Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One
Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.
Total word count: 17,059
May the fourth be with you! Yep, it’s that time of year once again. No matter what anyone says, be assured that this is excellent wordplay and I hope that you’ve used it on absolutely everyone you met over the course of the day.
This past week has seen only hints of progress and this is certainly reflected in the word count. I got a little hung up on those surnames that I mentioned last week.
What name do you give a character to make them memorable? Are there any hard and fast rules to what you should and should not use? Why does the unassuming first name/surname combination of Harry Potter work so well? What about the extraordinary averageness of a name like Arthur Dent? Even paring a slightly unusual first name with a mundane surname like that of Katniss Everdeen makes a memorable impression.
Names are important, but can they make or break a character? Making up gibberish names and asking the reader to take them quite seriously (I’m looking at you, high fantasy novels!) has always been a turnoff for me, but then I’m also quite the fan of making up names, but I’d never do it quite so po-faced.
As for the Aramis Gothboi Project, I’d already done most of the heavy lifting for all of my primary characters whose names mostly came about through what sounded pleasing to my ear. I think there’s a lot to be said for having names that are not easily confused with others in the story, especially with an ensemble cast (yes Tolkien, I’m calling you out on this one).
The only character name I developed with any inherent meaning was that of the youngest worm boy Loofah, whose name is a kind of sponge simply because that’s how I see kids of his age. Much to the disappointment of parents the world over, 7-year-olds can, and usually will, absorb pretty much everything and anything.
I settled on Jo as the name for my protagonist because it’s gender neutral. As mentioned before, this character was initially developed to be a Worm Boy named Jophus (when I was in high school I knew a kid with this nickname and I always thought it was kind of cool). I think for a while there I wasn’t entirely sold on changing Jo’s character to that of a girl, but she’s definitely come into her own – and owns this name entirely.
Aramis was pulled directly from The Three Musketeers. I wasn’t sure if it was a name that existed beyond that story (it does now), but I learnt only recently that Alexandre Dumas made it up specifically for that story – he pulled it from a friend’s surname, Arammitz.
Some names, surnames especially, can carry a certain weight and I was looking for some that would reflect the roles of the characters and their families.
Gothboi sounds like it could be kind of French, but it’s simply (and quite obviously) just a bastardised portmanteau of goth and boy because that’s how the character originated – as a boy in a gothic story.
Anyway, after following a few threads for my initial surname ideas, I settled pretty quickly upon the many of the first that came to me. Each surname is very much a placeholder at the moment, but like Jo and her moniker, with time I believe each character and family will grow to own theirs. Afterall,
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”
With that name business now behind me, I spent my time reworking the last chapter that I had written and it seems that it’s a little more difficult to crack than I’d expected. I’ve done two or three passes on it now and it’s only in the most recent go that I’ve been able to make it work on the page, primarily in setting the scene and letting the action play out. It’s not quite there yet and I’m not sure how well it’ll land with the physical comedy and speechless communication that’s in there as part of the action. Anyway, I’ve mapped the sequence out to a satisfactory degree and will have another bash at it later this evening.
I think I’ve also discovered a few gaps in the narrative, which will likely require additional chapters to be inserted. As it stands there are references to things that happen to characters in the gaps of time between chapters, but I think those moments deserve to be experienced by the reader. Also, by not showing these moments I’m missing out on opportunities for further character development.
The bonus content for this week is this handful of early sketches featuring Jo’s antagonist Piebald Galveston (what do you think of that last name, pretty snappy huh?).
Piebald has certainly grown into his name. He went through a bit of physical evolution in those early days, and over the years his character has also become more refined. From the hulking bully boy with no redeeming features that he once was, Piebald has become a far more sophisticated and even sympathetic character. He’s still a jerk, but at least now you will be able to understand why. The other consistent aspect of Piebald is his name – so much so that I can’t even imagine him being called anything else.
That’s it for this week’s entry. Under 3,000 words away from my 20K goal and I think it’s about the right time to set another. Let’s see what happens next week.