If anyone reading this blog is called Sarah, you should know that I (apparently) have a thing about your name.
Weird – this.
I don’t have a sister, best friend or role model called Sarah. This is not a conscious act of favouritism and I haven’t the foggiest idea where it has come from. The truth is it only came to light that I (unknowingly) favour Sarah as a name for my fictional characters when I came to put together a collection of my short stories – previously published by magazines over the past decade.
I realised this little project might throw up a few unexpected challenges. That was the whole idea, actually. I quite like to mix things up (and frighten myself). At a recent lunch with other writers, everyone was talking about what to do with their reverted rights from books/stories out of print so e-books and formatting were centre stage topics. Afterwards I decided to experiment with some of my previously published stories to see if compiling and formatting an e-book was beyond me.
This was a first so I needed to select stories which would, in terms of theme and voice, hopefully complement each other. I realised I would need to source a suitable (and affordable) ebook cover and I didn’t want to pay for formatting so I would need to find some “how to” videos on You Tube. All good so far.
What never occurred to me was that I would also need to change so many names in my stories.
Come to think of it now, I remember the wonderful author Patrick Gale discussing this very topic when I met him at a library event in Devon. He said that he had to keep a sort of flow chart/ record of character names from his novels to avoid duplication and confusion.
At the time this sounded odd to me. Like all writers I think very carefully about naming my characters (or I thought I did). I adore music too so the melody and rhythm of names is important to me. They, of course, need to fit/suit not just the age and circumstance of the individual character but into the broader “mix” and “music” of the story or novel. But I had never envisaged any real confusion. When I am in the throes of writing any piece ( whether long or short fiction) the characters become so real to me that I cannot imagine confusing one with the other. I not only picture them, they quite often walk into the room and chat. (And – don’t, please, tell on me. Sounds pretty bonkers to see that written down here. Oh, well.) Straight jacket aside, the point is - how could I ever get muddled?
But writing and publishing so many stories across the past decade, I see now that I do indeed suffer from name-game memory lapses. And favouritism.
For, trust me - there are a lot of Sarahs in my short fiction.
When I finally selected the stories for this collection (Moments) , I put the compilation aside for a bit then read them in sequence to ensure they “gelled” and that’s when the repetitions hit me. No fewer than four Sarahs. Admittedly three had only walk-on parts in different stories but - no matter. The names had to be changed.
A wonderful mystery, isn’t it, how the mind works? Having written the stories months and in some cases years apart, I clearly had no reason to notice before. Now I keep saying the name Sarah out loud to try to fathom its special appeal to me.
So why not do a quick check/chart of your own character history. Am I alone in this?
Meantime – good news for anyone who is exploring formatting for Kindle.
I’m no kind of techy – trust me. But with the KDP guide and a couple of You tube videos I managed. There was one scary moment (see last blog post) when the cover seemed to upload twice and I had a bit of a panic. But it all came out in the wash.
Not that I am in any hurry to repeat the experiment.
These were stories previously accepted by commissioning editors – hence a re-publishing venture. I hugely admire writers with the guts to indie or self pub their novels, but I don’t think that’s for me.
So it’s back to the day job . Write. Pitch. Write Pitch…
Have a good one (especially Sarahs everywhere).
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.