Those who’ve spoken with me know I’m awful at naming things. I hate it. I can talk about something all day long and still have no bloody idea what to call it; reminds me of an entry from an Urban Legends collection I used to have, where someone submitted a long-buried Barbie head to the science department and proposed it as an ancestor of modern man with the name “Austreopithicus Spiffarino.”
Of course, we live in a culture where name recognition is important. As Barlow says in ‘Salem’s Lot, “Buy a car from this one, eat here because I am Joe Smith,” etc, etc. So obviously naming is important. I’m just awful at it.
This comes up now because one of my older projects bubbled up to the surface of my mental cauldron, demanding some attention. For about the fiftieth time, the followup to For Her… came to mind, but this time with a semi-workable hook that didn’t feel too awful. So I set about it, at least wanting to scribble a chapter or two and thus pretend I had given it due attention. Then I hit the roadblock.
Anthony isn’t human. I’ve known that since about the midpoint of For Her… and always intended for that to be something of importance in the followup. He’s also not the only one that’s like this. I’ve got a very detailed listing of just what people like him are capable of, what the price for those capabilities is, how one ends up that way and the like. I like making up the metaphysical or medical “rules” that govern my characters; it gives me a sense of structure and order that’s important to me, even if everyone else doesn’t care much. I like making lists.
I’m quite satisfied with the rules and regulations I’ve devised for what Anthony (and some of the other characters) [is/are]. And I think I can actually do something with this version of the plot, so it won’t just quietly die six chapters in or so. Now, from Anthony’s perspective, it’s irrelevant what he calls himself or what the “actual” name for things like him is. But both my inner Twilight and the more “in-the-know” characters would have words for this, I’m sure, and it’s bugging me.
So, what is he? Something fathered by a powerful death-spirit. Something that has roughly equal presence in the spectral and physical realms. Add a dash of psychic vampirism and a tendency to look rather decrepit and “dusty” when he hasn’t been feeding recently, make most ghosts terrified of him and make his father a manipulative bastard that essentially created him to have “hands” in the mortal world.
So, the reject list: Livesider (ended up using the word a lot of dead things use to describe humans or other living beings), Half-dead (too generic) and Halfling.
I know. Short list, especially for something that’s been percolating for literal years. But I did point out I suck with naming things, didn’t I? So, ironically, in finding the way in to the story that doesn’t seem doomed from the start due to poor plotting or lack of hooks and thematic elements, I end up dooming it because I can’t come up with a good name and this version of the story, being less single-character focused, needs a name for them. Bah! I say, Bah!
Anyone else have this problem? A great idea for a tale, character, concept or beastie, but no bloody idea what the hell to call it? (Or maybe the inverse; you’ve got a pure-d awesome name for something; just have no idea what it is. I’m sure this can happen.) Share your thoughts in the magic box below; maybe we can all help each other name stuff, or maybe you can provide the answer to the “Magic Naming Issue.” Until next time, folks…