“Type”

Have you noticed a pattern in the sort of people you’re attracted to? Do they tend to have short hair, or curly hair, or light-colored lashes? Are they usually artistic, or scholarly, or reckless daredevils? Would you generally rather that they be taller than you, or shorter than you, funny, or serious, or so overly serious that you can’t help but laugh? Ideals will infinitely vary; even individuals will probably change their minds about what they do and don’t like, over time. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a particularly dire question, and yet it’s one we’ve heard before and will doubtless hear again: “What’s your preferred general character or structure held in common by a number of people or things considered as a group or class?”

            …Or, as perhaps you’ve heard it more commonly asked, “What’s your Type?”

            Physically speaking, my tailor fits my Type pretty well; other examples included a previously-mentioned former Backstreet Boy (bonus points for his lovely singing voice, and extra bonus points for when his hair was long), and Aragorn as seen in the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy (bonus points for a having a sword and wearing a cape). But that’s just one type of Type to have – the “Eye Candy Type”, if you will. Suppose you strip away the physicality, and even the materiality, leaving only personality as revealed in the printed word? (I’d say a minstrel took over that last sentence, except it’s all rhyme and no rhythm; my minstrels, they would have me assure you, have better meter than that.)

            We’re talking now about your “Reader Type” – the sort of characters you’re drawn to, that you love to read about. When it comes to my reading, I’ve noticed some patterns there, too – for example, my infatuation with thieves. Charitable outlaws living it up in the forests of medieval England (referring, of course, to Robin Hood and his merry band), ex-convicts stealing their way to a Victorian gentleman’s lifestyle (looking at and loving you, Montmorency), sociopathic kings of criminals who ruthlessly manipulate their way to whatever goals they set (Tirzah Duncan’s Syawn fits the bill; he even plays dirty by trying to pander to my Eye Candy Type, the punk), whatever. If there’s clever thievery going on, my immediate interest level spikes.

            Actually, I’m attracted to cleverness in general; reading about idiots tends to frustrate me no end. And I don’t like reading about people who are just plain bad, unless of course they are supposed to be the villains, in which case I say, “Never mind, bring on the evil!” I like reading about characters who hang around with awesome friends, and share laughs with them, and stick by them in times of exciting crisis. (Naturally, they should stick by their friends in times of boring crisis, too, but I won’t necessarily want to read about it.) And if these characters happen to be handsome, singing swordsmen on the wrong side of the law, so much the better.

            Do an author’s Reader Types influence their Writer Types – that is, the sorts of characters they find themselves attracted to writing? To some degree, I think. If I don’t want to read about it, I don’t want to write it (although I will admit, writing idiots in small doses can be fun). I enjoy writing characters who are cleverer than me (or at least sneakier and quicker on the draw), and who always have time for witty quips with their pals during escapades, and very sinister villains, and I’ve got a handful of thieves (including my own Merry Men, huzzah!). I also spend a lot of time writing musicians – particularly minstrels, which just goes to show that the Reader Type/Writer Type influence goes both ways: Buzzwords like “minstrel”, “bard”, and “lute” send my immediate interest level through the roof since I’ve written “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”.

            And what of you, Ever On Word followers and guests? When it comes to reading – and, if you’re an author, writing – what’s your preferred general character or structure held in common by a number of people or things considered as a group or class? (If you want something to be doubtless heard again, sometimes you’ve gotta say it yourself. 😉 )

“Name”

You did a blog piece on naming things three days ago!” some mouth in the back complains.

            I signal Security to keep an eye on that one, then patiently explain, “No, the post to which you refer was about titling. This post is about naming.”

            “What’s the difference?!

            Precious little, actually. After all, a title (I recap) is an identifying name. And a name, of course, is “a word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others”. That’s probably not news to anybody. We’re all of us decently familiar with the concept of names, right? I’ll even go so far as to assume that most of us have them; even the chatterbox in the back, though I’ve yet to learn it.

            “Milt!

            Charmed.

            To inform the curious, it took me close to a full minute to decide on the name “Milt”. Even my outspoken extras are named with some measure of care. Names matter to me, like that.

            When I was a kid, virtually everything got named. Figures in doodles that I’d never draw again. The animatronic farmer who rode his tractor around the ceiling at the mall. My fashion dolls and action figures, my stuffed animals, my ninety-nine identical green marbles (much to my mother’s amusement). Some of these names were sadly predictable – Fluffy the bunny, Blacky the black bear… nothing you’d never see coming, like my sister’s stuffed rabbit, Uncle Ruddyduck. Some were trying a little too obviously to be clever – Huckleberry Fin the fish, Claire-Annette the clarinet… nothing awesomely off-the-wall, like my sister’s goldfish, Dog.

            I used to spend a lot of time wondering what to name my future children. For years, I assumed there’d be a son named Jeremy. Then I fell for a boy named let’s-call-him-“Dean”, and wondered if we ought to keep up a family tradition of “D” names for all our offspring. (It became a moot point, by the way; that adolescent love story ended up being painfully one-sided.) I could never settle long on names for my hypothetical girls. Felicity? Ida? Delicatessen? (That would have worked in the Dean scenario!) I still don’t having anything written in stone – and I’m not currently too enthused about the idea of bearing children, anyway – though I’m lately leaning toward Tailor for a boy and Kevyn for a girl. (When in doubt, name your babies in honor of some of your strongest crushes, right? Let’s shoot for three kids and have a Dean, why don’t we.)

            People who hate naming things should probably not become authors of fiction. And authors of fiction who love naming things, rejoice! A novel is a naming playground, full of people and places and pets and peculiar miscellany in need of identification. But for all that I enjoy naming characters, I do not take it lightly. These are names that I’ll have to see and say and type over and over. These names might well be the first my readers will know of the character in question: Before appearance, before voice, before any of the incalculable things that make him or her themselves… we’re told the name.

            I want the name to suit the character absolutely. If I’m in the creation process and the name doesn’t feel right, it’s back to the drawing board (or the book or website dedicated to inspiring people like me who have babies to name). Some of the names that have made the cut are fairly standard – Sam, Jason, Bruno. Some of the names I strung together out of whimsical bits and pieces – Austeryn, Kel-Korrel, Christopher Washington Geoffrey Alexander Riverwood II. Whatever seems like a perfect fit in sight, sound, meaning, or some combination thereof. Whichever name I’ll always know as theirs, no matter how many other “Jason”s or “Austeryn”s I’ll encounter down the road.

            “So how’d you come to settle on ‘Milt’?!” inquiring minds in the back want to know.

            I don’t know. Flipping through an arbitrary list of options, it just seemed you-est.

            “I like ‘Kent’!

            Kent Milton, then. (We nod in mutual satisfaction.)