When asked why I write book series, I usually respond with something suitably ponderous and writer-ly about character development and plot arcs. And it’s true that I like the way one really gets to know and care about characters in a series. But writing a series has an important advantage no one really talks about: you don’t have to come up with as many new names.
I hate naming characters. I’m not kidding. It’s really hard for me. Most of the names that pop in my head pop in because I know someone with that name. And that causes all sorts of problems.
For instance, imagine you’re creating your hero. He’s tall, dark and handsome or buffed, blond and gorgeous or whatever. You imagine your heroine leaning in for that first kiss. She moans, “Oh, John!”
Hold on. (And not because that’s terrible writing.) John was the name of the guy who took you to homecoming your sophomore year of high school. He had fish breath and damp hands. O-kaaay. Not John. You rewrite. Your heroine and hero are sharing a box of Junior Mints. He puts his arm around her. She leans toward him and whispers, “Oh, Rick!”
Backtrack, backtrack, ick, ick, ick. You have and Uncle Richard, which is awfully close to “Rick.” And don’t forget about Ranger Rick Magazine which you read as a kid. How can you possibly write a romantic scene when you think “raccoon?” I mean, how much chest hair does the guy have? Eeew. Now in your head your tall, dark and handsome hero has got a serious back hair problem.
Okay. Time to switch gears. Let’s name the murder victim. Okay. The victim is a female librarian in her 50s. How about Marge? You can’t think of anyone named Marge. Except for Marge Simpson, but since your victim is too old and square to have dyed her hair blue and too young to have a nice blue rinse, chances are no one is going to think Marge Simpson. Fine. Death to Marge! And then your mother reads the manuscript and you get this phone call:
Liz’s mom: “I can’t believe you killed off our next door neighbor.”
Liz: “What? What are you talking about?”
Liz’s mom: “Marge! Marge Wilkinson. How will I be able to look her in the face? Who’s going to watch our cat when we go to Florida?”
Liz: [awkward pause]”Her name’s Marge?”
Liz’s mom: “What did you think her name was?”
Liz (in her head): “Mrs. Wilkinson.”
Liz (aloud): “It’s okay, Mom. I can change her name to…” (Liz looks frantically around desk. Sees ad for Glendora Cleaners.) “Glendora.” Hah. Perfect. Death to Glendora!
Liz’s mom: “Glendora? Tsk. That’s a ridiculous name for a librarian.“
So you can see how difficult coming up with names can be. I think we should all be glad I haven’t resorted to Dirk Deedlehopper. But if I’m honest, it’s only because my best friend used to date a guy named Dirk and George Deedlehopper doesn’t quite have the same ring.
[Note: this was originally blogged elsewhere. I’m re-posting these here. See note below. Is this an endless string of notes destined to torture you? Perhaps. Why don’t you scroll down and see?]