What's in a Name...Everything
This article is a continuation in a series on creative writing. To read the previous articles click here.
Bob and I discussed the naming of the characters and the title of the book more than any other two things. Both of us realized the importance of the character's names but coming to an agreement was often difficult.
"Where do you get those names?" he would ask.
I would answer, "Research. Isn't that what you taught me?" He would smile.
So, "What's in a name?" The Bard knew the importance of a name.
My protagonist, as she evolved, left suggestions. She was not of common birth. Her family belonged to the coveted 400 Club. So a common name wouldn't do. She was of Dutch ancestry, so I searched for a Dutch name. And when she married, I chose a worthy name of that milieu. So after several attempts I found a name that summed up all I wished. I named her Patricia DeGroot Abercrombie. Her friends called her Trish. She had a dog named Frisky and a white Arabian horse she called Alba.
The cabbie had to have a name and characteristics that would irritate our lovely Protagonist. I thought about several ethnicities until I settled on a second-generation Ukrainian. That gave a link to the Old Country—the Ukraine. Ziggy's wife was Alexa, his mother was Nyura, and his dad was Vasyl. He also had a diabetic cat by the name of Kudos.
I searched for Ukrainian names, combinations of them. Surely, it had to be almost unpronounceable, a name that begged a moniker for conversation's sake—tips! I settled on the name Zhelyazko Kowalchuk-Ziggy. He also suffered a war wound when a landmine discharged and killed his point man in 'Nam. He had no finger of discontent so his act of displeasure was to thrust his pinkie finger in disgust. So, the cabbies therefore nicknamed him Pinkie.
There were also minor characters to name: Trish's devoted husband was Charles. The name fit. He was educated and refined even if he was droll on occasion. Trish gained some comfort from that. But the love her life was Simon. He was killed at Dunkirk after he had left Oxford to join the Royal Signal Corps. Trish also had a maid, a lovely Hispanic lady who cared for her greatly. I named her Yamile.
The deGroots lived in the Richmond Hill area. Her dad, Gabby was a mover and shaker. He was a diamond broker and her mother, Maggie was an ally of her grandfather, Gabriel who was driven to produce a suitable male child destined to become a President of the United States. Her mother, Maggie, and her grandfather were not above blackmail and other shenanigans to achieve an advantage. But Destiny decided her brother's place was to be on a special wall in a corner with a folded flag, his medals, and a round dog tag. Finally, there was a favorite waitress at the Ukrainian Restaurant close to the East Village, I named her Tina. They paid her a visit for lunch. And finally, there are other minor characters whose names I won't share here.
The bottom line here: The name is more than what your character is called. It is their identity! Choose it carefully.
Seasoned editor, Bob Middlemas, set out to teach me the art of writing by guiding the process from square one. I will be sharing in a series of articles some of the main pointers he gave me along the way. the fruit of that labor is my forthcoming book A Memorable Thing. Subscribe for more of Bob's advice and to be notified when "A Memorable Thing" hits stores in early December.