There is a magical quality in names – to change the name is to change the character
Graham Greene 1904 – 1991
I like playing with names and have renamed myself a few times in my life – the first time when being fed up with the abbreviation of my name – it was my middle name (which I had not chosen, an unfairness I have forever felt:) I declared I was going to use a different variation of the name and would not answer to anything else. It took a while but in the end the family largely complied. My grandmothers couldn’t bring themselves too.
Well I let them off:)
When I travelled around the world I would often develop a new name or gather nicknames – I gloried in most of them. I was a different person in each place I travelled to, so why not have a new name? Names should be flexible, if one changes style, character etc, in my opinion anyway.
I am just as arbitrary with dates as well, you don’t like the month you were born into – too hot,too cold, change it to a month you would be happy to celebrate in. Festivities can be held at a different time if circumstances dictate, I have had Christmas in July and Febuary.
Multiple names though do make any card list a problem; I have to remember what name to sign each card with. A minor problem. Some friends have not made all the transitions and officialdom still calls me by my first name which I have never been called, not even by the family.
However names for my books have given me a constant headache since I began writing seriously. Names are a problem and I read that many authors have the same difficulty naming a cast of characters.
I am told, naming your children can be a minefield if one wishes to honour members of the family, or one has a fancy idea and the other hates it. Well multiply that by a cast of dozens.
The more people one has met in life and made judgements on the more names are rejected. One doesn’t want friends to walk away if you use their name for a character they don’t like, neither do you want to use a name of that skinny child in primary school who pulled your plaits.
This particular name may be in fashion now but in a few years time it will date the work, that name might be pretty, cute, sexy or whatever but it was the name of that liar, the creep, the hurtful, so the list of discards grow.
The names are important.
Sometimes a few of the characters still don’t have a name until the book is finished, I have to wait until I know what character the person has. It has to be a name which fits into the family, community. There is no background at the beginning to graft the name onto.
However occasionally there is no problem, the name just pops into my head. Ellen and Bix came so naturally they could never have been anything else.
I have another problem outstanding; in the present book I am writing, I have three characters beginning with ‘K.’ I like all the names equally but, one has to be changed. Two have appeared already in previous books; the trouble though, I know this third character well, he is the name. How can I find another which will suit all the thousands of words already written about him?
Green was correct, change the name and you change the character,
This quote is part of Silver Threading’s Writer’s Quote series. Writer’s who have helped inspire my writing and my life. Pop over and follow other quotes there are many inspiring posts