1. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea

    On Having a Character change her name mid-story.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by stormcat, Jun 6, 2014.

    My MC is originally named Chelsea. Halfway through the book, she decides to change her name to Cordelia because it sounds more regal. Do I just continue to write her new name as if it never changed in the first place? Has anyone ever done this in their writing before?
     
  2. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    In Midnight's Children, Rushdie renames a few characters over the course of the novel (notably Mumtaz, who is renamed Amina by her husband). After the change, Rushdie goes on to refer to her by her new name. So it's definitely been done before, successfully.

    If the story's being told in Chelsea's POV, I'd say it would be best to refer to her as she would refer to herself--that is, once she changes her name, if she thinks of herself as Cordelia, go with that. If she still secretly thinks of herself as Chelsea and only uses her new name outwardly, I'd continue to refer to her as Chelsea. Let your character's thoughts, feelings, and biases guide your decision.
     
    jazzabel and Andrae Smith like this.
  3. Morristreet
    Offline

    Morristreet Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Chilliwack, BC Canada
    My current WIP deals with a female character, who through abuse suffered as a POW, develops a split personality and then begins going by the alternate personality because it allows her to not have to deal with the abuse that the alter suffered. Eventually, the personalities merge, but the second personality becomes the dominant one, with the original personality becoming more of a memory rather than the old primary any longer.

    It's not easy to write this, but I'm challenging myself to make it work in a believable manner. It helps that I have family members who have schizophrenia and DID so I can talk with them about it and get some sort of inside scoop as to what goes on in their heads, but it is certainly a challenge to write about a mental illness in a way that can be acceptable to the reader and not be just a schtick.
     
    jazzabel likes this.
  4. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    These are my thoughts exactly, not including the example. I've not tried it, but if the character goes through a name change that affects her inwardly as well as outwardly, then it's fair to say she see herself almost as a new person. So it makes sense to treat her as such, not including changing everything. Just let it be natural. If the name change is just an outward cover up, then it may be wiser to just refer to her by her original name.

    As an addition to that, I think it may be a good idea to provide readers with small reminders every now and again. Maybe just a couple little things dispersed infrequently within the novel that just hints at the character's former identity. Or another plot point might be having her try to hide her old identity. ha ha Just food for thought.
     
    xanadu likes this.
  5. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    You have family members with schizophrenia and you still lump it together with identity disorders? You clearly have no idea what you're talking about.
     
  6. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,778
    Likes Received:
    7,289
    Location:
    Scotland
    I've had several friends over the course of my lifetime who have changed their first names. It might be interesting to look at the situation from the point of view of her friends and family. Unless she's moving in an entirely different environment with a new identity, people who knew her as Chelsea are going to have to start calling her Cordelia.

    Some of these people will be stubborn and stick to her old name because they dislike the new one, or feel it doesn't fit. Others, with the best of intentions, will slip back into calling her or referring to her by her old name by mistake. I'd say all of them will feel slightly uncomfortable about the change, even if they are intellectually supportive of her right to change her name. It will take a long time—if ever—for people who knew her as Chelsea to actually THINK of her as Cordelia.

    A name is a very basic part of your life. When people get to know you by one name, that will always be the default mode when they think of you.

    As a married woman, I have changed my surname, and I'm now used to it. But it took the best part of 10-15 years to get completely used to it. I think if I had changed my forename as well, it would have been much harder to get used to. And that's me, within myself. I think a name change is a lot harder for outsiders to get used to.

    So this issue might figure in your story, as you develop it?
     
    Andrae Smith and jazzabel like this.
  7. Chiv
    Offline

    Chiv Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    Everywhere
    Reek, Reek, it rhymes with weak.
     
  8. Oswiecenie
    Offline

    Oswiecenie Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    Messages:
    190
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Hy-Brazil
    Changing your MC's name is quite a big thing and requires a solid explanation. Otherwise you will confuse the hell out of your readers.
     
  9. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,205
    Likes Received:
    4,217
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    I agree. She'll need a big reason to change her name. It may even be a short sub-plot for a time so readers can get used to the fact that she's going to call herself something different.
     
  10. Morristreet
    Offline

    Morristreet Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Chilliwack, BC Canada
    Sorry if my personal experience offends you in some way. As I live with people who have mental illness, of varying complexities, I am allowed to 'lump' it together as you so aptly put it. Whether you choose to accept my personal point of view or not is up to you, but please do not judge me based on a reply I submitted to a question posted on this forum.
     
    jazzabel likes this.
  11. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    I'm BpD II, my wife is schizoeffective, you aren't special. And there's no relationship between schizophrenia and identity disorder.
     
  12. Morristreet
    Offline

    Morristreet Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Chilliwack, BC Canada
    This will be my last response on this thread, as I never intended to trigger any sort of flame war or hostile debate, which you seem to be looking for. I never claimed to be special, simply responded to a person's question as to whether they had a character change their name during a story. I also explained my rationale behind why my character did so. You then attacked me by claiming my knowledge was flawed, which to your experience, it may well be. However, how are we to learn if we do not experience, and if we do not grow from our own errors and lack of knowledge?

    The subject of mental illness is certainly something close to your own heart as you personally experience it in a daily basis, and for that I commend you, learning to live with this is not something everybody can handle. My wife suffers from BiPolar disorder, and my children also suffer from both bipolar and schizophrenia. I had a very good friend who died because of schizophrenia in my arms. I have my own experiences and draw from them in my own way, and I do not attack or act hostile to somebody else who has a different level of experience.

    As I said, I will not respond to this thread on this subject again, and I am sorry to have offended or insulted you in any way with my lack of knowledge towards your personal experience or your own knowledge.
     
    jannert and jazzabel like this.
  13. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea
    She never liked her first name, as she considered it "immature". I've been dropping hints throughout the story that Chelsea wishes to change her name, but she chooses Cordelia to show her devotion to her father, like how Cordelia in King Lear was the only daughter to remain loyal to her father. Plus, it is a very regal-sounding name, as she is dating a man of very high status and plans to marry him .
     
  14. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Please, people, let's refrain from any personal attacks or discussions of who-knows-what about mental illness. This is not the Debate Room; let's have a little more respect for each other.
     
    jannert and Morristreet like this.
  15. Morristreet
    Offline

    Morristreet Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Chilliwack, BC Canada
    It sounds like a fine idea to do, just be sure to explain it properly so the reader can understand what is going on. Or have her still refer to herself as Chelsea in thought so they know this is still the same person. Other than that, my view is to go for it.
     
  16. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    I didn't really think of it like this, but this is right. If you're going to change the MC's name you should probably consider a couple of things: (1) how the characters around her will respond to the change and (2) how readers may respond. You might want to play up (a little) on the fact that many readers will likely have a hard time breaking away from the original name for a while., perhaps by presenting challenges to the name change. If you think about it, a couple characters in the Bible have their names changed. It makes readers do a little more work, but they can handle it.
     
  17. Lilly James Haro
    Offline

    Lilly James Haro The Grey Warden

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2014
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Kirkwall, Free Marches, Thedas
    My thoughts immediately go to Sayuri Nitta formerly Chiyo Sakamoto from Memoirs of a Geisha and Morrie & Sophie Suckfizzle formerly Moshe & Zofia Zuckfizzleski from Four Fires.

    Both are great examples of changing a main character's name as the author used it as a way of showing character growth and new beginnings. While Sayuri changes her name to signify that she has started her new life as a geisha, Morrie & Sophie used it to show that they had given up their Polish lives to become Australian.

    I personally think that as long as you explain to the reader why the character has changed their name and that once you pick one, you stick to that name (changing between the character's old name and their new name can be confusing to the reader) it should be fine :)
     

Share This Page