Daily 11: The risk of naming early

December 1, 2016

I’ve learned a lot about naming over my time as a storyteller. Here’s the biggest tip: don’t name anything until you absolutely need to, use placeholders instead, and when you give characters/chapters/books their placeholders, make sure they’re flexible. It causes trouble down the line otherwise.

I’ll give you some examples. The biggest one is that my upcoming book is not Book 3 as far as my notes are concerned. It’s Book 2. That’s because I reasoned that full-length, continuous novels should be separated from the collection of short stories (really, novellas) that Freelance Heroics is, and which I had planned between every novel—my Fumoffu strategy, for the anime fans out there. That means that Wage Slave Rebellion is Book 1, Freelance Heroics is Book 1.5, and the unnamed next book is Book 2—which gets really confusing, because everyone else thinks the upcoming book is Book 3, and I need to refer to it as such occasionally, and it’s starting to get tangled in my mind.

I’ve done better with this before, though not always. An example of a time I did it well is an upcoming character who was called, up until the point he or she got their name, Rival Leader. They never got another name other than that, a purely descriptive name that left it wide open for me to name them as I pleased once I got to that point. This is as opposed to Kalenia, who started out with the appellation KLI, for Kael’s Love Interest. (Kael is a character who eventually got replaced with Mazik. I’d say he’s a prototype version of Mazik, but there are so many differences between them that that’s like saying my father is a prototype of me; there are some similarities, certainly, but we’re different damn people.) The cogent element is that KLI came with baggage in a way that Rival Leader did not; it had certain distinct letters that eventually filtered into the final character’s name (Kalenia). I like that name, mind you, so it worked out well, but it did hamstring me.

So in this way, my Book 1 / Book 1.5 / Book 2 names are wise. They impart no baggage that hamstrung me when naming the books. The only issue there is that everyone else rightly sees a book as a book, so my wires are getting crossed by people referring to my third book, which is entirely my fault.

Name you characters, places, books, and things as generically as possible up until you need to get specific, and then take a big long think to come up with good ones. (I have several name files, gradually collected from stray thoughts over time, that greatly help me out.) Just try to avoid baggage until then.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.

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