Monday, October 22, 2007

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet"
~William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet," Act 2 Scene 2

It's not often, but I have to disagree with Mr. Shakespeare here. A name carries so much weight and meaning sometimes that it cannot be easily fobbed off as an afterthought.

I blame my parents. After being given a somewhat unusual name upon my birth, I have been fixated on names and providing characters with the right names to fit who they are, who they could be, who they are going to be, or maybe even someone they could never be. A name is often the first taste a reader gets of a character, that first impression that can never be erased but is carried forward throughout the book so that it flavors every impression afterward.

With Nightwalker in the hands of my editor, I decided to play with an idea I have been allowing to stew in the back of my brain. Before I ever make any notes regarding a book, it has to be allowed to ferment in my imagination for a while -- at the very least a month. I need time to let the main character walk around in my brain so that I can learn the cadence of his step. I need to know him well enough that he can be distinguished from all the other characters in my head simply by the sound of him walking about.

So, now that I know the character and some good bits of the book, it was time to take the next step: sketching out the main character. That's how I work. Some people start with the plot, I build my plots around my main character(s). But a problem immediately arose: I have no idea what his name is. I can see him as clear as day standing before me. I know the texture and length of his hair, the smell of his skin, the taunting half-smile lifting one corner of his mouth. I know the secrets he hides and the lies he tells. But I don't know his freaking name! So, until I know his name, I can go no further... Almost.

I did write the first chapter, which only indirectly involves. The poor man has been given a temporary name because I am impatient, but neither of us is happy about this. Do you have any suggestions for me?

A brief description stolen from the first chapter:

"XXXX was also a stunning figure of a man. Standing at more than six foot, he had the broad shoulders, narrow waist, lean muscular build of a Calvin Klein model. His long dark hair and equally dark gaze put him somewhere rock star and romance novel pirate. He was a master magician and all sex appeal."

Other adjectives: confident, quiet but not brooding, reserved when not performing, pensive, almost ghost-like, sincere

No comments: