I think all writers are protective of their characters. We’re told to kill our darlings, and the idea of making our characters face hardships, including death, is important, because conflict drives a lot of life. It certainly drives drama. As much as I love talking about my stories and characters, I always try to rein myself in, because I’ve realized over the years that nobody has or ever will care as much for my characters as I do. I can hopefully entertain with their stories, and maybe – if I’m lucky – I can even make a reader feel something for one of my characters, whether that’s compassion, disgust, fear, or just a simple interest to see what happens next. But, sometimes, I find myself becoming too attached to these characters.
I have – more than once, I’m ashamed to admit, mostly for the silliness of it – cringed at a misspelling of a beloved character’s name. Not everybody gets persnickety about names the way I do, probably because most people didn’t grow up in the environment I grew up in with a name like mine. For many years, I simply gave up correcting people over the pronunciation of my name, because it just seemed pedantic of me to do so. But not too long ago, a colleague asked me straight-out:
“What’s the correct pronunciation of your name? Is it MAY-you-me, or MA-you-me?”
I gave my standard answer at the time, which was a shrug and a dismissive, “I answer to both.”
He came back at me: “Yes, but it’s just as easy for me to pronounce your name the right way, if you tell me.”
That simple logic slapped me in the face, and I remember thinking, You know what? That’s right!
Nowadays, I introduce myself with the proper pronunciation, and I’ll correct someone if they give me that quizzical I-didn’t-quite-get-that look. For the most part, I let it go, mostly because I don’t want to sound like a pedantic ass. But when it happens with my characters, I still feel a little flare of defensiveness for them. Because I’m the only one who will ever care enough.
The following “Finding Mister Wright” short (link opens in a new window) came about with the pedantic ass portion of my personality in full force. I think it’s fitting, though, for the moment. And, it was fun to write, which I think is the most important bit.
[another “Finding Mister Wright” fic – ~2100 words/7 pages]
Do you have an easy name? If not, do you school folks on the proper pronunciation? Or, do you let it go? If you could change your name, what name would you choose?
Extra question: If you read the story above, what name do you vote for, for little baby Wright? (Orville and Wilbur are not options.)