The Trouble With Names…

So, it’s been an interesting if crazy week and this is something that I’m sure many writers have faced before.  I have a character that has been named Damsine Rhea for 15 years.  When I had someone else read it they mispronounced the name so I changed the phonetics to what I heard in my head (essentially Damsin Rhee).  I mentioned it to a friend of mine who responded with, “Um, I hate to tell you this, but there’s a character who is named Damson Rhee in a classic fantasy series.  Don’t think you can use the changed version legally.”  They then promptly signed off to go to bed for the night after giving me the name of the book where said character appears. 

Now, enter my current writing professor, who thank God got my panicked email and responded to me that yes, I would have to choose a new name, but that I needed to breathe because I am not someone easily panicked and she could tell from my email that I was freaking out.  Her quote that got me through the week is this: “We writers know that changing the name of the character feels like drowning our own child.  Even axe murder.  But when we must, we must.  About the only consolation I can give you is that however much you may suffer, you will not go to jail for this crime.”  Have I said how much I love Laurie before?  If I haven’t, let me fix that:  I ADORE HER!  I bow down to her awesomeness.  That is exactly how I felt this week. 

EJ, Kid, Linds, and Tombo have also been putting up with my insanity this week.  Picture someone not sleeping, going through thousands of name on various lists, dictionaries in multiple languages, and pacing while trying to figure this out.  In my writing, names and name meanings are really a part of the plot, especially for this character, so I needed to find something where I wouldn’t have to change the plot and would only need to change the prophecy and some dialogue.  So, after much craziness, I’ve finally got a name: Kasaia Rhee.  Kasai is a Japanese word and it’s somewhat hard to translate but it comes out to roughly an unexpected fire (like a house fire, mountain fire, wildfire, etc).  This has led to a total rewriting of a few things and partial rewriting of others, but I think that the series as a whole will come out better for it.  That, and I’m extraordinarily happy with the way it ties into the other two names that she uses, both of which have flame or fire in the meanings.

So, fellow writers, if you must change the name of your character (which feels incredibly wrong after finally naming them–took me 100 pages originally) apologize to your character, beg their forgiveness and get set in for a few days of not-writing.  What comes out in the end will be better if you truly know your character and you will feel insanely happy and hyper after it’s figured out.  Basically, it’s okay to feel like a nutter in order to make things better.  HUZZAH for new names and for the friends who save my sanity, even when it’s hanging by a thread!


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