"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What's in a name ?

Still processing the change of name of my picture book character. Amadi turned out to be much better than me at this. But I have good reasons. More than ever, I realize the importance of each and every word in a picture book text. I already knew that, of course. But now, I'm experiencing it in a very real - and confusing - way. Whenever I try to read the whole text with the name Amadi in place of Ifeanyi, it sounds all funny - funny as in strange, not as in laughing funny, even though that would also be a problem, as the story is not exactly comic. I was very careful to choose a new name that ended with the same sound, foreseeing such problem, but I also had to LIKE that name, and in the end, I was unable to find one...
a) which I really liked, hear a name that spoke to me, a name that seemed to adopt my Ifeanyi
b) which ended with the same sound
c) which had four syllables.
I do like the name Amadi. But it has only three syllables. I find that disruptive. And I'm having a hard time deciding whether it's me still unconsciously resisting this name change, whether it's just old habit - I have written some 57 millions versions of this story over the past 5 years after all - or whether, really, it doesn't flow the way it used to. And I can't ask my critique group because they've also seen and read the old version with Ifeanyi a number of times. Plus, we are still on break. But it reminds me, if I ever needed to be reminded, how crucial the music of the text is in a picture book. Sentences not only have to flow in a seamless way, they must carry an internal tune. And I can't overdo it. I need to read it, try to make some changes, let it rest, go back to it. That's the only way I've found to deal with this problem so far.


LindaBudz said...

Hi, Katia! I really like Amadi. Ifeanyi is cool, too, but to be honest, I wasn't sure exactly how to pronounce it, especially where to place the accent. I think I would trip over it a lot in a book. Amadi is simpler.

I don't know much about picture books, but I can imagine the number of syllables could be important. I think putting it away for a while is a great idea. Good luck with it!!

Katia said...

Thanks, Linda, for your honest input. I do understand the rationale behind the editor's decision, you know, always have. But I think this whole issue is much larger than the simple name too difficult to pronounce. I can't help but being bothered by the concept that, if it's slightly too foreign, therefore too difficult, let's not bother about it. As opposed to: "mm, different name, different whatever, let's give it a try." My feeling is that by always trying to oversimplify things, we end up missing out on a lot, and also, we make the world shrink, somehow. Because it really becomes a way of life, of thinking. Of course, this is a big debate, and I could easily be accused of splitting hair in 4 :) I mean, sure, the easy route is easy, but more often than not, the difficult one turns out to be so much more interesting, if only because at least you learn something. This may feel as if I'm off topic and making a big deal out of what is simply a name for a picture book character meant for children, but wouldn't you say that the earlier we get into the habit of wanting everything to be easy and familiar, the harder it will be to grow as a person who is open to welcoming and addressing anything different with an open and curious mind ?

Katia said...

Linda, me again, the above said, I'm still really glad that you like Amadi :)

LindaBudz said...

Hi, Katia! Yes, I know what you are saying and I can appreciate that and definitely agree with your main point! It probably is not so much the kids as the parents who might read it to their kids and trip over the name who may find it off-putting.

Depending on your market, I think Amadi will be quite "different" ... so at least in the "easy and familiar" department, you still would be asking the reader to step outside the "familiar" part.

Natalie said...

Hi Katia,

I do agree with Linda--both names are beautiful, and Amadi sounds different enough from run-of-the-mill names, that hopefully you won't feel like that aspect has been compromised. And now you have an interesting tidbit to share when you do school author visits or presentations, or even via your website once the book is out!

Katia said...

Hi Natalie, You can count on that. I will definitely be mentioning the whole name story - not at all with an antagonistic mind, but because I think it can actually be the starting point for very interesting discussions, and maybe even for a reflexion on everyone's part - and I look forward to the comments it will arise. Thanks for stopping by.