Fiction Daily.
A blog on writing, writers and why we read. Posted most mornings by Marion Blackburn.
To the letter
Names became central to the novel. I couldn't move forward at all with the characters, much less the plot, without settling on the names. They held the book's secrets.

Now I have a several names nearly determined, but remain uncertain about a few of them.

There are several considerations: What will a name connote for others? What about the sonority, the music and pace of the names, first and last? How do they sound in the mind's ear?

A few names are downright unusable -- they remind me too much of people I dislike. Other names sound too intrusive. How can you learn to care about a character whose exotic name dominates the written page?

You can have the character to go with it, of course. Mathilda was originally the name of one of the book's characters. When my neice was born, and my sister used that beautiful name for her, I felt it was time to move to another name, though I had already written about 100 pages using that name and shortened form, "Tillie." It may still appear somewhere, not sure.

What about a name's first letter? What about characters whose names begin with the same letter -- might that confuse the reader into thinking there's a connection where there should be none?

Today, I find myself with three main characters whose names begin with the letter "D." That is a concern. In a work with six or seven main characters, each of them representing different sets of motives, methods and actions, how could I possibly have three of their names start with the same letter?

So I'm back to the drawing board in some ways. I'm not sure who will lose their "D" name, but I am working on it.

AHEAD: The private process of writing

MONDAY: Part Two of my journey to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama airs at 6:49 a.m. on Public Radio East.
2008-01-09 14:50:36 GMT
Comments (1 total)
You're in excellent company: Dickens was another writer who believed that names were key to characters. Almost any name from his oeuvre -- Betsy Trotwood, Uriah Heep, Mr. Micawber, Miss Havisham, Nell, Pip, Lady Dedlock -- provokes wonderful, magical associations. It's important!
2008-01-09 20:29:53 GMT
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