Monday, January 2, 2012

What's In A Name?

I just finished critiquing a novel for a woman I met at that SCBWI-MO conference. She had emailed me an electronic file named "Everyone’s Counting On Me." I wrote quite a bit about why I didn't like the title. I told her it was a plot of action so of course we're counting on the hero. I suggested her title could hint at the steampunk genre since the early chapters felt like historical fiction. I blathered on.

She wrote back to tell me the manuscript does not yet have a title. She named the file "Everyone’s Counting On Me" to remind herself that her husband and critique group expected her to finish and submit this manuscript.
Ha! I guess I’ve been taking myself too seriously.
Currently my work-in-progress is saved in a file called Honesdale Draft 3 which has little to do with the plot. 


Wyman Stewart said...


An excellent reason to let a reader know, who critiques your work, if the title--character's names too--are "concrete" or throw-aways!

A book titled Three Funny Men with characters Tom, Dick, and Harry simply does not compare in the mind with a book titled The Three Stooges, with characters named Larry, Moe, and Curley. (Or Shemp for that matter, since he was an original Stooge.) A manuscript could be annoying or even distracting to read, for title and character name reasons, alone!

Oh boy! More food for thought! How does any writer write without ending up insane before putting a word on a blank page. Forgot, write first, without thought of consequences; edit later. Okay, think I'm better now. "Once upon a time..."

Wyman Stewart said...

Must add, when I saw the title of your post, I immediately jumped to the conclusion you were going to write about character names. Names like Sherlock Holmes, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Walter Mitty, are fictional names, who seem like immortal beings who lived.

Even Adolf Hitler acknowledged becoming the dictator of Germany would have been difficult had his father not changed the family name from Schickelgruber to Hitler to receive a family inheritance. American politician and former Presidential candidate Gary Hart was once known by another name too. For whatever reason, humans place importance and value on a name. Titles and character names count. Something to keep in mind when writing!

Ann Finkelstein said...

Wyman: Character names are critical. When I was at Honesdale, I discussed changing the name of one of my characters from Selena to Jenny. I had reasons that I won't go into. The two gentlemen in our group begged me not to change her name. They said Selena was such a sexy name, that I couldn't give it up.