Is your name Sam? Probably not. Neither is mine. Neither are six of the seven major characters in my work-in-progress, The Midwife’s Confession. But last night, my Word program suddenly decided that if the name Sam was good enough for the guy who really is named Sam in the story, well then, it’s good enough for everyone else, too! While Word was at it, it also decided that the town of Wilmington, North Carolina should be named Sam. Also, the fictional Hunter High School. And the fictional babies-in-need program I’d dubbed Stork Village? Word thought the name SamSam sounded much better.
But wait! There’s more! Like many of my high school English teachers, Word didn’t think I should begin any sentences with the word “but”, which I’m afraid I do all the time, so to punish me, it decided all capitalized buts should also be named Sam.
Yes, this is how I spent last night. I was happily working on a scene when I noticed that I seemed to have written the name Sam instead of the name Shannon. I scrolled back and discovered that somehow, all my Shannons had been changed to Sam. Very weird, I thought, but I could deal with it. I would simply do a “find and replace” function to carefully select the Sams that needed to be replaced with Shannon.
That’s when I discovered the terrible truth. Shannon, Noelle, Emerson, Ryan Ann, Tara and Anna–all of them were now Sam. Wilmington, But, Hunter — all Sam. Stork Village — SamSam.
What to do? I back up my documents religiously and in many different ways (thumb drive, Dropbox.com, emailing them to myself, etc), and I have Word set to save every single minute that I’m working. But my last backed up copy had been from an hour earlier and I’d written a ton in that hour, so I decided I would simply have to change the Sams back to their original monikers. If I had this to do over again, I probably would surrender and go back to an earlier version, because the path I chose took nearly two hours of utter torture.
What to do with a sentence like the following? “What?” Sam asked, and Sam and Sam both leaned across the table toward Sam. That ripping sound you heard last night was me tearing my hair out!
The problem is solved only for the moment. I don’t know what caused it (a friend believes it’s a virus in the Word program itself, not in my computer which appears to be clean) and I don’t know how to fix it. Knock on wood, it’s behaved itself so far today, but to say I’m a little nervous about what might happen next is an understatment.
In the meantime, I’m thinking of changing Sam’s name. I’d like to never read that word again.