Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Chain of Changes

Recently I read a very inspiring blog post. It challenged me to rename three characters where I had settled for bland, generic names. The new names I came up with were much more interesting. (At least, I hope they are. :o) )

But, what really surprised me was how involved a revision this seemingly simple change entailed. I mean, it should be a simple matter of cut and paste, right? \

But it was far from that. Nothing simple about it.

The change of names reverberated through my manuscript. (Just as Ann Whitford Paul had suggested they would!) After re-naming my characters, I discovered the birth order of my young protagonists and how that fit into their motivation within the story.

And, once I gave my characters more interesting names, my last stanza no longer worked. I think that subconsciously, that last stanza had always bothered me a bit. But with the new names, somehow I could no longer pretend to myself that my original attempt at an ending worked. It needed revising. And that revising was challenging but fun to do.

Yes, those new character names really did set in motion a chain of changes. Good ones, I hope!

Has a relatively minor revision ever sparked a chain of changes in your writing? How did your chain of changes turn out?


  1. Names are sooooooo important to me. I sometimes use a placeholder name until the real one comes to me. And once it does, the character really starts to take hold.

  2. So interesting, J.A.! You know, I don't think I've ever changed a name before. At least after the very initial brainstorming stages of a project. Maybe I should try it more often! A name change definitely made sense in this case because the original names were so very generic. (They kept on bothering me every time I read through my manuscript, but somehow reading that wonderful blog post helped to "unstick" me enough to make a much needed change. :o) )

  3. Curious Jim?
    Simon Rabbit?
    Henry and the Lion?
    Sebastian Moves the Mountain?

    I don't think so!

  4. Oh my goodness! Love it, Gale! Especially Curious Jim. (Two boys love a monkey named George around this house. :o) )

  5. Changing a character's gender or species can inspire a whole series of changes in a manuscript. Also, you can spice up a relatively common storyline by playing with the setting. The first day of school in Randolph, NJ pales in comparison with the first day of school on a pirate ship in the South Pacific!

  6. What fun ideas, Sharon! One of my favorite manuscripts contains the same scenario from an earlier manuscript. But with the brand new species I turned the main character into, the original scenario got a whole lot more interesting! (And I love the idea of the first day of school on a pirate ship in the South Pacific! You should totally write that!)