DEBORAH CROMBIE: Confession: Book tours wreak havoc on a writing schedule.
I was on the road promoting Kincaid/James #16, TO DWELL IN DARKNESS, from September 20th until November 1st, with just a couple of sporadic and very frantic 24 hour stops at home. It was a fabulous experience. I met so many wonderful readers and booksellers, saw friends and new cities, and got very good at packing. But did I get much writing done? Um... There were days I had trouble remembering what city I was in, much less the plot of my book...
But now that I've had a few days to catch up, I've put on my writing hat and I'm digging in. (This really is my hat, dog hair and all. My niece bought it for me at Universal Studios! I feel just like Castle!) However, I'm still not quite set on the title of Kincaid/James #17, and I'm struggling with character names.
Sometimes names are easy--I just instantly know what a character should be called, and it sticks. And sometimes I try combination after combination after combination trying to find the right one. Very frustrating, as I have trouble writing a character until I know his or her name.
There are so many parameters to consider. After sixteen books, it's hard not to repeat character names. (Assuming I remember what I've named all the characters in previous books... And yes, I know I've used "Jasmine" twice, but I had complicated reasons for repeating that one.)
It helps me to write down the names of sets of continuing characters
along with the proposed names of new characters for a book. Here's the
page for THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS from my novel journal. If you've
read the book you'll see that
some of these names didn't make the cut.
I've never been comfortable using the names of close friends and family. That takes out a good few, and so is a tradition I won't swear to keep up.
Then there's the fact that Britain, and London in particular, are very multi-cultural and multi-racial, so some of the characters' names need to reflect that.
And THEN there's the rule about not having characters whose names start with the same letter, or characters whose name have the same sound. For instance, you don't want all your female characters to have names that in "y" or "ie." I've obviously broken the "same letter" rule--I have Duncan, Denis, and Doug as continuing characters, for starters. Oops.
Oh, and you don't want to give a character a name that is inappropriate to their age. You wouldn't want to name a woman born in the fifties "Tiffany" or "Brittney"-- it just doesn't feel right. Baby naming web sites are a great resource for this challenge. Here's one I pulled up, as I'm trying to decide on names for two ten-year-old boys.
Add to this the fact that my books tend to have a fairly large cast, and it gets mind-boggling. I keep a notebook handy when I'm reading or watching TV to scribble down names that I think might fit. Here's a page from my jottings for the book in progress. It will be interesting to see how
many of these actual make it into the finished book.
So, fellow REDS, how do you go about naming your characters? Do you have system? Do you change names in the course of a book if they don't seem to be working?
And readers, how much attention do you pay to names?