War and PC II

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Warning: rambling, link-heavy post follows

Woo-hoo, up to 233 screens! At this rate it will only take me 5 and a half months to finish.

Onscreen or on paperWar and Peace is daunting. And it’s not just because of the length. The Russian convention of giving everyone multiple names is what I really blame for slowing me down when I was reading the dead-tree version. Keeping track of about 165 character, each with roughly 50 names*, was taxing.

Bory is short for Boris, check. Sasha is short for Alexander…I think. And I’ve already been introduced to two Natalys, a mother and daughter…

233 screens in and everyone has some title to throw into the mix. There are a lot of princes and princesses running around. And somehow, they’re the children of counts and countesses. I thought the prince and princess titles were reserved for the children of kings and queens. So, I’ll be learning so  Russian hierarchy in the next 5 and a half months.

I thought a character list might help, so I went to Wikipedia. Holy f*ck! I haven’t met a fourth of these characters. And this list only gives one of their names…I need a list of all names, titles, and diminutives.

Which brings me, in a round about way, to this post about naming characters.

Obviously, I have fallen into the use-the-same-letter-to-name-characters trap. I suppose I should be glad that I haven’t given two characters the same name.

As the post suggests, I’ve looked at census record for popular names in various regions or by date, but I usually just look at what’s around me. Like Stephen Tremp in the comments section, I tend to read books spines for name inspiration.

And remember when I was worried about not having enough characters in my scenes? According to Nail Your Novel, that’s something only a visual medium can pull off. After reading dizzying scenes in W&P, I’m tending to agree.

So, why am I battling on through all this complaining? I am interested. While I don’t have a solid foothold on who’s who just yet, there are interesting people in each scene. They tend to stand out among all the sniveling mannered people.

*nicknames, real names, title names, secret names that only oddly Dickensian street urchins know**…

**Incredibly obscure reference to an ER story arc.

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3 thoughts on “War and PC II

  1. Sasha is short for both Alexander and Alexandra.

    Somehow, even in high school, the multiple-naming of characters didn’t phase me too much. Perhaps because I don’t actually read the whole name each time. It is like my brain takes a snapshot of each new reference and files it under a more simple referent key. (Like “R” or “Rask” for Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Sure there may be multiple people with names that begin with R, but somehow, it worked for me. Of course, Dostoevsky didn’t have the plethora of titled characters like Tolstoy did… at least, not that I recall.)

    But, the character list (and characters seeming to come back from the dead) is why I couldn’t get past the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit was fine… but the rest… I gave up.

    • Cam

      For fantasy novels (which generally have impossible-to-pronounce long names), I just look at the first letter of the name and move on…I’m sure that hurts every author who spends a lot of time painstakingly crafting those names, but they just slow me down and take me out of the story.

      I’d try that for W&P, but there are too many similar names. 2 Natalys (who also go by Natasha and Natalia); Anna, also known as Annette; a bunch of people with Bs for last names. I love Pierre because his name is so completely different from everyone else’s!

      I feel kind of silly but, this morning, when I read a sentence that said “Boris and Natasha,” it was all I could do to not laugh.

      • Well, a Russian nickname for Natasha is Nastya (pity it sounds so awful in English)….

        I’m sure our method of recognizing names could be painful to authors. But, it isn’t as though I don’t have any clue what the name is. Plus, it is liberating to think that not everyone will be hung up on the name of a single character… So… maybe they don’t matter as much as we think. Unless we are reading Russian novels, and the name is derived from a word that nods to the theological inclination of the character.

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