Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 5 February 2017

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME ...... LINDA MITCHELMORE

"So," my friend, Jan - who's read just about everything I've ever had published - said, "who's this Mel who upset you so much?" "I don't know what you mean!" I said, coming over all defensive. "Hmm," she said. "It's just that whenever you write the bad sister/office bitch/friend from hell you call her 'Mel'. That's all I'm saying." And do you know what? - she's right. I do. There was a Mel in my life who was all those things Jan mentioned and I haven't been able to let her go. I know it's not healthy but at least I get a bit of (unhealthy?) revenge when I'm writing her into a short story. I've got a cousin - male - who is also very loyal and reads most of my short stories and novels. He's not averse to voicing his thoughts either. "Paul?" he said once. "Who was he in your life? His name crops up a lot." "Does it?" I said. "Yep. And he always gets the girl." Not the Paul I know because I rather stupidly let him go (okay, gave him the old heave-ho) and perhaps I ought not to have done and then I would have been Paul's girl But no one needs to know that and my cousin will have to go on guessing! After having written about 1000 names into short stories and novels it's not that easy to come up with a new one, even though I have a Baby Names book on my desk. Didiane? Photina? Boaz? Milburn? I think not. Girls' names like Daphne and Dulcie, Polly and Elsie, are making a comeback but they're not names I liked the first time around so I won't be using those. And Roger - my husband's name. I'm reluctant to use that because people always quip ' ... over and out' and that's all I see in my mind's eye when I've tried to write him in. And using his name as a verb has a whole different meaning so I won't be doing that either. There are, of course, many books with one name titles. Jane Austen's 'Emma' is perhaps the most famous of all.
The present day novelist, Bernardine Kennedy, writing as Marie Maxwell, has also used one name titles with great success - Maggie. Gracie. Ruby.
I've been thinking of doing the same - I just can't find the right name, that's all. Oh. I almost forgot. 'Sylvia'. Jan also noticed that my evil mothers-in-law/horrid stepmothers/snobby women of a certain age are always called 'Sylvia'. Hmm,I'm probably fortunate that the 'Sylvia' my character is based on is long dead! My apologies to all the lovely Mels and Sylvias in the world - it's not you, honest. So, writing this has got me wondering .... is there a name you use over and over and if so why? Or is there a name you would never use at all?

10 comments:

  1. I never realised till I read your post how much I love girls names that end with 'ie' or 'y' - maybe it's because the characters can act like children forever and never grow up! I also have a habit of using alliteration for the names of my characters like Stophie and Steve, which I know is not strictly recommended. I have two daughters Amy and Chloe and two granddaughters Millie and Evie, so perhaps there's something in the genes (or should that be Jean's?) My mother-in-law was called Winnie and I loved her to bits but a character named Winifred would always be nasty in my book. Then there's Colin, a name I just couldn't trust... I hope there are none reading this. ;) Thanks, Linda - I'm looking forward to hearing what others think.

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    1. Names with y or ie on the end always sound like 'pet' names to me .... I don't mean the name of a dog or cat or whatever but a name given out of affection. So, Marilyn, how did Colin do the dirty on you, then? Hmmm. Thanks for your insight on all this.

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  2. Now you've got me thinking Linda - and worried! I'm not conscious that I use names in this way but now I'm going to be checking them out more closely. Thought-provoking!

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    1. I know. It was only when it was pointed out to me that I realised how much I use names - or is that over-use names?

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  3. I spend a lot of time finding the right names for my characters. I dread to think how difficult the job will be in five years time when I have used up all my first choices. I don't use the names of people I dislike ... yet. My main problem is finding a name I like that fits with the time period and their position in society. However, character traits of despicable/unlikable people, in my opinion, are good fodder and up for grabs to bring realism to an unruly antagonist. :)

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    1. Oh yes, when writing historicals the name has to be right for the period. One of my favourite names in fiction, Phaedra, was in a Penny Vincenzi novel (Penny and I went to the same school .... just saying!)which was in a contemporary novel .... been trying to find a space for it somewhere ever since!

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  4. I love choosing character names, researching their meaning and origin and will happily lose an hour searching the internet for say popular Danish boys names of the 70s! A friend was kindly editing one of my short stories and rightly pointed out that I didn't need to use the name Viktor, that Father would do - but this particular character was Viktor in my head. I knew he was tall yet stooping, wore a hat pulled low over his ears, was a carpenter with calloused fingers and continued to smoke despite nursing a wracking cough. I wouldn't have known any of those things if I'd only known him as Father. I had to know him as Viktor too. But my friend was right, Viktor became Father and, who knows, perhaps Viktor will make a re-appearance in another story some day. Great post, Linda.

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    1. Gosh, you do go into it in depth! I just pluck most of mine out of the air .... lightweight that I am!

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  5. I've been really lucky in that, apart from writing, I have also spent a long time working on the family tree, to the extent I can go back and look at, say, boys names born in the 17th C. This way you know you are getting a name that was actually in use at the time.

    My WiP is also set largely in Ireland, (17th C.) and i've also found old Irish rugby teams a great source of male names for minor characters. :)

    Some of my writer friends do tend towards the monosyllabic male names beginning with J. This is a furrow that may be a little over-ploughed!

    Still, keep writing,

    John

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    1. Thanks for popping in, Johm - albeit with monosyllabic name - tee hee. What a good idea, though, to look at census entries for whichever period we are writing. One could pick any surname and just put in John Matthews or something and out would come riches!

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