A few weeks ago I had a post about pseudonyms and why I chose one. Part 2 of this is todays blog about character names and where they come from.
I’ve always liked the everyday-yet-different sounding names used in classic sci-fi by the likes of Philip K. Dick (Milton Lumley, Talbot Yancy, Rachmael ben Applebaum to name a few), George R. Stewart (Isherwood Williams in Earth Abides), and Douglas Adams (Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Fenchurch from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).
So it’s often when I’m coming up with a character name I try for the everyday-yet-different kind of name. Not always, but if the need is there then I’ll go that way. Finsbury Park, for example, stuck out as a great character name the second I saw it on a map of London, and it rings true with my favourite way of naming. Similar to Fenchurch in a way though Finsbury wasn’t conceived there.
Others came from mixing and matching names from headstones. I had reason to visit a cemetery a while back and while there I took note of interesting sounding names. Many characters in Have Shovel – Will Bury have names garnered from a cemetery which is kind of appropriate. The main character though – Xavier Hume – is a little word play on the whole idea. I tried to keep it subtle by never directly calling him X Hume.
Nigella Mansfield (lead detective) came from Nigel Mansfield. Other characters such as Robert Tillman, Horace Biles, John Sykes, Keegan Connors, are also amalgamations from various headstones.
Some are just completely random words. Ula Gai and Vu Dogg in Storm View came from licence plates on cars (where you turn numbers into letters to make words). In Finsbury Park, there’s a random guy who shows up occasionally called Crag Manbolt. I struggled with a character name for him, so in my first draft I wrote him in as “Crazy Random Adventure Guy”, or CRAG, for short.
It stuck and became his first name. Then with a bit more thinking I came up with his overly manly surname, and he was a character.
In my soon-to-be-released short Sanctuary, the main character’s name is Gladstone. He started life as Finsbury when I wrote the outline many years ago, but I stole the name for the other story (obviously), so he needed a new name. There’s another park in London named Gladstone park, so that became his name.
In the final edit you never find out his surname, but in the first cut he identified himself as Gladstone Park. I had toyed with making him the brother of Finsbury, but ultimately decided to leave out his surname.
Sometimes I’ll hear names I like, first or surnames, and jot them down into a file with many others. In my recent flash fiction Serials: A Love Story, this is how Darius Fargo got his name. Just two names I heard one day and stuck them together. Louie, had to be Louie in order for the Casablanca reference to work.
So for regular readers of this blog you may be wondering about updates on either Sanctuary or FTW. They’re all still ongoing, however between unexpected trips to the hospital (my eldest who broke her arm 4 weeks ago got an infection under the cast which needed immediate attention) and me getting a particularly nasty throat infection that left me all but dead for the rest of the week, has meant things have slowed a little.
On the plus side, I’ve had time to brainstorm a few thoughts on a sequel to FTW. I know, I haven’t even released to the first one yet, but I’ve had a great idea about where to take it. I’ve brain-dumped the ideas into a mind map and now have the overarching view of a second story.
Until next week, keep reading!