Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What's in a name?

...that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

- Romeo Montague to Juliet: Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare

Character names, book names, chapter names, pen names. They're all malleable to one degree or another and there are choices and reasons for all of them. 

I started thinking on the topic tonight because of an article on io9.com about character names that should be banned for all time (of which I have used... none!).

Spiralling into the topic of names was so rough on my overworked brain that it almost derailed my revision session this evening. 

You see, I write under a pen name: Alexander C. Pierce or Alex C. Pierce. It's not my real name, though Alexander and Pierce are my 2 middle names, which, when bookended by my first and last name sounds almost as awesomely pretentious as Benedict Cumberbatch (best name EVER!). I include the C. at this point because a Google Search on Alexander Pierce brings up such a HUGE list of results including convicts, authors of propaganda, and so much more, that I needed a bit of separation from what is apparently a very common name.

I use a pen name for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I have ideas and themes for stories that may be controversial that I don't necessarily want to blow back on my family. Nothing too outrageous, but I'd rather not put other parties at risk. I also have a long standing tendency to NOT use my real name online (outside of work, though Facebook has ruined that to some degree... thanks family and friends!).

But the subject of names goes so much further, as the article on io9 aptly points out character names can play a big part in engaging or putting potential readers off, and they're not exactly easy things to come up with. For a time I used a program called Everchanging Book of Names, which was great for secondary characters if you could figure out how to use it (it's not that hard once you read the instructions). I've come to understand Scrivener itself has a name generator built in, which I haven't used yet as my characters all have names at this point.

I couldn't tell you where half the names of my characters come from, but I haven't received any negative feedback on them yet (though I have heard some interesting thoughts on where I might have cooked some up). I only hope they're not derivative of some other work that's sitting in the back of my skull because I think they're awesome! (the io9 article points out that might be a problem too).

As for chapter names and book names... I'm flexible with those and they tend to change on a fairly regular basis at this point in the process. From what I understand if I go and get published the publisher will have a say in it as well and I'm ok with that.

What are your thoughts on the use of pen names? How do you come up with names for things? Let me know!

- Alex

P.S. Chapter update for my Alpha Readers, I've dropped up to chapter 23 and I'm starting to get feedback from multiple people! Thanks!

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