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March 2013

A Rogue By Any Other Name

This past week I had to make a momentous decision about my WIP, Fate's Apology. It wasn't changing the plot or figuring out how to even begin to get it published when it's done. It wasn't the elimination of a character or the introduction of a new one. It wasn't the killing of any 'darlings', of which I'm sure I'll find one or two more that need to be put out of their misery. Nope, it was something even more stressful. Something that just about ripped my little heart out. Something that made me go "Noooooo! Not that!"
 
I had to change a major character's name.
 
If there's one thing I'm proud of in this story, it is my character names. Some of them popped into my head perfectly suitable right from the start, while others took weeks to come to me. Some have necessarily changed completely since I ripped the story from the Star Wars universe and threw it out into the cosmos as a stand-alone creation. And I have made some slight changes in spelling here and there to alleviate confusion about pronunciation. That didn't bother me too much, and the biggest one was actually a terrific improvement. The current change I'm making is like that, but not because there was any worry of pronunciation confusion. Oh no, this is much worse. His name actually exists as a given name.
 
Jaiynder BanduconThis really bothers me. Because my story is based in scifi, I tried my damndest to come up with names that are original and otherworldly. I know that's often impossible, and I did let my standards slide on a few, especially the nicknames I simply couldn't avoid using. 'Sid' and 'Rey', for instance. I don't like it, but I'm not changing them. Sid is a secondary character, and Rey, well, there can be no other nickname for him, it's as simple as that. But his antagonist has an interesting and fun name. One that went *poof* out of the blue, into my pen, and onto the paper in that very first scribbling. One that rolls off the tongue like a carnival of syllables. One that suits the characters. One that I just love to bits. That name is 'Jainder Banducon'.
 
I'd made it a point long ago to Google my made-up words and names of people and things to make sure I could reasonably call them mine. Several of them I changed right away. Some I did not, if what I found was so minor it simply didn't matter. But, believe it or not, until last week I never thought to search for my main characters on Facebook. Lo and behold, 'Jainder' is a popular Indian name. My jaw dropped when I saw it listed next to well over two dozen profile pictures of men who are are decidedly not the raven-haired rogue whom I've grown to love almost more than my handsome, tormented Rey. My heart broke as I realized I just couldn't handle him sharing an appellation with so many others.

What to do, what to do??

I entertained the idea of changing his name completely, but promptly banished the thought. Maybe tweak it a bit to be different but sound the same? How about Jaider? Or maybe Jayder? Ugh. No. The only option left was a spelling change. But unlike changing 'Vame' to 'Vaim', I was afraid it would not hold up in print. I typed it out in the Facebook search bar. Jaynder. I hit 'search'.

Eight results. Damn. I tried different spellings. Jeinder. Jeynder. Still results. In desperation, I moved to similar-sounding names: Zainder. Zaynder. Shainder. Shaynder. All of them returned results. I moved to the second half of the name. Jaindar. Jayndar. Still results. Jayndir. No results, but it was now rhyming with 'reindeer', which is completely unacceptable. I pounded the desk in frustration. Then, I simply added a letter. Jaiynder.
 
No results. I Googled it. Nothing.
 
It seemed a little clunky. I wrote it on paper. I wrote it again. I typed it over and over in a document. Jaiynder, Jaiynder, Jaiynder. Jaiynder Banducon. Does it work? Hmm. I took a chapter, changed it everywhere he appeared, and reread it.
 
Jaiynder BanduconLo and behold, by the time I got to the end it was starting to grow on me. It even looks Valoshain, the world and culture from which he hails, as do Rey and Sid. My sadness has abated, and I think the change is a positive one. Jaiynder Banducon is original, exotic, rolls off the tongue like a carnival of syllables, and is still thoroughly suitable for my short-tempered, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, just-a-tad-on-the-crazy-side mercenary. And it doesn't even interfere with his nickname, which was never based on his first name anyway. I must say, he and I are both happy about that. The last thing I need is best friends whose names are 'Rey and Jaiy'. Ugh. No.
 
So, Jaiynder Banducon it is. Now that that's settled and we're both happy with it, I can get back to letting him stir up trouble, torment his best friend, exasperate his sidekick, share vicious barbs with Vaim, and try to keep his sadistic butt out of hot water at every turn. Sooo much fun!
 
Right, Jaiynder?
 
Right.

Cussing Characters

When I first literally put pen to paper and launched Fate's Apology, it was intended only to be a fun Star Wars fanfic; one that was taking place long before the days of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It's a universe with which I am familiar and dearly love, so when that first scene burst into my brain, it was only obvious that the story's seedling be planted in that fertile little piece of scifi soil. But as the tale grew longer and the characters made themselves known to me, I realized they could not remain in this often violent but otherwise squeaky-clean environment.
 
Why?

Well, one of the reasons is that no one in the Star Wars universe swears.
 
Cuss buttonSince I began writing, I've read several articles about the use of profanity in literature. Usually, the advice is against it. Personally, I believe that using it wisely can help bring a story to life. It just depends on the type of story, which characters are using it, and why. For a while I toyed with the idea of creating my own obscenities, especially when I found it difficult to drop religion-based blasphemies without leaving myself short of expletives. But not only is doing this very tricky, it's also been done before. Sometimes fraking well, and sometimes frelling miserably, at least in my opinion. I did create some slang and an ethnic slur, but cussing is much more complicated, so I didn't go there.

It would be easy to say that only my villains swear, but that's actually not true. On one hand, not all of them do, and on the other hand, one of my protagonists is fully capable of using colorful language. However, I've discovered he's not crude without reason, so when he curses, you know he means business. For the most part though, only a few characters indulge. And if you met them in real life, it would not surprise you to hear them do so. That's who they are, and while I do limit their propensity for dropping all but the occasional F-bomb - some of which may still get the axe later on - I don't limit their cussing to the point where they sound like frustrated four-year-olds. In the Fate's Apology universe, "geez", "darn", and "oh my goodness" just don't cut it.
 
While some readers may not care for this bit of gritty reality, I wouldn't be being honest with myself or my characters, and I wouldn't be writing the "kind of story I want to read" if I muzzle my foul-mouthed fiends in order to appeal to a wider audience. Swearing, like the exclamation point (another no-no, or so I'm told), has its place. So, if the character is pissed and cussing is something he does when experiencing that emotion, then by all means, let him or her rip!