This is not Part 3. It’s just two things I thought of tacking on to part 2.
What can I say? Part 2s are easy blog post fodder; Part 2 appendixes are even easier.
One, there’s one other wall I run into often during those rare attempts when I get motivated enough to try to write a story: naming characters is hard. At least, it provides an excellent motivational roadblock whenever I even consider committing a story to paper, a point before I’ve actually written anything at which I think “maybe I should give up and go on Facebook instead” and proceed to do so. Aggh. And I think there’s more than one reason for this:
- I have trouble coming up with names to some degree. Sure, it’s easy to browse BabyNames.com and look for choices, but a lot of the names there are really weird and contemplating them for every unimportant character kind of rips me out of the immersed mindset.
- Reading great stories in English class and elsewhere may have gotten me feeling like every name ought to be a deep meaningful allusion, or at least pun fodder. I feel like I will regret it if I write a story and, a few months and/or chapters down the road, realize I missed a better name or the name I chose has some undesirable connotations in context or provides an atmosphere-ruining coincidence.
But I think the real kicker is simply that some part of me is terrified of the awkwardness of giving a character the same name as anybody I know, because then they might read the story and wonder if the character is somehow based on them. And too many of the names that I consider common enough to not lure readers off into looking for hidden meanings are used up that way. This is obviously worst if the character is an antagonist. But it seems just as awkward if the character is a protagonist in accord with everything I’ve written, i.e. a paper-thin character blatantly created for escapist purposes. I am already kind of terrified I might ever meet anybody with the same name as one of my mentally established characters even though I haven’t actually written anything about him. And there’s a well-established convention of not reusing a first name in a work, so this gets even harder with every work; I’m just as worried, what if somebody thinks this character is related to the other character in that story I wrote in second grade? Oh no!!
It’s like not reusing variable names in a programming language where everything is in the same scope. Positively nightmarish.
And I actually discovered some evidence this is a thing in my past: I found some stories I wrote in 2004. They are possibly the most extreme exemplification of Write What You Know imaginable: the main character, Michael, goes to school and makes friends. That’s all.
I kind of want to share these stories, but fast-forward a few years and you’ll see that a classmate named Michael entered my grade and we stayed in the same grade until we graduated.
Hi, Michael. You’re probably not reading this, but the character I created in 2004 is not in any way based on or inspired by you, especially not this image. And unlike later in this post where I name a character after myself, I’m not being sarcastic, really.
See, this is awkward.
Of course, one way around all of this is that I can spit out fantasy names left and right by cobbling together word fragments; I’ve been doing this for a long time. Still, I don’t think those are appropriate for every character in every setting. I think the only normal first name I feel like I can use and abuse proudly is my own, but of course that just makes the suspicious odor of wish fulfillment even stronger. What to do? What to do??
Two: After sleeping on it, I think I can better articulate my idea of an awesome plot; it’s a lot more precise than just lots of curb-stomp battles. My primary source of awesomeness is the protagonist revealing his powers to people and surprising them. But I can’t keep adding people in my plot for no other reason than for him to reveal his powers to, and I consider memory wipes a cop-out, especially if I have to repeatedly wipe the memory of one of my characters.
Let me be even more specific, and even go so far as to call the protagonist Brian so as to avoid any more awkward explanations, even though he is not based on me at all and this totally isn’t a wish fulfillment self-insert fic. Absolutely positively. The story starts during a normal schoolday when some antagonist — maybe a fifty-foot whatever, maybe an Eldritch Abomination, maybe some crackpot in a Humongous Mecha, maybe a fifty-foot Eldritch Abomination operating a Humongous Mecha, I’m not picky — appears out of nowhere and starts destroying the school and shooting lethal laser beams and generally wreaking havoc.
Fortunately but inexplicably, the antagonist is actually really ineffective at actually killing anybody, so we can have an unambiguously happy ending without needing to develop a plot system sufficiently complicated to bring anybody back from the dead. But that comes later. Instead, everybody is running away from the terrifying whatever that’s attacking. Except Brian, who is pushing against the crowd on a conveniently ceiling-less platform looking at the whatever with a grim faraway look in his eyes, and possibly a few friends near him who noticed this and are beckoning or yelling for him to RUN FOR HIS LIFE.
Instead of running, Brian delivers a “World of Cardboard” Speech, some really cool Pre-Asskicking One-Liner, an invocation of By the Power of Greyskull, or all three in order, before revealing his superpowers. He knows how to violate gravity by throwing himself at the ground and missing, or he built this really cool benevolent sentient robot a while ago just waiting to be activated, or he prepared a deep class in magic (offscreen, of course — who has time to write about or display something as un-awesome as learning arcane magic spells), or…
…oh, who am I kidding, we all know what superpower he has. Brian turns into a dragon. There may be some pyrokinetics involved in the transformation sequence, but it is short and to the point because I think Transformation Is a Free Action is a stupid trope. Brian the dragon is red with yellow-green eyes, black horns, fiery breath, flight-capable wings that probably violate aerodynamics, etc. He flies off and completely incinerates the bad guy while grinning.
The dust settles and Brian flies back to the convenient platform where his friends are gawking. He lands gracefully but is no longer grinning because The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: psychological distance and immersion in the thrill of the fight are the dragon’s second nature, but now as a human, Brian is steeling himself for the social ostracization of Fantastic Racism.
The friends are shocked speechless. Maybe only one particularly vocal member says, “That… is…”
Sweat. Dramatic music.
Resolution. Cut to Brian lifting his head in disbelief and going, “Really???” Something something something the power of friendship. After the crowning moment of heartwarming is milked for a bit, time is skipped and there is some creative usage of the power showing Brian using it nonchalantly around friends to surprise or prank them, while credits roll on the side.
Happy ending, yeah? Pretty much entirely devoid of conflict too.
(This is maybe only the third or fourth most awesome stock plot I’ve come up with, because I don’t want to spoil anything I might actually write a story around. But I think it makes all the points I want it to.)
There isn’t a conclusion. Do you expect one for an appendix? I just wanted to get this out there and keep the streak going.