As I finish up the first draft of my novel, I have been able to look back through my work and pick out some of the flaws that will need to be changed in the drafts to come. One of my main offenses in the writing realm is that all of my characters have names that tend to start with one of four letters: “A”, “C”, “L” or “S”. There are a few outliers whose names begin with a “J” or “M” but for the most part, my characters tend to pull from a very small pool of letters. This can make the reading process very confusing.
When I first was planning this book, I took a long time to decide the names of the main characters. Sam and Charlie were chosen, in large part, because they are gender neutral. Initially, I didn’t know if I wanted to make both characters girls or boys or make them different. As I myself am female, it was easier for me to make them both girls; many writers, especially for their first novels, find it easier to write from their own gender perspective due to a more innate understanding of the thought process. Females also tend to be more social and I chose that as an avenue to spread information throughout the novel via events such as sleepovers. The choice to make them both female also helped me to mentally streamline the story, allowing for narrative flow.
Names of other characters including Jo and Amy (Charlie and Sam’s close friend group) as well as Linda, Clara and Samuel (Sam’s mother and Charlie’s parents respectively) were all chosen arbitrarily. I thought about nicknames and usernames for each character, but for the most part, their proper names were largely unconsidered. A side effect of this lack of overthought means that most characters have similar sounding names, for example, Samantha (Sam) and Samuel, Charlie’s best friend and father respectively. Originally, I used this similarity to juxtapose the two characters, highlighting the differences in the ways they interact with Charlie, but as the story progressed it just became needlessly confusing. Charlie and her mother Clara both have names beginning with “C” which emphasizes their family connection but it also makes it easy to get the two characters mixed up, especially since they share many scenes together near the beginning of the novel. The similarity of the names actually makes it harder to follow the story and the implied connection isn’t necessary as they are family and the connection already exists.
Even less prominent characters have fallen victim to this “same name” treatment. As a character, Amy is an extremely nurturing presence for the friend group. She is aware of mental disorders and knows about social work and is usually the most informed member of their group in terms of action to take. Because she has the most information, she is often turned to as a source of guidance, which highlights her more nurturing qualities as she will often seek out her friends before and after confrontations in order to access their wellness and see if she can help them. The only other character whose name begins with “A” is Andrew Mallen, Charlie’s psychiatrist. He also provides knowledge and guidance for Charlie in a medical environment. Andrew and Amy’s similar naming refers to their knowledgeable and nurturing natures.
The letter “L” applies to people who provide support and comfort as well as guidance. Linda, Sam’s mother, and Lilly, Charlie’s therapist, both fill supporting roles; they both try to equip their charges with the tools they will need to face the situation. Linda is not a major player in the story but she provides Sam with some necessary perspective and love, as well as the knowledge that she is supported in her decisions. Linda’s support is very practical as is Lilly’s. Since the book is told from Sam’s perspective, there is little interaction with Lilly and most of her presence is experienced second-hand, but Lilly still offers emotional and intellectual support for Charlie, even while identifying her negative thought-patterns. Lilly acknowledges Charlie’s improvement and offers encouragement and support within the situation. Neither Lilly nor Linda has an extremely overt presence in the book but both women play similar roles in the lives of their charges.
When I first wrote this book, I didn’t notice how similar everyone’s name was. It was only when I pulled together a cast list that I understood the lack of diversity in my characters’ name. As a result, it’s mandatory for me to change my character’s names in future drafts.
This week is just a fun little blurb both to introduce characters and to highlight a flaw I have as a writer. As always, thank you for joining me for today and I hope you will enjoy as we continue along this road together.
Word Count: 120, 000
Project Status: Writing First Draft