It is currently freezing in my apartment, but only because the windows are open and it is raining outside. If I close them, however, it gets very hot in here and my computer starts to get a little warmer than it likes. This place has fancy insulated windows, and I’ve not quite figured out how to live with them. It makes for an odd day of writing when you’re putting on and then taking off a sweatshirt every twenty minutes.
Anyways, the chilly nature of my apartment aside, I wanted to talk about names in my writing. I believe I had a post a few weeks back about naming characters and places, but this one will be a bit less about the creation of the names and a bit more about keeping track of them.
I for one have been having a hell of a time recently keeping track of all the different names in my books. I’m only two books into the Dreamstate series, by the time I hit the fifth, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. For the most part, I keep a rather detailed list of what everything is, where it is, what it’s called (and why), and if it applies, who they are. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to remember off the top of my head what I’ve called something, or even that I’ve called it something before. There have been a few occasions when I’ll name a place, write it down, forget about it, and then proceed to call it something else for the next twenty pages. Only when I read it back later do I think ‘Wait, no… that’s wrong.’ It’s starting to become a bit of an issue.
It’s usually not characters that I forget about, although, there have been a number of times when I’ll use wildly different spellings for the same character and then have to go back and sort it all out. I can’t even use the universal replace tool in situations like that because I’ve spelled it five different ways and first have to find them all. No, the problem that I have the most issue with is the names of cities and towns and landmarks. A lot of the time, a character might mention a place once, maybe twice, but then not again for a long, long time. This is often perfectly reasonable to the scene—a city is off to the west, they’re not going there now, but it gets mentioned, and then someone has to go to it way later on in the story. It’s times like these that I get confused; I end up poring through my journals trying to find exactly where I’d named the city, and why, and where it was. I really should set aside a journal that is just dedicated to being filled with the names of everything, but I’ve never fully gotten around to that. Most of the names are written on the fly, next to some illustrations and explanations as to what it is. The details are there, just everything is rather spread out through the whole Dreamstate II journal.
The lesson to be learned from all this, I imagine, is that I should keep better track of the names of everything in my stories. If I just dedicated a few pages at the start of the journal to a list of names, and added to it as I went, I’d probably never lose track of another. Forgetting that I’d named something would still be an issue, but it would solve a host of others. This is really the basis of my theory for why George R.R Martin keeps killing off all of his characters—because there are just too many names to remember.