22 January, 2013

Fiction Friday: What's harder, naming your child or your character?

Parents-to-be spend months and months making lists of names before their child is born. And often change the chosen name when they first lay eyes on their new bundle of love. 

People get their names for all kinds of reasons.  Parents fell in love in Richmond and named their daughter Virginia.  Maybe Mom-to-be loved Wuthering Heights and named her first born Heathcliff (now known as Chip or Bruiser).  We won't dwell on children named  Moon Unit, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, Pilot Inspector, and Tu Morrow.  Do parents want their kids to get the snot beaten out of them at school?
What about writers giving birth to a new character?

Writers take no less time and effort -- maybe more -- naming their characters.  Jane Marple could never be replaced by Zephinia Van Holstein-Hamburger.  Would you read a 300-page book whose protagonist was named Abner Grinch rather than Philip Marlowe? Probably not.

Names are chosen to evoke mental images. Those images may vary significantly among readers, but they are formed.  Our mental portraits of Miss Marple, Sherlock

Holmes, and Mike Hammer are probably influenced by the actor(s) who portrayed them on TV or in the movies.  But how about purely literary characters.  What does V.I. Warshawski look like? How about ex-Ranger Elvis Cole and his side kick, former marine Joe Pike?

Obviously Sara Paretsky and Robert Crais give us some visual clues, but we fill in the rest as best we can, with the associations we have for each name-- some we know or have met with the same name.

Just for fun, here are the names of three characters from my WIP.  I know exactly what they look like - I even have pictures.  What do you think they look like? 

  • Kensing Delaney
  • Abigail Bjorsohnn
  • Elise Fleming - nee Duvalle
So tell me, how hard was it to name your characters?

15 January, 2013

Intellectual discrimination

Talk about discrimination! Just for laughs I decided to take the on-line Mensa test, not that I think I'm a genius but I was curious to see how I'd fare. Besides, it was free.

Right off the bat, Question #1 discriminated against me.  I was asked to select the picture  that represented a right hand.  Discriminatory you ask?  Obviously you're not dyslexic!  To add insult to injury,  at least a dozen questions dealt with similar images.

Now I'm lucky.  I have what they tell me is "spatial" or orientational dyslexia.  Loose translation, I read just fine but I can't differentiate between left and right, telling time on a standard (i.e. non-digital) clock is a nightmare, and I can look at the number 34 on a page and tell you it says 43 without blinking an eye.

I'm not asking for pity; I've learned to compensate.  My friends know to tell me to turn towards the driver or passenger rather that right or left, and I wear a digital watch – still iffy, but better than the alternative. I even have I have a large "R" and "L" glued to my car's visor.  Unless you're dyslexic, You can't imagine the panic engendered by a road sign that reads: Right lane closed ahead and you have no idea which lane that is.

I wasn't formally diagnosed until I was in prep school.  Until then my family just assumed I had a small "quirk."  It first became apparent when I was enrolled in a ballet class at the tender age of 4.  Toddler disaster. A dozen little girls chassez-ing to the right while yours truly happily when upstream to the left.  I lasted less than a month. Rhythmic dance, movement, and modern were no better.

My point here is that parts of the Mensa test didn't measure my intelligence--only the extent of my visual/cognitive deficits. There are plenty of exceptionally talented people who are/were dyslexic: Alexander Graham Bell, Pierre Curie , Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonard da Vinci, Pablo Picasso (okay, maybe that one is apparent), Auguste Rodin, Stonewall Jackson, and George Patton to name a few.  I can't help but wonder if they'd pass the Mensa test. Can you see the headlines: Einstein denied Mensa membership. Scores below 98th percentile. Yeah, right.

Long story short, I scored high enough to qualify for Mensa membership, but what does that really mean?  My vocabulary and math skills are high enough to compensate for my dyslexia? 

Want to try your luck?  Just navigate to https://www.us.mensa.org/join/mht/.
As for me, I'm just going to continue relying on the help of friends to get me where I need to be, on time, and wearing my shoes on the correct feet!