Naming names (Writing journal, October 22, 2012)

After writing yesterday’s journal entry, I did go ahead and pick up reading Atlas Shrugged where I left off a few months ago. By this point, I’d forgotten some of the specifics, but I kept plodding along anyway. I’ve got this one on the Kindle, which is great for highlighting and taking notes, but not so good at being able to thumb back and review previous chapters. Maybe because I’d lowered my expectations by now, but I was actually finding the writing in this portion of the book (middle) pretty good. Tons of dialog. And I came to an impressive speech by the Franciso d’Anconia character that was a well-stated and passionate defense of capitalism. I can’t imagine it being said any better. And so suddenly I’m interested in Atlas Shrugged again.

So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

Later in the evening I decided to figure out how to properly do outlining in Scrivener. A quick Google search took me to the features page for Scrivener showing a screenshot of outlining in Scrivener. That’s all I needed. So I started converting my Outline document into actual documents under the Manuscript folder. I converted my “Part 1″ and “Part 2″ documents into folders and nested the tentative chapter documents under them. I started adding descriptions for each of the chapter documents but quickly realized this would be very cumbersome without knowing my main character’s name (it gets tiring always saying “main character does this”, etc.). So, I took some time out to try to choose a name for my protagonist. First, I tried out Scrivener’s name generation tool, but gave up after a few rounds because I wasn’t seeing any names I even remotely liked.

I needed to put a little more thought into it. I had “Perry Clark” from my notes from when I originally worked on this idea. I had “Brian”—with no last name—from my writing exercises. I considered names similar to “Dagny Taggart” as an homage to Atlas Shrugged. That led to “Randy Stewart”. And then I got the idea of choosing some basic first names (I thought of John, Gary, Neil, and Thomas) and looking through my Facebook friends for complementary last names. I Googled each result to eliminate any that were already attached to a well-known person or a bunch of not-so-well-known people. That added these to the list: “Gary Kessler”, “John Amsley”, and “Neil Keefer”. I also thought of a few simple traditional last names to attach to Brian: “Brian Smith” and “Brian Miller”. And then I thought of last names in my family tree and came up with “Thomas Helsel”.

But which to choose? I decided to give it the old girlfriend test and showed the list to Michele. Her first reaction was, “Oh, you’re writing that? I liked that other idea better about the island.”

“Execution Isle?”


Yikes! I wasn’t expecting that. Nonetheless, it only took her a few seconds to choose “John Amsley”.

“Perry Clark is too wimpy. Brian is you. And the others remind me of people that give me the wrong image. But John Amsley is a nice plain, solid name.”

Ok then.

So I went ahead and filled in the rest of the chapter descriptions and admired the resulting outline in Scrivener.

But now the seeds of doubt have been planted about this idea. Should I really be working on Execution Isle instead? I know what Michele said shouldn’t really matter that much, but it really does have me wondering.

So I devoted my shower thinking time this morning to Execution Isle. And what do you know, it does seem like a funner idea. One of my problems with Unanimous Consent is that I have all these concepts I want to get across but the stories to illustrate them haven’t been making themselves known. It feels like I’m trying to turn a nonfiction text into a novel. But Execution Isle touches on many of those same concepts without needing to be quite as technical and the stories to illustrate them seem more natural. There’s more to go on: a strong central character who is both a criminal and a visionary, an eccentric billionaire, a whole cast of characters coming to the island, and the menacing Federal government looming. This story seems more ready-made. On my, I guess I’m back to the ideas corkboard for the moment.

Oh, and one other thing—I solved another problem, one that had been bugging me about Execution Isle: how to make the protagonist likable despite the fact he’s got to be a vicious criminal to get on the island. The solution is that he committed a crime of passion most of us would sympathize with, like murdering the man his wife was cheating with or the man who raped his daughter. Now this story is starting to feel like it wants to be written.


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