Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Names

Last week or so I threatened to talk about why it's going to be difficult to decide on a name for the main character of my next project. That day has come, it seems, since I started thinking about it again this afternoon.

To explain, I first need to tell you about this wonderful CD my mom gave me. It's the 2007 Southern Music CD #9 from Oxford American, and it's chock full of fantastic music. I highly recommend it. One of the songs, track 8, is a strange and haunting folk song called "Katie Cruel," sung by Karen Dalton. I am so taken with this song--it strikes the same tone I want for the book--that I'm determined to include it in the story in some way. I thought I might name the main character Katie and actually title the book Katie Cruel.

BUT that's my name. I mean the Katie part, not the cruel part. I go by Katherine or Kate usually now, but no matter--naming a character with my name is just weird. Not to mention that it raises the specter of a self-insertion story, which is absolutely not the case. But if I don't name the character Katie, it doesn't make any sense to name the book Katie Cruel, and I'm not even sure I can work the song into the story in any meaningful way. And I want to.

Then again, I'm using the byline of K.C. Shaw instead of Katherine Shaw, so maybe I can get away with it. And of course, by the time I actually start writing, it's probable that the tone of the story will change and the song won't be appropriate anymore. But the name Katie just works for the character--and yet it still squicks me just a little to use my own name as a character name. So I may not use it at all. In which case, what the hell will I call the character?

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what the C in K.C. Shaw stands for--it doesn't stand for anything. My middle name is Elizabeth. But K.E. Shaw just doesn't trip off the tongue as well; it feels weak, staggering glottally from the tough and practical K to the sighing Shaw, whereas C glides bluely from one to the next.

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