Naming Characters (and Places, Groups, Gods…)

I’m awful with names. Actu­al­ly that under­sells how bad I am. I’m the kind of per­son who likes things to be pre­cise and cor­rect from the begin­ning (engi­neer­ing hat) so I don’t even like hav­ing place­hold­ers and call­ing my char­ac­ters Bob, Janet, and Tony. I’ve tried, real­ly, but I keep fid­get­ing and will spend hours try­ing to come up with the per­fect name. Plus even if I some­how move on find/replace can only do so much. If I screw up and talk about how Bbo and Tony are try­ing to one-up each oth­er to take Janet on a date we all know what’s going to hap­pen.

The solu­tion: place­hold­ers. Yeah, even though I hate them they’re still the best option. Let’s look at a prac­ti­cal exam­ple.

\newglossaryentry{first-guy}{
  name = {Bob},
  description = { }
}
\newglossaryentry{second-guy}{
  name = {Tony},
  description = { }
}
\newglossaryentry{girl}{
  name = {Janet},
  description = { }
}
\gls{first-guy} and \gls{second-guy} both have a crush
on \gls{girl}.  I'd tell you who gets her in the end but
 I haven't actually thought that far ahead.

That’s from a stu­pid LaTeX file I just wrote that spits out the fol­low­ing: “Bob and Tony both have a crush on Janet. I’d tell you who gets her in the end but I haven’t actu­al­ly thought that far ahead.” Notice how their names only appear in one place each, where I define the glos­sary entries? This means I can come in lat­er, change Bob to Brad, and after I process the file again I end up with: “Brad and Tony both have a crush on Janet. I’d tell you who gets her in the end but I haven’t actu­al­ly thought that far ahead.”

Now I can pick names that are good enough (most­ly ones I bla­tant­ly pil­fer from video games) and I don’t have to wor­ry about find/replace let­ting me down when I go through lat­er with bet­ter names. It’s already helped me once when I real­ized there were two busi­ness­es with “Irv­ing” in their name (cour­tesy of Lloyd Irv­ing from Tales of Sym­pho­nia) so all I had to do was update one entry in my glos­sary files and my name dupli­ca­tion issue went away.

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