Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Names have been changed...

And I don't know why, but one character Brendan meets in Houston and who winds up having a major effect on his life just shifted his name for the third time -- first Jacob, then Adam, now Jeremy...but I get the sense that Jeremy will stick. It fits his yuppie intentions.

It's funny how this works -- characters picking about till they find something about themselves that they want to lay claim to. It's like Jake in "Rape in Holding Cell 6" -- I got the idea for his look from this guy, Will Fennell, who writes about grooming for DNA Magazine in Australia --
-- but it wasn't till Jake explained the tattoo on his shoulder and arm that I realized he was Persian and Irish, and that exploded into the second half of the second volume. Now I have an idea percolating in the back of my brain to bring Jake front and center for his own story...which was probably his intention the whole time, the little sneak.

The same thing happened with Brendan's younger sister, Caera -- for a while she was named Diedre, which she was never comfortable with...and the fact is, she's not even happy with Caera, really. We'll keep casting about, but the one other name she's suggested -- Eileen -- just will NOT work for me. Too Hollywood.

I have noticed that names get settled once the character finds his or her reason to exist, and once that's done I cannot change it. Can't change anything; it's like the story gets set in cement. For example, I tried to make "Brand of Justice" into a lesbian film a couple years back by changing Claire's love interest from a younger man to a strong woman. By rights, it should have worked just as well. Claire was a strong central character who ruled her destiny, or so she thought, so no big deal to change her sexual orientation. Gian-Paolo was a supporting role who wound up being the heart of the story, so no big deal to make him into Gianna, right? Wrong. NONE of the characters liked it and they pulled a sit-down strike on me. So I put it back the way it was and now everyone's happy. And I got the first taste of a lesson in how I need to believe in my characters as they are,love them as they are, no matter what they're doing, and I will fight anyone who tries to change them.

I've had a couple of friends tell me this is what hurt me in writing for Hollywood, and they may well be right on a superficial level. People in Hollywood love to mess with the writer's work, and actors and directors blame the writer when actions don't come together right or they can't say the lines. Meaning, the script is there for them, not them for the script. And to get ahead in today's Hollywood, you have to accept that. Even William Goldman, who has 2 Oscars and a major career in screenwriting, gets his scripts changed by directors and actors all the time. And he sees it as part of the deal. So he's very successful.

But I'm stupid in that I believe my characters and their stories deserve respect, not just from me but from anyone who approaches them. And the last time I violated my characters' trust in me by changing a story around to suit someone else's limited viewpoint of what should and should not be in the script is what set me on the road away from screenwriting. Because it fucked up the script. Completely. This may be ego, it probably is...but the fact remains, not once when I've changed my work to suit someone else has it wound up being made. Not once. And a couple of scripts died completely on me.

So now I won't change my work. If you don't believe in the story and characters enough to put your heart and soul into getting it made as is, then you're not the right person for it. And I don't have the wherewithal, nor am I properly located, to go find that person. Of course, I wouldn't know how to, anyway; the few occasions in the past where I thought I had, I found out I'd only fooled myself into thinking that.

So that's the way of the world. Still rambling and whining my screw-ups and contemplating current irritations and trying to figure out what the fuck I'm talking about. All part of the writing process, I guess.

But you know what, I think once all the names are set, "Place of Safety" will explode around me. And right now, Jeremy works perfectly as this character's name. So, Caera...what do you think about Áine?


Brad Rushing said...

Seriously, POS is gonna need a pronounciation key! All these bizarre Irish names!

JamTheCat said...

Don't worry, Brad -- I also have a Sean, Scott, Bernadette, Andrew, Joanna, Todd, Carol...well, all sorts of plain names. But I'll send you a key once the first act is set.