final title. Trouble is, I didn’t come up with it. A cop in Vienna did.

You’d think after writing 9 novels and novellas that I’d be getting the hang of this, but to tell the truth, it’s only gotten worse. I’m working on a novella at the moment with the scintillating title of XX. This is obviously a placeholder for a global search (my usual practice to that I don’t hold up the actual writing part of writing a book. But when multiple characters are running around without a moniker, my method turns completely on its head with XX1 talking to XX4a about XX17 who’s just been murdered by XX6. And if you think that’s completely confusing – you’d be oh-so-right.

The really odd thing is that, apart from names, I’m a pretty decisive guy, or at least I like to think that I am.

Does anyone else suffer from “naming-itis”? Please say yes. I’d hate to think the I’m the only one!


Donis Casey said...

I have been known to start a novel with nothing BUT the title and no idea for a story. What usually happens, though, is that one of my characters says something and I think, "hmm, that'd be a good title."

Aline Templeton said...

Oh yes, Rick. I suffer from the same affliction. Oh yes, oh yes!