Find and Replace

Here’s a writing tip for you: Never change your characters’ names. Settle on them early, and lock ‘em in. 

Tweet that says "I once named a novel character Will, then changed my mind a few chapters in and tried to change it to George or some such using "Find and Replace." Picture, if you George, the results.

In an episode of The Office (“The Client”), the staff are doing a read-through of Michael Scott’s screenplay, “Threat Level Midnight,” when they discover that, due to a find-and-replace error, the incompetent sidekick was based on Dwight.

That little moment in the episode combined with the tweet above and my own experience (why do I never learn????) lead me to believe that this is an issue most writers find themselves facing at one point or another. Believe me, it’s so much easier to NEVER CHANGE YOUR CHARACTERS’ NAMES. Because, inevitably, you are going to run into a situation like Michael did, where he misspelled Dwight’s name as Dwigt, which his find-and-replace command didn’t catch… or you’re going to run into a situation like I did recently, where I wanted to change a character’s name from Ed to something else and discovered that my computer cannot differentiate between Ed the name and basic past tense. 

Photo of a laptop on a desk, books behind it, purple polka dot mug beside it, open to a document with all the instances of "ed" in the text highlighted.

I suppose, if you have fickle naming tastes, or you haven’t fully settled on what to call a particular character, you could choose instead to start out with names that are highly unusual, like EggplantVonAlphabet or something that would never otherwise show up in your work. But if you gravitate to simpler, more traditional names, LOCK ‘EM IN WHEN YOU START.

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