Week 6

Working on character development this week. I've got to the point where I think naming characters would be useful: until now I've used either a shorthand (usually a name in (((brackets))) to denote its temporariness), or in some cases the name of someone I know, for most of my main characters. After a while though that becomes restrictive, and the name starts to dictate too much.

Names are strange; they put a lid on things. I've avoided putting names to my characters as it's too hard deciding what they should be called, almost like naming a baby. This one isn't right, this one is too common. This one reminds me of that odd kid at school.

Empty name badge

Names can be evocative. Emma. Heathcliff. Wackford Squeers. Are they the seed of a character, or the cherry on top?

At the moment my characters still feel like sketches on paper; they haven't risen from the page and taken form. I'm working on it. A few people have asked me what I'm going to call my book, and I haven't got an answer for that either. Should I? One friend who writes was surprised, as if naming stuff comes first and form later, like Adam in the Garden of Eden. A lot is certainly gained by a name, but I feel at this stage of my writing a lot is lost too.

This week though I've thought of two titles. One is really exciting, and immediately makes me think of everything I want this book to be. But I'm a million miles away from that now, so for the time being I'm as reticent as an expectant parent to tell anyone what they are (I told someone yesterday, and immediately regretted it - they got hold of it, and started running away with what they thought it might mean.

The title seems to decide the story somehow, and prompts me to explain it (it's a song lyric, of course). Starting with a title feels back-to-front to me, too soon to have worked out how hundreds of thousands of words might be packaged.

At some point too, I'm bound to get carried away and think about the front cover. And we know what happens when you judge THAT. But the names are there in my head in the mean time, helping spread out the words and shape a story.

I can't help feeling that the sooner I get away from the personal pronouns of people I know and recognise, the sooner I'll break my characters away from the perceived personality traits and consistencies of real people ("so-and-so would never do that, so-and-so would say it like this"), and create their own. That must be worth doing.

Word count this week: 0 Running total: 9,306