Truly big decisions are sometimes a long time coming and none is bigger than the name of a series’ protagonist. She, or he, is the series’ fictitious face of the franchise. You want to change that name? What! Kicking, screaming, eating too much chocolate…
Yeah, that’s what I did, and that’s how it went, and I’m still in agony.
The name was like a darling, a minor change with major implications, and like removing a darling it was a decision I didn’t want to make. I’m heartbroken and excited, and the story demanded it.
So, yes, I finally faced the inevitable and am changing my protagonist’s name. There, it’s officially stated. That makes it more real. She’ll remain the person she always was, of course, but with a different name.
I’m not losing a character, I’m, ah, well, keeping the same one, but not quite the same.
She and I have been together a long time and if it wasn’t for the fact I’m writing a handful of books at once I wouldn’t be able to do this or it’d be far more difficult inflight. I can easily visualize trying to work out some convoluted explanation. Messy.
It’s still painful, but I’m warming to it because I know it’s needed…
Ironically, I’d always had a problem with the old name, it’s just that it became—comfortable. For one, it really didn’t mean anything, a made-up name on the spur of the moment that was never changed. Another issue was that it couldn’t be shortened.
That’s important, why?
Names that can be shortened allow for another character to easily show affection (or derision). For instance, in the book I’m editing now, a character eventually shortens Kasaria to Saria. It’s cute. It makes me smile. It says a lot about the relationship.
That wasn’t possible for my protagonist in the main books.
Still, I resisted. Like I say, it was comfortable. What forced the change was a revelation concerning her background and the female names in her lineage (I’ve also renamed her deceased mother). Some names I use don’t mean much, if they mean anything at all. Sometimes they carry special meaning. In a few instances there are rules for names (wizards, for instance).
I can’t reveal exactly why the change was necessary because that would be a spoiler the size of Africa. Sorry for having to be a bit cagey here. Still, there are a few facts I can share. One is the new name: Riparia. For you insightful folks, yes, it’s derived from the word riparian, which relates to rivers and, more specifically, to that which is situated along the banks of a river.
Oh, and—finally!—it can be shortened to Paria or Aria, if necessary. Yes! It can also be shortened, either playfully or derogatorily, to Rip.
A tidbit of trivia: Riparia was born along the banks of a river and lived there for the first six years of her life. I didn’t change that fact to suit the new name, it was already the case. Funny how that worked out. It’s like she knew before I did. Another tantalizing fact: the second book in the series is called A River in Each Hand. Like I say, I’ve been heading this way for a long time.
As agonizing as this decision was, it’s made my life so much easier, and now I’m free to follow this aspect of her past and the inevitable arc, though the actual revelation won’t occur until after River.
I’m not saving the big reveal to fill books. It’s just that there’s SO much to get out of the way in the two preceding it (not counting the prequel, which finally forced this change). A rule I learned from Ray Bradbury (one among many) was to never hold back. Think it, use it. Believe—know!—you’ll brainstorm more. He was right. I always do. Believe me, I’m already packing as much into the other books as it makes sense to include.
And, no, I’m not going to share what those other revelations in the preceding books are, either.
I will share some other facts. The new first name is Riparia, of course, but the new last name is Dellbane. It fits for a lot of reasons, but one is that Riparia doesn’t work with the old one. Dellbane also pays homage to the old last name. Riparia’s middle name is her mother’s new first name (remember: rules!). Her mother’s new name is Tarnabeth.
So, let’s put it all together…
Old name: Ergain Warna Cursa
New name: Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane
Yes, the new one is a bit of a mouthful in full, but it’s supposed to be (and it’s only used a few times in Bk1). I’m imagining her mother went by Tarna or Beth. I was already struggling with the Warna Cursa, but Riparia Warna Cursa? Eek! Even Riparia Cursa is too repetitive and difficult to spit out.
This is what happens when you have a breakdown in your world building.
As for the old name … I never completely discard anything. It just might resurface elsewhere. I’ll see. Or it’s possible there are too many personal memories associated with it.