So, we’ve all done it. You say “I’m gonna write a story! It will be fantabulous!” You come up with your idea, and build your characters. Your main character is perfect. Funny, smart, and the kind of character people fall instantly in love with. Then you name him/her/it. You give him/her/it a name like “Luminesence Fantabulishous,” it’s that clever wonderful name that completely sums up the entire essence of your wonderful character. Then you write.
And you write.
And you write some more, when suddenly disaster strikes. You hate your character. She is flat, he is boring, it’s just pointless. And then you start to hate your whole premise. It’s trite and overdone. And then you hit that metaphorical brick wall where you don’t know how to fix Luminesence Fantabulishous. Maybe she’s too sweet, maybe he’s too athletic, maybe it’s just a name you can’t live up to.
We like to name our characters. It helps us. It makes us feel better. It’s a wonderful crutch.
This time around, I picked a different way to go about it. I didn’t want to build my character around a name. I didn’t want to try to sum up the essence of a person I hadn’t met in a name before I’d had a chance to spend some time in her life. I did not want a name to shape my character into something totally foreign to what my original goal was. If the story shaped her, so be it, but I would not let a name do it.
I admit to being a nerd. I lived a vicarious Second Life through the wonderful world of fantasy roleplay. I learned alot during that time about writing. I learned that Luminesence was probably not the person I wanted to roleplay with, because Jane/Alastair/Eve was going to be a better roleplayer. They didn’t get bogged down in the name of their character. They didn’t need a fantastic name, because they were going to be fantastic all by themselves. It’s a shallow way to look at things, and doesn’t translate to real life, but in writing, at least for me, it does.
And so we have Sue. Yes, in reference to Mary Sue.
I named her this, and she stayed that. In fact, she is still that name forty thousand words into the manuscript. I did it for a reason, even though it’s painful every time I type her name. I wanted to remind myself over and over again that my main character should not be a Mary Sue.
In those forty thousand words, Sue grew and changed and blossomed into her very own person. She’s still growing. I did not design Sue around her name. I let her grow based on what I wanted in a character. A name is just that, however, names have power in and of themselves. Maybe one day, Sue will grow into a name like Luminesence, but I doubt it. She is a simple girl living an extraordinary life. Sometimes life is just like that.
Don’t worry, Sue isn’t alone in her namelessness. Every character I meet in the course of my story gets the very first name that pops into my head. Peter, Jim, Linda, Sharon. Anything at all. One day, when I get to know them, they will get a proper name of their very own. Even Sue.