NovelRace Week 8: So Much In A Name!

My NovelRace update this week is going to be a short one. Due to a family crisis, there was almost no work done on my novel this week. I was caught up in the situation so even the story going on in the background slipped clean out of my head. The upside of it was a sense of being recharged after some time away. Let’s hope I’m able to channel that into pushing up the wordcount.

My struggle this week (apart from finding time) has been the onset of ennui. It isn’t that my story is boring. It’s just that by now I’ve thought through it from so many angles, labored over so many details and actually worked so hard on it, that I’m beginning to tire of it. I mean, I know the story already so at the end I’m left wondering, what’s the excitement in retelling it? I’ve told myself the story a zillion times over. Aditya assures me that a writer goes through this sometimes and that I should just stick to it. I also received a reply to my tweet complaining about this…

@sudeepb4u @ideasmithy arre! pre-booking karke rakhi hai novel ki sabne. Chalo likho! 🙂

…which boosts my morale. Thank you so much.

I’ve changed the name of one of the characters following a discussion with a friend about what he picturizes when he hears the name. That’s really important, I think. I’ve already said that mine is an ensemble story. While it isn’t about religion or linguistic communities, to keep it a fair representation of the idea, I’m trying to ensure that there are a diverse bunch of characters from various backgrounds. Being Indian, we rarely think about how much latent knowledge we already have about the various nuances of our culture.

For example, the name Champakali may make you think of girl clad in a full-sleeved polyester salwar-kameez with a chiffon dupatta (perhaps the colours don’t match). Her hair would be oiled and braided, most probably with a red ribbon at the end of it. Her adornments might be some gold interspersed with cheap looking costume jewelery. Make-up if any would be kajal.

On the other hand, the name Anita would bring to mind a more modern-looking woman. If she were dressed in Indian wear, I would mentally clothe her in FabIndia cotton or perhaps a starched saree. Her hair would be shoulder-length, worn loose or at best, tied in a casual ponytail. Her jewellery would likely be more expensive but minimal. She would wear a watch but no other jewellery on the same hand. The other wrist may sport a bracelet at best, no bangles.

Obviously both of these are stereotypes. For a writer who isn’t trying to make a statement about these stereotypes, it makes sense to work with them. So I’m accordingly picking names that seem to ‘go’ with my characters’ personalities and backgrounds. My above example is an extreme one that details economic differences that could come through from people’s names. All of us know the religious differences as well. You’re hardly likely to find a Hindu called Rahim or a Parsi called Raman. Once again, these are possible but they don’t add to my story since I’m not talking about religion or caste norms at all. In addition there are also subtler nuances that we recognize about caste and even geographical roots from people’s names and surnames. But of course. Where would you think that a Achrekar would hail from? Or a Sengupta? Or Patel?

See why the name is so important? Our names make a statement about us before we even say a word. In a country like India they carry a wealth of information about us – our cultural, linguistic, geographical, religious and economic lineage. Use them with care and caution. That’s what I’m doing.

That’s a big enough lesson in itself so I won’t draw any more morals from this week. My rank stays at number 7 even with today’s added effort which brings me to a wordcount of 40,339. The differences between the wordcounts of the people closer to the top are really wide, to the tune of 10K words in one case. On the other hand, the people closer to the bottom are fighting it out for the below 10 ranks over differences of a few hundred words. That’s a characteristic of any race I suppose. I don’t know who’s betting on me on this one. I’d be hard-pressed to decide whether I was a good bet or not, I’m in neither the top league nor the bottom one. So I’ll leave that to the observers while I get on with my writing. See you next week!


Other NovelRace updates:

  1. NovelRace
  2. Adventures Galore!
  3. If You Fall, Get Up & Run Again!
  4. The Lone Runner
  5. My Characters Are For Real!
  6. The View From The Shoulders Of Giants
  7. So Much In A Name!
  8. Taking A Stand
  9. Everything But The Novel
  10. The Long, Dark Teatime Of The Writing Soul

5 thoughts on “NovelRace Week 8: So Much In A Name!

    1. @Triya: Definitely. But I was talking about some very common stereotypes about religion and social community. Obviously our interpretations beyond that would depend on our individual experiences and associations with that particular name.

      @thesanelyinsane: That might be true if it were a mindless exercise, like an actual run. But a book is entirely a mind-muscle-flex and it’s rather impossible to not think while writing. Hehehe, and I’m not sure what the pink condom thing is about. I can’t see anything right now!

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