It’s been a great week away. The weather was obviously the icing on the cake, bearing in mind UK
summers are notoriously fickle. Sometimes holidays simply feel they are going to be good right from the start and this was definitely one of them. I know I do tend to bang on a lot about South Hams which is where Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Totnes and Salcombe are situated. Having said that it is
a wonderful place to be, especially if the sun is out. Years ago we actually kept a boat on the south coast of the UK and spent most weekends there, so water and boats have always been a magical combination for me. Now, it’s all just a warm memory with a collection of photos to back those cerebral imprints up. When I got home and began to download I was amazed that I’d taken 180 photos. Digital cameras have turned holiday photography completely on its head. No more dropping off a film with your local processor then having your bubble burst when you get them back and the results show you weren’t quite the David Bailey you thought you were. No, now it’s great. You can weed out the disasters, download onto the computer and even print your own photos if you want to. A complete revolution.
Moving on, I had a lot of time over the last week to think about a main topic for today. In the end I decided it would be interesting to talk about fictional names. A new writing project involves many component parts – the story, the setting and, of course, the players. Not only do these individuals need to have a bio so we are familiar with their personalities and backgrounds, they also require names. So what triggers the decision on what to call your characters? It’s not something I have ever discussed with fellow writers, but I guess like everything else to do with the writing process, it’s all down to personal choice. As for me, my first rule is to avoid names I do not personally like. I also try and avoid using the first names of people I actually know. That’s probably because if I did I would be visualising that person instead of the character as I wrote, which would be both distracting and a little surreal! It’s also important for me to use a name which sits well with each character and feels authentic. I have to say 99% of my choices work first time around but I do tend to keep an open mind because there might be an odd occasion when as soon as I start writing the character/name combination doesn’t feel right and will need to be changed.
In the Little Court series which was spread over five books, there were a huge array of names (a cast of thousands one of my friends once amusingly remarked) so attention to detail when drawing up a character list for each new book was very important to avoid any embarrassing duplication. As you can imagine, the farther I got into the series the bigger the headache became in finding suitable names! This was because not only did we have the central families who had expanded over the thirty year span of the books, there were also secondary characters both in the village and the two provincial towns which were the settings for the stories. A Herculean task and one I’m not sure I want to repeat!
I have made a decision that my saga series days are now definitely behind me. There was a certain easiness in writing about people you already knew in settings that were familiar, but that was then and this is now. Time for a change and a new challenge. My current WIP, Summer Moved On, has a smaller cast and I’ve actually managed to find not only names I’ve not used before but ones which I think really do match their characters. The most unusual is Talún which is Gaelic but then there does have to be something special about that central character you hope all your female readers will fall in love with doesn’t there?
Enjoy your week, back next Sunday.