I know, I know you are probably already beginning to hit the overkill with the news of the Royal Baby, although I am eagerly awaiting the first pictures and wondering about the name.
Waiting for your first novel to finally be published is a little like waiting for a baby to be born — maybe? What do I know? I think the pain comes a lot earlier though, right? Rejection before the sunshine?
And now we wait to see what it looks like — even if the name came long ago?
But what of the name?
I have talked about names before and I mean titles and characters. I really think names are important — just as they will be for any baby, in particular of course as future King of England. So what of names?
I have to know a name feels right for my characters and sometimes I look up the meanings of names to make sure they really fit and make sure they seem age or era-appropriate. I also make sure they don’t turn my characters into a stereotype. They just need to feel right.
I think I have told you before, but I will remind you that I was advised to change the name of my African-American psychic from Delores to something else as it had a stereotypical feel to it.I liked Delores and struggled to think of her as anything else — but as I was reminded Whoopi Goldberg played a psychic in Ghost (and of course an African-American one) and while that wasn’t her name in Ghost, it was her name in Sister Act (but spelled Deloris, you can also spell it Dolores). So I could see why she said it. I had a whole list of names on my whiteboard but the one that won was Lydia and now I can’t see her as anything else.
I often read stories in my work where I feel the names are too ordinary and while in real life maybe that happens, in fiction you can be more inventive or perhaps you use the boring name as a way of saying something about characters? Or add a nickname that surprises the reader. If I read one more Sophie, just back from university ,the daughter of our generic older lady character narrator who sounds just like the author, I might have to let out a small scream! Okay maybe I am being dramatic — but it happens a lot! The name not the screaming — although …
Really think about your names. I love the opening to The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell who looks closely at names in a really humorous way.
So what about titles?
I think titles are also really important and as fickle as it sounds can also influence our book buying — really.
There is no copyright on titles so as in my novel there is another of the same name — I think I would only have changed it if the said novel bore any similarity in theme to mine — but it doesn’t. This point was raised by my lovely editor but it just had to be that title as it fit so well.
But what I would say is we have had to discuss the cover in conjunction with the title. Since it’s about a missing child if the cover just showed a little girl, a title like While No One Was Watching, could imply one of those — we have a secret, what happens when Mummy’s not home feel to it — if you catch me. So it is important and this is more connected to how the book is marketed. I want my cover to say classy American thriller. We’ll see!
I find titles come easy and often I have it right away but other times I have no title when I start writing and it comes later. This is particularly true for shorts. Sometimes I change it as I write it but I always know when it feels right and thus far no one has asked me to change a title.
I grappled with title names for the Alcatraz thriller that begs for a rewrite — it’s never been submitted. It started life with various names and one that stuck for a long time was The Reluctant Clairvoyant which seemed intriguing. Then after an Arvon course I toyed with the idea of just Reluctant but that felt too literary and right now in its resting phase it stands at Isle of Pelicans since this is the meaning of the name for Alcatraz. I quite like that. Who knows if it will change again.
Now before I leave I want to tell you about the CafeLit 100-word challenge. I was prompted by the Reader’s Digest, a couple of years ago to write a few pieces of flash in EXACTLY 100 words. I am not really a good flash fiction writer so I used existing stories and wrote them in 100 words. I have a few and I used one of the CafeLit website yesterday: http://www.cafelit.co.uk/Butterflies.html
I then asked for more and a little flurry came in. So why not have a go?
Here’s the link: don’t submit to this blog, submit as instructed in the link and I will pick it up!
So I thought I would post another one of my attempts here. It’s more like a snapshot of a story but if you can show the conflict and get voice in 100 words you’re doing well. It’s a great exercise if nothing else.
Come on, even some of you non-writers could have a go at this and I will take contractions, as in he’s or they’ll as a single word since Word does. And the 100 words doesn’t include the title.
Have a great day everyone.
If you step on the cracks you disappear. It’s what Mum used to say.
Kids believe anything.
I’m standing outside Morrisons watching some woman herding brats across the car park, while I wait for a line to turn blue. Or not. It’s in my pocket. Couldn’t see it in there: fluorescent lights.
Darren’ll be with Brit – bunking Maths. Thinks I don’t know.
I think about what Dad’ll say, then try to unthink it. Since Mum died he doesn’t notice things anyway.
I slide my shoe forwards. I wish Mum was here.
Then I step on the crack. And wait.
©Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, 2013