Tag Archives: rant

“Katherine needs to be stopped.”

Esther Inglis-Arkell on overused character names in fiction:

Katherine, or one of its derivatives, is what you call your main female character when you realize you can’t call her Main Female Character. It has turned, hydra-like, from a name into a multi-headed monster, with Kate, Kay, Kathleen, Caitlin, Cathy, or Cat as its alternatives. I’ve had it pointed out to me that Meg Ryan has played a Katherine-ish name six different times – once she played three Katherines in a row. I’d have to argue that few actresses will have no Katherines on their resume, especially if they play the main character. It’s ubiquitous, and therefore meaningless.

My real first name is Kate, and it is rather refreshing to hear that someone else (especially someone with as refreshingly uncommon a name as Esther) has noticed how often it’s used as a generic everywoman name. If it’s not the main character, it’s the main character’s wife or romantic interest. I mean, I know it’s a common name – one of my best friends is also named Kate, which leads most of our mutual friends to call me Melydia just to differentiate us. (Which is fine by me; I’ve been using that as my primary netname since about 1993.) Still, it’s a touch troubling to find one’s own name to have become a sign of generic, lazy name-choosing. Pick something else, kids. Please.

P.S. – Male names starting with J should be reduced as well. Once I tried reading a book where the first five characters I met were named Johnny, Jack, Jackie, Jerry, and Jimmy. No, I’m not making that up. I had a terrible time keeping track of them.

In defense of NaNoWriMo

A common question was brought up recently on the NaNoWriMo forums. First off, NaNo is a worldwide writing challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. That’s all. They don’t have to be brilliant and nobody has to read them. “Winning” NaNo (the only physical prize is a certificate you print off your computer) requires completing those 50,000 words, crappy or not, which are counted by a computer. The question was, of course, along the same lines as what my mother asked me last year: “Why don’t you write something of quality and send it to a *real* contest?” I wrote a response on the forums this afternoon which actually goes beyond the standard reply I usually give, which is, “the first step to writing well is writing at all.” I felt like reposting it here.

I’ve heard many many people scoff at the whole “quantity over quality” requirement, but I think those are the same people who have never left something perpetually unfinished simply because it did not turn out perfect that first go round. That right there is what NaNo helps fight. Stopping to agonize over every single sentence as you write stifles the creative process and lets loose your most heinous inner critic, so nothing ever gets done. Sure, there are people out there who go for the highest quality no matter what and don’t see the point of just getting a quick first draft DONE so all that’s left is editing. Those people don’t need second drafts. More power to ’em but I am not personally one of them. I need the deadline and I need the rough draft to work from. Stopping to doubt myself is self-defeating. Allowing myself to write crap ultimately also allows me to write beauty.

Really, that last sentence is everything. It all comes from the same spigot, after all. I can’t stop the cold water without stopping the hot as well. Just gotta let it flow. I’ll pick through it later.

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