January 26, 2011

In Search of a Word

It's taken me more than 12 hours of work to find one word for my current work-in-progress, "Cake on a Hot Tin Roof." Granted, it's an important word. It will be used numerous times in the book, which is why the search for it required such a lot of effort. The story takes place during Carnival Season and several characters in the book are members of a specific Krewe. The name of that Krewe is the word I've been searching for.

For those who aren't familiar with Mardi Gras and Krewes, it's important to understand that Mardi Gras is a celebration for the public, which means there are no official sponsors. The parties, the banquets, the parades, and the throws (trinkets, coins, and beads tossed from parade floats) are all provided by various Krewes--organizations that might be called "clubs" elsewhere. There are lots of Krewes all over the country, with a heavy concentration along the Gulf Coast.

I don't want to tar any existing Krewe with the antics of my characters, so I decided to create a Krewe of my own, with its own customs and rules and purpose. But that's not as easy as you might think. I've spent hours reading about Mardi Gras and Krewes. I've studied how various Krewes govern their organizations and how they choose their kings each year. I've read up about how the queens are chosen, and how and when the royalty are revealed each year.

I've Googled Krewes and made copious notes. I've Googled Egyptian, gods, Roman gods, and mythical gods. I've read descriptions of gods and goddesses and even minor diety until my eyes burned. When it appeared that I'd run into a brick wall in that direction, I Googled French royalty and words associated with Carnival and Mardi Gras.

Early in the process, I ruled out naming my imaginary Krewe after a goddess because I don't think my victim, currently known as Willie Fiske, would join a Krewe named after a woman. It's not that Willie doesn't like women. He does. Maybe even a little too much. But Willie's a bit of a jerk, frankly. Kind of a macho jerk. So I needed a good, strong, masculine name.

I also ruled out names that were too dark because other members of the Krewe are perfectly nice people who probably wouldn't join a Krewe associated with Hades or the dark side. So I needed a good, strong, masculine name that was positive and upbeat, but not too positive -- because, after all, Willie's not going to belong to a Krewe named after some minor Egyptian deity who tended flowers.

Of course, every potential name had to be subjected to the Google test to make sure there wasn't another real Krewe out there already using the name. 99% of the good names were already taken, which sent me back to the drawing board over and over and over again. The name also had to be easy to pronounce so readers don't get stuck on it. That ruled out another huge chunk of possibilities. 

After hours and hours, split up over several days, I think I finally found the name of my Krewe. I've Googled and, so far, I can't find any other Krewe using that name. I'll do some more research later to make sure. I've inserted the name into the manuscript, and so far it feels good. I'm not stumbling over it as I read, and that's always a good sign.

Twelve hours or more for one word. Just one of the reasons you have to love the process of writing before you become a writer. Because the truth is, if you're focused on the results, you may end up disappointed and frustrated with this profession.

This is a hard truth, but it's one I needed to remember today. File it under Lessons Remembered :)

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