Do you ever change your mind? When you’re writing a novel, do you change names of your characters, place names and such in mid-stream? If you’re like most novelists, you love some of the names you choose—they work. Other times, you get stuck on the name each time you bring that character into the story. It just doesn’t feel right. Or you determine that you’ve given two characters similar names. Now that’s a way to confuse your readers—name friends Jan, Jen, and Jean, for example, and you’ll leave your readers guessing. Name their husbands or lovers Jim, Tim, and John and their mothers Joan, Jane, and Jo and you’ve really created a challenge for readers.
This is another lesson in always, always keeping your reader in mind as you’re writing the book.
If you decide to change a character’s name for whatever reason, make sure you make the change throughout the manuscript. I can’t tell you how many novels have come to me for editing with character name and name-change mistakes. Here are a few examples:
- The author changes the name, but neglects to make the change throughout. You’ll be reading along about Sally’s dilemma, when all of a sudden someone named Susan enters the story without warning. Yup, the author changed Sally’s name from Susan and doesn’t make the change throughout.
- The author misspells a character’s name. This is another problem I see occasionally in the manuscripts I edit. A baby in my series is named Lilliana. With each story I write, I question the spelling and always look it up in my character log to make sure it is Lilliana and not Lilianna or Lillianna, for example. (We refer to her as Lily, but her grandmother likes to use her given name.)
- The author neglects to use the search tool to double check the spelling of names and to make sure he did not leave in an instance of Bill, when the character is now Joe.
If you are writing novels and you don’t believe the details matter, you could be dabbling in the wrong field. Details rule in novel-writing. Even though you’re writing fiction, your readers crave truth, reality, accuracy, and authenticity. Even a fantasy must ring true to readers. Sure, you can use your wild imagination, but if you maintain that the creature can only fly or was born with no wings, then you’d better stay true to your facts. If you want to change a fact, make sure there is a legitimate transition.
For those of you who have enjoyed my Klepto Cat Mystery series, I hope you’ve read all 8 on your Kindle. If you prefer holding a book in your hands, you might be pleased to know that The Colony Cat Caper—book 5—is now in print. http://amzn.to/1kAI8I2