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Tansy Rayner Roberts

What’s in a Name?

November 9th, 2011 at 21:54

16316 / 50000 words. 33% done!

So I think I can blog about my current WIP again because I’ve started liking it, which after a week of near-torture is something of a relief!

My main problem at the moment is that I am writing a story set in the Verona of Romeo & Juliet (well, not entirely THAT Verona what with the tropical islands and the necromancy) and the only way to add magic and logic and possibly the occasional steam-powered robot (oops) to Shakespeare is to make sure that the canon itself works hard in the story. And there are only three canon facts about my heroine Rosaline, apart from the whole thing about Romeo being in love with her before Juliet: 1) her complexion was pale 2) she was determinedly chaste and 3) her sister’s name is Livia.

All of these things have given me a massive headache, at one time or another. But if I chuck them out, why bother calling my heroine Rosaline at all? So I’ve had to address them in my story, and in the building of the character. The only problem is that now her sister wants to be a point of view character and she’s a stitch away from becoming joint protagonist, and I can’t, I simply can’t have a protagonist called Livia. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve written three different fictional Livillas in the last two years (OK two of them were historical figures but still) I still live in hope that some day I will write the Great Livia Drusilla novel of all time, and how can I possibly do that if I already have another fictional Livia inside my head?

So I have to screw with canon. Which bugs the hell out of me. Because, you know. I want to be true to the play. Apart from all the liberties I already planned to take.

So she’s going to have to be Olivia, or Livian, or Liliane. Or something.

Damn you, canon!

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3 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Diana Says:

    Too funny, Tansy. I find myself, 12 books and 8 short stories into the process, being compelled to either re-use names or try to retain names I like and not use them on secondaries, because I want to reserve them for imaginary future characters.

    You know — or real children. I did reserve a name once because I thought I might want to use it on an actual human. Unfortunately, though I get full latitude over fictional names, my husband gets a vote on the kids.

  2. tansyrr Says:

    Hi Diana!

    My downfall was online RPing, I did it for 2 years and one of the things I became known for was conjuring up excellent names for NPCs at the drop of a hat. Which proved problematic further down the line… it’s not that I *can’t* reuse those names, but they do have quite specific associations to me now.

    Which as it happened proved problematic when naming the second child. I was OUT OF NAMES! Luckily my honey came to the rescue.

    Meanwhile my first daughter’s name was pared out of a then-unpublished manuscript, and I always remember that with a little jolt when I see the name I replaced hers with. That name, Aurelia, is one that I adore but always thought was far too fancy for a real live child… but again my partner saved the day by devising her everyday nickname, Raeli.

    So co-creators most definitely have their uses in the naming department…

  3. Diana Says:

    That’s hilarious. Aurelia (nicknamed Raeli) was on OUR list, too! (I was the one who said too fancy…) Great minds…

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