Friday, September 11, 2009

Alma the Younger and other updates

I have a cold, so I'm glad that no one can hear me speak :) Today I bought a variety of remedies, hoping something will stem the tide.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I started writing Alma the Younger, the sequel to Alma (of course!)

I took a chapter to my critique group. It's one the first chapters of Alma the Younger (probably chapter 2). In the chapter I have Alma and two of the sons of Mosiah on a hunting trip. The problem is, all of their names start with an A: Alma, Ammon, Aaron. It gets confusing to write, and will be confusing to the reader if I can't get their characters established pretty quickly.

Or maybe have nicknames.

Nicknames sound great in theory, but I'm afraid it would turn off my Book of Mormon purists. Can I call Alma "Al" or Ammon "Am"?

My husband is a nick-name giver. You probably won't believe the nicknames he gives people. In fact, when I first started dating him, I thought he must have at least 7 brothers. Turned out he only had 4, but he kept using such a wide variety of names, I didn't realize some of them were the same person.

Here are his nicknames for his brothers:

The nicknames for our kids:
Number 9

Let me know if you have any solutions for Alma, Ammon, Aaron (and don't forget Alma's father, Alma the Elder).


jenheadjen said...

How funny! I'm glad you're considering this, because I often get frustrated when characters have their names starting with the same letter. But it's more difficult if there's a repeating vowel. Like "Miranda" and "Mikayla". But with Ammon, Alma, Aaron... in my opinion, it probably won't be too much of a problem (for me at least), since I'm familiar with the basics of their roles in the BOM. Although I won't speak for others! :)

My suggestion: give them drastically different physical features, if at all possible, and bring them in at different intervals, rather than all in the same chapter (or even the same page or situation). Hair color is the major kicker for me, as a reader. Different body features really helps me too - rounded vs. chiseled face, long neck, stocky build vs. lean... although how much variation can you get, when they descend from the same genes? ha!

Good luck Heather! You're achieving quite a task! I'm thoroughly enjoying Alma, btw!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I opened my novel with four girls, the four main characters. They have different names and are very different, but my publisher felt like it was still too much at once.

so we cut back on two of the girls, and I introduce the same scene with two girls. They have several pages together before the other two come in. I don't know how it will play off in the end, of course, but I think it worked to separate and identify the characters. You could try that.

David J. West said...

I'm mixed on how to answer the question of names for Book of Mormon material. Glancing at the glossary of names in the back it becomes quite apparent that A-names are by far the most common. My book reflects that and A-names dominate throughout but I do try hard to difrentiate whenever possible using titles and manners of speaking, character description etc.

I kind of knew I would be going against the conventional wisdom grain keeping so many A-names but my gut said that was how it was supposed to be.

As much as I may be a Book of Mormon purist to a degree, I still would not be opposed to nick-names IF you as the writer felt right about it, as in it flows true to character. I say don't worry about the purists and names, you're never going to make everybody happy. I still can't believe some people got upset over scenes in Abinadi depicting what almost certainly happened and even worse.

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Heather B. Moore said...

Jen, yes--it's hard to have such limited choices. You can bet that I'll never give a "made-up" character an "A" name :-) Great suggestions! I'm glad you're enjoying Alma so far.

Tamara--I agree that you shouldn't have too many characters in the opening scenes. They have to be introduced more slowly. Thanks for the reminder :)

David--well, one is the heir to the throne, so maybe I can create a nickname surrounding that concept for Ammon. I even thought of putting in italics "Alma the Younger" or "Alma the Elder" at the beginning of the scenes that one is the POV character. I'm still in draft stage--about 100 pages into it--so plenty of time to make decisions. I could use the other sons of Mosiah, Omner or Himni, but I really am set on using Ammon and Aaron as the secondary characters with the intent to possibly write individual novels about them in the next couple of years. Omner and Himni will be fillers in this book.

Josi said...

Alma can be jr. and Ammon could be Mon.

"Hey, Mon, you seen jr?" :-)

Maybe have Ammon or Aaron have done something stupid which earns them the nickname--like 'dunk' because he got dunked in the river by a girl when he was 12. You could also have the characters point out the name confusion early in the book, so that the reader is at least cued into it.

I run into name problems all the time, it seems every book I write has a 'favorite' letter I start all my new characters with, then I have to change them. But I CAN change them, you're far more limited.

I have no doubt you'll resolve it. Good luck!

Julie Wright said...

Sorry about the cold. I just got over mine (flu included) and am so happy to be healthy.

I got nothing for nicknames which is funny because I nickname everyone too. My kids totally answer to all the weird things I call them.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Maybe it's just me, but I think the bulk of your readers will be familiar enough with these persons from the scriptures that they won't be as confused as they might if these persons were completely new to them.

Becky said...

I have always wondered why there are so many 'A' names in the Book of Mormon. And I agree that as long as you don't introduce them all at once--build them in one by one--then your readers will be fine.

BTW, I will be posting my review of Alma on Monday--I loved it. I almost feel like reading your books qualifies me for having done my daily scripture study :-).

Jenn Wilks said...

On the one hand, I don't think using nicknames would be totally inappropriate. After all, even Christ gave his disciples nicknames. (James and John became "The Sons of Thunder," Simon became "Peter," which meant "Rock," etc.)

On the other hand, even though I don't think nicknames for scriptural characters is necessarily bad, I think it could be very tricky to give such well-known scriptural figures nicknames of your own. And I don't even know if you'd want to, in the end, call someone by a name that couldn't be found in the scriptures. You wouldn't want your readers going, "I know there's a character named "Sagebrush" in the novel, but I can't find anything about him in the scriptures!" LOL.

In the end, I think that Tristi's right in that people are already familiar with these characters to a certain degree. So it may not even matter too much.

Also, I was just talking recently with my critique group about giving people their own unique mannerisms, etc. Instead of having everyone shrug, for instance, have one person always finger the bracelet their mother gave them, and have another one always adjusting his hat on his head or whatever. Something that is a place marker for the reader to remind them of which character is which.

The "Alma" verses "Alma the Younger" is the trickiest one, of course. Have you done any research into what people did in that situation in those days? My brother named his son after him, with the full intention from the beginning to call him T.J. (for Thomas Junior) so there wouldn't be confusion. Maybe you could just call him A.J. ;o)

They must have called them something different in those times, too. Alma-son might work if they were Japanese, but alas . . . :-D

Heather B. Moore said...

Becky, I'm glad you liked ALMA. I'll look for your review.

I think my job is cut out for me with ALMA THE YOUNGER. LOL>

Great insights, everyone. Jenn, maybe Alma the Elder can be called Big Alma. Just kidding.

The name Scott runs in my family, so my dad is Scott Kent (goes by Kent), my brother goes by Scott, and my nephew by Scottie.

Andrea said...

I'm with Tristi and Jenn on people being familiar enough with the characters that it wouldn't be too confusing. It's hard to picture nick-names for some reason. Maybe my mind thinks people didn't use them back then. Who knows? Anyway, good luck!

Nikki said...

What if the people called Alma the Elder by a revered name, like father, or prophet, etc. I'm almost through with Alma and I could picture the people giving him an honored name. As for the other names, do we know what language they used? Could you use another language to make up nicknames? These are probably ignorant suggestions. I'm sure whatever you come up with will be wonderful!!

jenheadjen said...

I think Nikki's idea would be perfect, in my highly opinionated mind. ha! I could really see a "Father Alma" - it sounds like a term of endearment, but is respectful of his calling as both a dad and a prophet.

Heather B. Moore said...

Excellent ideas, Nikki! Thanks!