Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Repeating Myself

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those weird weeks when I have trouble keeping up with what day it is. It started when I had to go to the church and sing in the choir for a funeral on Saturday, which made the day feel like a Sunday. So then I had to remind myself on Sunday that it was actually Sunday and not Monday. But then Monday felt kind of like a Saturday. Now it's Tuesday but it feels like a Monday. Having ballet tonight should help because that will remind me that it's Tuesday (though I'm still getting used to ballet on Tuesday instead of Wednesday), and then choir Wednesday should get me back onto schedule.

I had a weekend that was a nice mix of lazy and productive. I wrote about 2,000 words on the new book, just playing around with different possible openings, and I did a lot of brainstorming. But then I also got in some quality lying around on the sofa time. I did a mini Amy Adams film festival, watching both Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and Enchanted. By the way, did you know that in addition to her brief recurring role on The Office as Jim's girlfriend who made Pam jealous, Amy Adams also appeared on Buffy? She played Tara's bitchy cousin who tried to guilt-trip Tara into going home with her family (in one of the lamest payoffs to an ongoing hinted-at mystery ever). I guess she's a movie sweetheart, but a TV villainess.

Today, I really plunge into writing this new book, and I'm excited. I was even dreaming about some of the characters over the weekend, which means they've really come to life for me. I'll be doing a little more experimental work on the opening to make sure I've got the right tone and feel, but I'm pretty much living those opening scenes in my head, so I think they should be easy to write.

As I write more books, I'm finding it harder to come up with character names and descriptions without repeating myself. I know I have a fondness for dark-haired, blue-eyed men, going back to my crush on Speed Racer when I was about four. Owen has become kind of iconic as my ultimate dark-haired, blue-eyed man, so I feel like I really ought to get away from that type for a while so I don't risk the next guy being seen as Owen 2.0. And yet I keep seeing the main male character in this new book as being dark-haired and blue-eyed. I've tried to change his eye color several times, but in my mind's eye his eyes keep turning blue again. In my head, he looks very different from Owen because he has a different physical build and a different face, and his eyes are a different kind of blue, but those are nuances I'm not sure will come through in words. I can't exactly put in a footnote saying "By the way, he looks totally different from Owen. Really." I guess I'm afraid of being accused of writing the same character over and over again and just changing the names.

Speaking of names, it's hard not to repeat yourself, and it's even harder to avoid names that are similar to or the same as people you know in real life -- not full names, but first names. I named a major character in this book, and it was cool how much symbolism ended up associated with that name that totally played into the story. And then I realized it was the same first name as one of my close friends. I can't believe the connection didn't occur to me for so long. It is a fairly common name, but I have noticed that there's a tendency for people to try to find themselves in books written by people they know (stop it, you're not in there, really). Fortunately, I don't think this particular friend would do that, and I will warn him ahead of time that there is a character with his first name, but it has nothing to do with him, and I think the character is different enough from this friend that I don't think my other friends will see any connection. If I can't use first names that people I know share, then I will rapidly run out of things to name characters. I'll have to stop writing contemporary fantasy and go to epic fantasy where I can use long, pseudo-Celtic names full of consonants, and I'll know that no one I know will have those names.

But I'll still be tempted to repeat names, because sometimes there are two different characters who perfectly fit the same name. I had to adjust for the heroine of this book because for one thing, a TV series has used the name I'd been saving for her (first and last), and then I used that first name for a different character in another book where it probably fits slightly better (thanks in part to that TV character with the same last name). But now I've seen that there's a character in a show I don't watch with the same first name I decided to give her instead, and that character has a similar physical description and is from generally the same geographical region. I may have to watch that show, just to see (I'm basing this on something I saw in TV Guide), but I think my character is different enough, and has a different last name, so the first name shouldn't be ruled out entirely and I don't think I'd be accused of copying. If I can't use first names from people I know or from TV characters who might be somewhat similar, or from other books I've written, then I'm really in trouble.

And now to take care of a few things so I can get to work this afternoon and plunge into this book!

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