When it comes to choosing character names, I have a terrible habit. It stems from the fact that I love names and spend far too much time thinking about them. Settling on only one causes me physical pain. To avoid the terror of choosing a name, I often use a placeholder when writing drafts. That temporary name usually begins with an “A”.
I’m not sure why “A” has such allure. It’s likely that my brain defaults to the path of least resistance. Starting with names at the beginning of the alphabet is easy. The names are just…there.
I try not to worry about the fit of this initial name. I’ll pick a different one later, I tell myself. So characters in my first drafts will all inevitably be named Alex, or Anna, or Arthur, or Aubrey. Then the real trouble begins.
When I spend hundreds of hours with characters, their name becomes a part of them. I can no longer separate Ava and Allen from the personalities that I’ve created. Unfortunately for me, few people want to read a book with characters that have similar names. In order to make the story work, I have to change what I call my characters.
The process breaks my heart. Like so many parts of writing, it is just a mental hurdle. And I do throw myself over it eventually. There are so many other letters in the alphabet other than “A”. It would be a shame to waste them.
Still, I’ll always hold a place in my heart for Adam, Andrew, Aaron, Abigail, Antonio, Alyssa, Alexia, Adrian, Amelia, Alicia, and all of the others. Over the years, they’ve allowed me to dive into writing drafts. Without them, I would have been paralyzed trying to find the perfect name.
For my next draft though, I may need to start using names that start with “B”.
Who knows what will happen then?