musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Ugh – on a stick

I just spent all morning and some of last night working on a post for the blog that when i went to copy and paste from my Word doc, disappeared completely. this is just an example of the weirdness that happens when i am around computers, or pretty much anything that uses an electro-magnetic field. I was able to go back and find an earlier version of the document that contained approximately half of the unduplicatable post which was about the writing process in progress, as it unfolded. so following is what is still available of all the work i put into the piece . Please note that while I am completely and utterly miffed about all the work lost, i am please that i seem to have the basis of a story including background notes on all characters involved for a future short story, that i hope to keep the engine running on this week and finish a draft of. also please note that Laura is already not Laura but Deirdre, called Dee. and the girl’s name is Dahlia.

What’s in a name

When I write fiction, most of the fun I have is in naming characters. Many times, the story unfolds from the name. Enough time has passed, while I wait for readers to get back to me with their critical thoughts of my children’s novel manuscript, I feel names and characters growing in the back of my mind and wanting to push through to the front and onto paper. I also have a big baby names book which I use in referencing names to be sure I have the right character in the name’s origins and meanings as I want to convey in the character. Names are funny things though, and while a name has a particular etymological meaning, it also has a cultural and personal meaning. An Elizabeth is a ‘gift from God” a Betty, nickname derived from Elizabeth, however is a friendly outgoing older woman, grandma or not. Elizabeth is old fashioned, Libby is sweet, or a can of vegetables. Beth is straightforward or a KISS ballad, Liz is forthcoming, Eliza, artistic, Lizzie might be spastic, or at least energetic and makes me think of the old band, Thin Lizzy. Elizabeth can be dignified or snotty or shy, depending upon associations the public has or personally people I’ve known. Growing up when I did, there were many, and typically they weren’t all alike. But Elizabeth is a special kind of name, so prevalent and so many derivations and nicknames that it becomes very individual depending upon the person bearing it.. So, to start this blog, Elizabeth may not be the best example.

Let’s start from another angle. I have my big fat baby name book out. I have an idea: a boy, a girl, a young woman, an old man and a room. The room is in the grandfather’s house and contains a tatty old sofa, dim amber light emanates from a dark lampshade. There’s a dark window, so it’s night. Otherwise, I have to come up with names to fill in who they are, why they are sitting there and what is the crux of the situation, the story comes from there. but first I need names.

Let’s start with the boy. I flip open my big fat book to the back half, where the boys’ names are, and land in E. I don’t feel Edward, first E name that pops to mind when I notice I’m in E. I look down, peruse a little, nothing makes me pause until I hit Etienne. French name for Stephen which means ‘crowned’. This to me gives a sense of privilege, and maybe a bit of a delicate nature for being privileged, sheltered, and he’s probably blond. Well that doesn’t really fit with the tatty old sofa of the grandfather. What’s the least Etienne name I can think of off the top of my head? Walter comes to mind. Look it up: two origins: from German it means ‘army ruler, general’; from English it means ‘woodsman’ – both very strong meanings a general, a man wielding an axe, but Walter has a cultural connotation probably largely from the Walter Mitty character from James Thurber’s story of the imaginative but put-upon unsuccessful guy. Walter has a bit of a comical appeal, but a bit of sadness attached to it. Maybe the kid is named after his grandfather, as it’s a traditional, older name. You don’t hear Walter in kids much these days when so many Aidens, Michaels, Ethans abound. Although Michael is a perennial much like Elizabeth. But I’m getting offtrack.

So the boy’s name is Walter, and now apparently, so is the grandfather, but we’ll call him Walt, he’s a good old guy, probably fought in World War II or Korea. If that’s the case, then I don’t think our young Walter is very young, as more likely his grandfather would have fought in Vietnam, but then, I’m back to Walter is an older name than that generation, so Walter is a later in life grandson to Walt, born to a youngest child of his, later in her life. Aha. Now we have the youngish woman, Walt’s daughter, or daughter-in-law. HHmmm. Ok not there yet. Sorry about al the background, but this is really how I go about knowing what’s happening with this particularly set of characters. Okay, I’m starting to see, a single scene situation developing here, not really a novel, probably a short story, could be a play. Leaning toward short story. Are they gathered in grief? Okay, back to the names, that’ll give me a little more to go on. So the woman, well she’s a bit younger than I am, and maybe Walter is about my son K’s age, or a little younger. Okay he’s 12. Closer to my son S’s age. That seems to fit. So if she’s a little younger than me, but her father, okay, it’s developiong, that she is Walt’s daughter, not daughter-in-law, then she wouldn’t likely be one of the overly popular names of my generation like mine, Cathy/Kathy, Debbie, Suzy, Laurie, there was a fixation on cutifying names when I was coming up, but wait, I think she could be a Laura. Ok, consult book:

and after posting it then going through a final read through, i realized i had a lot of other editing in there than what you see above. like connotations of Eliza Doolittle ffrom My fair Lady…

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3 thoughts on “Ugh – on a stick

  1. and when you took the true colors short analysis, you were green, correct? that would make perfect sense to me after reading this. 🙂

  2. oh yea, too bad i can't recall the description anymore! would that be green, too? i'll go look it up and see if i can find what you mean by the above – the electro-magntic quirk or the process….

  3. great post!!! when i taught creative writing, i used to do an entire writing exercise based around naming characters, connotations of names, nicknames, etc. it's rich material!

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