Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What's In a Name?

Here's a great self-editing exercise to try some time. Take a yellow highlighter (or use the search and replace feature on your computer) and highlight all uses of your characters’ names for one chapter. When you’ve finished, if that lovely white background looks as though someone has bled highlighter all over it, you’re using your characters’ names too much. (If you don’t have time to do that, you can simply glance at the beginning of every paragraph for a page or two. Do they all start with someone’s name? This is another sign of over-use). It’s a subconscious move on the writer’s part to want to make sure our reader knows who is speaking, who is participating in this story and who is walking across the room. By the time they’ve finished the first page, your reader knows your hero and heroine’s names. Don’t hit her over the head with them. Each and every time you use their names you draw the reader out of your characters’ PV– you remind her that she’s reading. Whenever possible substitute “he” “she” “her” “him” and other adjectives for the names. This will help your reader to stay in your character’s PV and can make or break the difference between a reader simply reading a story – and feeling like they’re a part of one.

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