Friday, September 7, 2012

The Perils of Find and Replace

When I was working on my last book, Crooked Paths (name change and dramatic, from-the-ground-up rewrite pending), I named one of the characters Paul.

It was a Nanowrimo novel, and I was writing quickly. I threw in the first name that came to mind and it attached itself stubbornly to the character. Very soon, in my head, the character was a Paul to the bone.

Unfortunately, this character was not a very nice man. And I felt bad about this, because of my friend Paul, whom some of you may know.

I asked Paul to rename the character for me. He chose the name Ross, with about as much thought as I had chosen the name Paul.

There was only one Paul in the book. It was set in Dublin, so I didn't need to worry about St. Paul's Cathedral or Rue Saint-Paul or Paulaner beer. I did what any lazy writer would have done. I used Find + Replace to replace every occurance of the word Paul with the word Ross.

But I had forgotten one crucial thing.

My main character, Becky, visits the Phoenix Park in Dublin, a large city park dominated by the Wellington Testimonial and the Papal Cross. The Papal Cross was erected to commemorate Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland.

Can you guess what happened?

I got a mystified text from a beta-reader asking me who Pope John Ross II was, and were they missing something?


Find+Replace - it's a fantastic thing, but I've learned to use it with care. . .


    (via Ellen Brickley)>pingtrackback

  2. Find and replace has caused me some issues as well.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. LOL, so true! It can be really tricky. I've fallen into the find and replace pit a few times myself, until I learned by mistake.

  4. haha I have a friend who had something similar happen when she renamed a character. Ever since then, I do it by hand!

  5. Ha! I know exactly how you feel... Little did I know that trying to replace aunt with the proper capitalization (Aunt) would change absolutely every word with a u n t with A u n t. Haunt became HAunt. Go figure. It pays to do the find + replace, but take the time to examine each instance it finds! Oh, the lessons we learn. XD

  6. That happened to me recently. I changed a secondary character's name from Peter to Sean. I had a couple of instances where I called him Pete, so I changed those too. But, it changed anything containing this. ie. compete. Smack in the forehead to myself :)

  7. Heh, that's funny. I'm sure we've all done something like that! Must admit I always use the "Find Next" approach these days so I can see each edit before it gets made.

  8. I'm doing a final proofread for a good friend who replaced the name Rick for Roger in her text. Well, every time the letters rick turn up in the text, it went automatically to Roger. Imagine what happens with words like brick or trickle.

  9. That was great--so is Find and Replace, but I really, really suggest re-editing after you use it. That almost happened to me in a short story and had to do with the name Allen. I really learned the limitations of that function.


I love comments!