Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Skully? the Pirate

After the SCBWI conference, I came up with some plot devices that not only improve my story, but will allow me to trim many, many words.  Still, I’ve had a nagging problem from the get go with GRIMSTOKE’S CURSE.  For reasons that escape me at this moment – it’s late.  I’ve just been to New York – I decided Schmitty needed to have amnesia.  For some reason, I decided it was important he not know his father, Captain Schmitt, was his father.  I went to great lengths to keep people from referring to Captain Schmitt by name whenever Schmitty was around.  It was exhausting.  I think I pulled it off, but the new plot devices bring up the old problem.  Then, tonight, I had a thought.
Skully the Pirate.  Skully the Pirate?  Could it be that simple?  One minor change.  Just a few letters, really, could solve a whole bunch of problems.  In the book, Schmitty doesn’t like his father.  He doesn’t know he’s his father for a while, and when he finds out, it rocks his world.  Well, wouldn’t that make more sense if they didn’t have the same name? 
Yes it would.
Then, I started asking: What if?  I love that question.  It opens so many doors.
What if Schmitty’s mother kept her maiden name?  After all, Schmitty’s never met his father before.  Maybe the truth, that his father is a pirate, has been kept from him.  This makes sense because Schmitty’s grandfather, Admiral Ironskull, has instilled a hatred of all things pirate in his grandson.  So maybe Schmitty’s not named for his father, Captain Schmitt, but for his grandfather.  Therefore, his name becomes Skully.
And it’s not a stretch either.  I named the Admiral Ironskull because he’s hard-headed.  So is Schmitty.  I mean Skully.  Maybe.
It also solves another, less obvious, but potentially harmful, problem.  Last week, I quoted the good things Michael Grant had to say about my series idea.  This is what I didn’t print:
I'd think about the name Schmitty.  Hard to spell, hard for a kid to be sure how to pronounce it.  Also you're making it awfully easy for them to transpose a few letters and come up with Shitty the Pirate.  So if it was me I'd be looking at a different name.
So now I am.  And this problem came up a few years ago.  I mentioned to my friend Joe that I’d feel I was a success when Schmitty became a breakfast cereal. 
“Sure,” Joe laughed.  “Just add chocolate milk.  Shitty Schmittys.”
And I’m whispering here, but I think I like Skully.  A lot.  Better.  It rolls off the tongue, don’t you think?
It’s hard to accept this.  He’s been Schmitty for so long.  I can’t even type Schmitt without inadvertently hitting the y.  Still, if it’s for the better….
Is it?  Somebody tell me its okay.


Lost Wanderer said...

I have always liked Schmitty, but I agree with you. I like Skully even better. It just sounds so cool piraty. And the whole thing about his mother keeping her maiden name makes perfect sense.

Gemma Noon said...

I agree with Lost Wanderer; the background makes sense and I think Skully works better as a name.

Glad the revisions are going well!

Jonathon Arntson said...

What if? scares me, but I am glad you put it into perspective here.

Kate said...

Don’t be afraid to change your characters names. Often the first name that pops in your head when you’re writing isn’t the best name for the character. And you’ve just provided a lot of reasons why Skully is better then Schmitty.

Susan R. Mills said...

Shitty Schmitty. Ha! I do have to admit that I like Skully better, but I haven't gotten as close to Schmitty as you. Best of luck deciding.

Matt said...

Thanks everyone. I realize it's silly, but I have an emotional attachment to the name Schmitty. It's kind of like changing your children's name when they hit their fifth birthday. I'm quite certain Skully will stick though. I just needed to be pushed.

Jm Diaz said...

I'd go with Skully. Kids will change Schmitty into, well... you already know. And yes, the logic behind the name change works.

Cinders said...

I think it's common for agents and publishers to want to make name or title changes, so we writers just have to get used to it.

Natalie said...

Ha, ha. I've changed names after months of using another one. I think a new name always helps to bring the character back to life (figuratively of course). Good luck with Scully. He sounds like a fun guy.

Erica said...

Skully's a great name! Sometimes we have to think of all the sides of the story. Good decision ;o)

I have that name attachment thing too, my MC name is Snow and it totally fits her. Hate to give it up, but I guess if someone asked... Have fun with Skully ;o)

Kathy said...

Skully works. Instantly there's a picture in my mind.
Don't pirate flags have a skull on them?

Skully is easy to pronounce and remember for kids.

Matt said...

Thank you all. I haven't done find and replace yet, but I did start a new first chapter and put Skully the Pirate in the header. It's a start.