What’s in a (Character) Name?

Hello and thank you for joining me for this month’s writerly rambling blog. This month, I would like to talk about names; namely, character names…

During my creative writing degree, we covered naming characters. My tutor last year was great, I can’t remember everything he said but he did advise that every character should have a name. Another point he made about naming characters would be that us writers can borrow place names such as Charlotte Bronte’s Mr Rochester. I do like that idea and I am going to use it, the Mr Rochester chap in my current book The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue is going to be called Grantham Horncastle. He doesn’t go by ‘Grantham’ though, he uses his middle name, Stuart. (But that’s by the by). And none of my characters are like Jane Eyre or Mr Rochester…

This year, we have to read Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. Already, I can tell a lot about the two main characters from their names Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene.

I have had great fun naming the characters in my Curmudgeon Avenue series but how and why did I do it?

Sisters Edna and Edith. Well, I did have two great aunties called Edna and Edith. As with the books, both very different but by no means similar in any way to the characters in Curmudgeon Avenue. I realise that there are few Edna’s and Edith’s around ‘these days’ as was pointed out to me in a writing group, but at the same time I have been thrilled to see the name Edith used in two recent BBC programmes, Alison Steadman stars as Edith in Hold the Sunset and Jessica Hynes (who is my age) stars as Edith Lyons in Years and Years. 

Harold Goatshed. For me, his name just rolled off my tongue, his mother called him Harold, a royal name and in this instance, status costs nothing.

Mr and Mrs Payne. When thinking of a family name for the residents of Curmudgeon Avenue, I took my dog for a walk around the block. WP_20180909_18_57_21_Rich (1)

Here she is, my beautiful Border terrier, Martha (while we are on the subject of naming, Martha is a combination of my husband and my names). My husband usually walks her as it’s difficult for me. The block I walked her around is four houses and back again. I grew up where I live now and remembered when I was about 16/17 one of my friends dated a boy from one of these houses. What was his name though? For the life of me, I couldn’t remember. Myself and Martha returned home and I forgot all about this question until 3am when I woke up and remembered the surname PAYNE!*

*I did get a two-star review from someone whose surname is also Payne… I’m sorry if they took it personally, it’s just a name.

Wantha, Toonan and Patchouli Rose.

Their surname Rose is popular in Manchester – I imagine because of Lancashire,

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As for Patchouli, when I was a teenager, I used to enjoy hanging around in the ‘alternative’ scene’ in Manchester’s Affleck’s Palace. My life was full of music, metal, punks and indie kids. There was one particular shop that sold gypsey skirts and dreamcatcher earrings – all the rage in the early 90s. We called it a ‘hippy’ shop. It smelt of patchouli oil. Patchouli the character named her two wayward daughters Toonan and Wantha. I have a confession, neither names exist – when I wrote the characters I did not intend to keep these names but they stuck. Toonan and Wantha were actually how my little brother (now aged 40something) used to pronounce my sister and my names when he was little. In book number six of Curmudgeon Avenue, A Christmas at Curmudgeon Avenue. It will be revealed why the sisters were named so…

Genevieve Dubois

In book Three of the Curmudgeon Avenue series Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue Genevieve is revealed to be not everything that Edna Payne had thought she was. The name is a rather fanciful French-sounding name but where did I get it from? edna cover

At the time of writing, I had ‘no idea’ but I was recently reminded of something, that explains why coming up with a French-sounding name lay dormant in my mind…. The Darling Buds of May is being re-run on ITV3! 20190919_113108

The above is a photograph of the TV in my bedroom. I was reminded of the enchanting episode where the Larkin family visit France and meet Mademoiselle Du Pont … was this hidden away in my tiny mind what inspired me to write the character, Madame Genevieve Dubois? (Inspired, not copied Genevieve is nothing like the aforementioned French character).

 

When I wrote 1962 (An Uplifting Tale of 1960s Lancashire) I had flowers in mind again, Rose and Marigold and I admit to googling ‘popular names in the 60s’. This did leave me with an Elaine in the story – I have a friend called Elaine, she didn’t seem to mind.

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I know there are internet naming sites, but I have never used them. Instead, I turned to my friends on my Facebook author page and ran a little competition when I needed help naming a rival heavy metal band for one of my characters. This name The Dark Petals will appear in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue.

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Just a note about names, always keen to hear a tale from my dad about his family, I was  pleased to hear about his uncles, Tom, Dick and Harry… see the picture below (My grandmother is the little girl seated and the moustachioed chap on the left is my great grandad, who obviously has passed his ‘naming’ sense of humour on to me). The boys in the photo are not just ‘any old Tom, Dick or Harry, they’re my great-uncles!)

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Thank you for reading this month’s writerly ramblings. Exciting news! Join me next month, I am going to ask around and find out if anyone wants to add a guest post to my blog to talk about character names in their own books. If you read this, and would like to join in, give me a shout via Facebook or Twitter.

Happy writing, Samantha xx

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. It’s a small thing, but I always get a kick out of reading the names Edna and Edith in your chapters, they are names with instant character. And your writing is so much about personality that they can come alive to their names (wait, am I rambling? I’m a bit sick, so if this makes no sense, don’t worry)
    And Martha is lovely! Please give her a belly scratch from me 🙂

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  2. Interesting reading Samantha. I got me thinking about how/why I choose characters names – I choose slightly unusual ones because my name is so ordinary. LOL,

    Like

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