And now to close out my recycling of my every thought about National Novel-Writing Month. As ever, this was a piece to exorcise some my pet peeves as a reader, settling mostly upon how sometimes a character doesn’t have a name.
Hi again, folks. I suppose this is the last of the walkthroughs here before National Novel Writing Month ends. I’d like to think people who’ve made it this far in NaNoWriMo without declaring “look, it’s just been busy, all right?” are going to stick around after November’s over. But I know better. Still, hope this’ll be a good sendoff. Let’s see, where had we left last time?
Oh, yeah, protagonists. I’ve left them with the default names so far. That’s not because I like the default names, I just haven’t figured a name that fits them more exactly. When I have one, I just — here, see, you right-click above either’s head and there’s the option for renaming them. There’s first, last, nickname, familiar name, alternate nickname, there you go. If you’re doing fantasy you might want to use the option about True Name that does magic stuff.
Yeah, nobody ever spells out True Names in full, for the obvious reason. You don’t want an eleven-year-old reading the book to try ordering the character to appear. That just spoils the whole illusion that your magic scheme could be real and you don’t want to deal with a kid getting angry at you on social media. You never want to deal with anybody angry at you on social media, but against a kid? Mister Rogers could probably thread that successfully, but he’s been dead a long time. He lived back when tweets were sent by Morse Code to a back room of the local Post Office, where they were ignored.
Now, you see the option here of “no name”? Yeah, don’t use that. Nobody likes books where nobody has a name. The only time you can kind of get away with it is if you’re doing first-person. The logic of that works as long as nobody who’s standing behind your characters needs to get their attention. If you have characters who can sometimes not face each other then you’re stuck. No, it does not count if your character is a detective or spy and gets referred to by profession. Then, like, “Spy” or “Detective” or whatever is their name.
Yeah, there’s novelists who tell you withholding names gives characters a sense of universality. Or it conveys a sense of modern society’s detached atmospheres, or an unsettling air of unreality or whatever. Nobody likes it. You’ll never get to be the subject of a coherent book report if nobody’s got names. You won’t get to be anyway. But that’s no excuse to add another reason you won’t get to be to the ones already there.
Now — oh, good grief, now these guys are flashing back. That’s a mistake. They only just met earlier this story, though, and I don’t want it revealed they used to know each other. Couple fixes for this. First is in the flashback change the name of the secondary lead. Then I can make something out of how the primary lead keeps attracting the same kind of person into his life. You see where that builds a score on thematic resonances and cycles of life stuff. On some settings that also gives you points for deep background.
You can swap deep background points out for fan bonus content, though. Like, here, if I snip out this whole flashback? OK. I put in a line referring to it, and then dump the scene on my book’s web site as bonus content. This way readers can discover this and feel like they’re in on a secret. That’s how social-media networking works. You want to put something out so everybody thinks they’re in on something nobody knows about. An accident like this is perfect. It doesn’t even have to fit logically the rest of the book because it’s an alternate draft. If you do it right any scrap text you can’t use, you can use. It’s a great time for writing.
OK, I suppose that’s about everything important for this step. Before I let you go let me name the Comment of the Week. That goes to ClashOSymbols for his funny dissection of every author-reader interaction on the Internet, everywhere. He’s not getting any less wrong about second-person. But remember what I said about engaging with eleven-year-old readers? That’s explained in great detail under section 4.4. Enjoy and catch someone later, sometime. But when can’t I say that truly?
About The Author: are a couple of pillows, a John McPhee book he’s had to renew from the library already even though he hasn’t started reading it, and several glass vases he’s worried he’s going to knock over if he sits up or back even the teeny-tiniest bit differently from how he’s sat every single time in the past.