Tuesday, February 21, 2012
What's In A Name...Besides Everything?
As if there wasn't enough to obsess about, I get so hung up on names and titles. Even if I've got one of those amazing heads of steam built up and my fingers are flying across the keys, it careens to a halt if I have to introduce a new character by name. Sometimes I think it was easier to name my children than it is to settle on a fictional moniker.
I think my trouble centers on the whole first-impression and sum-up problem. Whoever you pitch or submit your original project to, they all want the short-hand version, the thumbnail, the sum-it-up-in-five-words-or-less version that either gets them excited or gives them a reason inside thirty seconds to kick you out of their office and get on with their day. Even though I'm a cartoonist, boiling down anything to a single, solid WHUMP I can deliver in quickie format is a huge obstacle. I mean, if I could have told the story in a sentence, I wouldn't have written six hundred pages. On the other hand, what working person has time to wade through six or a hundred pages or ten or even one? The pressure is on, and if you don't grab that audience in the first seconds of exposure, your first impression's gone, blown, and you're sitting in the hall wishing you'd remembered to ask before they shut and locked the door where to get your parking validated.
For me, the same is true for a character name or project title. And I do like everyone, keeping baby books on hand when I just have to hunt up a name. I try to note down any interesting names of people or places as they pop out at me. But when it comes to selecting and sticking to a name or title, my inner critic goes to town with my confidence. The usual name objections typically come from personal experience -- darn it, I knew a Cecil! I can't name him after that guy!
I am trying very hard to adopt the Bill Murray SNL technique. In an interview about the spectacular talet that was Gilda Radner, he said often when he was writing skits or if he got stuck, he'd actually write, "then Gilda does something funny." It was a great strategy because it kept him from getting hung up and stuck. Sure revision is its own nightmare, but revision is immensely more manageable obstacle than the blank-page or I-don't-have-an-ending syndrome.
So, I'm taking a lesson from Bill and naming every new character Gilda (Gil if it's a boy) to see if that can help me get over the hurdles and on to the end. Incidentally, I'm excited to announce I'm working on a new original script titled "Gilda" about Gilda and the brothers Gil, who do something funny.