What’s in a Name?

I’ve been working full tilt on The Astronomer’s Crypt this week. I’m both writing new material and going back to revise parts I’ve already written. Among the biggest revisions I made recently was renaming many of the characters.

Name Cloud

I often create character names pretty early in the writing process. If I have to create them while I’m writing, I find I get hung up in a mode where I dwell on the names and simply don’t make progress. In the case of The Astronomer’s Crypt, which is based on an observatory that doesn’t exist, I grabbed names out of the air. Several of those names happened to belong to people I knew. Just to note, I mixed and matched given names with surnames, so no character’s name was exactly analogous to people I knew in real life.

In some ways, this was fine. It allowed me to proceed with writing without dwelling on the fundamental question of what I was going to name these people. However, I discovered two issues. First, I had a tendency to try to make those characters match their namesakes. Second, I very much didn’t want my characters to be reminiscent of people I knew. Although writers pull bits and pieces of characters from known personality traits, I wasn’t trying to suggest that people in my book are thinly disguised versions of people I knew in real life.

The upshot is that I went through and renamed several characters in the book. This was a pretty easy search-and-replace function, though I’ll want read carefully and make sure I caught them all before I submit the book.

Most of these characters ended up being minor characters. I didn’t rename most of the major characters. I was happy with Mike Teter, the telescope operator who is our POV character for much of the novel. I also liked electronics engineer Roscoe Perkins, who sets many of the novel’s events in motion, then disappears. Perhaps my favorite name belongs to Solomon Vassago, a mysterious attorney interested in Native American artifacts. In this new draft, I’m now just as happy with some of the supporting characters I renamed such as graduate student Claire Yarbro and electronics tech Stan Jones. In the first pass, I just wanted names for these minor characters. In the second pass, I put much more thought in making the names fit the characters.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Time to get back to some writing. I’m building toward those all important climactic scenes. In the meantime, if you want to get a sneak peak at horror set an observatory, my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order has a scene set at Kitt Peak National Observatory. You can pick up the ebook for a mere 99 cents at Amazon.com or direct from the publisher at Lachesis Publishing.

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