by Marsha Ward
For a while now, I've been interviewing authors over on my blog, Writer in the Pines. Lately I've been thinking about the questions I ask them, and wondering if I would be able to answer them quickly.
For example, I ask how the authors find character names. How would I answer that? I'm really not sure. How do I find them? Sometimes, I think they find me. It's been a year since I've looked for names for characters, but I do know that sometimes the first one I latch onto isn't right. Then I have to ponder and make lists and eliminate names with same initials as other characters or names that are too similar to the others' and roll a name around in my mouth, and even ask the character if the new name is right before I use it.
Let me illuminate that process. When I was rewriting Trail of Storms to include new characters, I called one man "Hank." However, I soon realized that I already had twins named Hannah and Hepzibah, and another H name just wouldn't fly. It took me a while, and a long list, but I finally settled on "Ned," which suits him better and doesn't begin with H.
Some of my friends know that the main character of Trail of Storms is Jessica Bingham, who was cited briefly in my previous novels. As I began to tell Jessica's story, she insisted that she liked to be called "Jessie." Once I learned that, it was as though I couldn't even type "Jessica" correctly anymore. After she came to me and kept me awake for hours one night, I gave in and did a global search and replace in the manuscript, expunging all the Jessica's except the first few. (I had to tie the two versions of the name together, didn't I? After all, the last word in Ride to Raton is "Jessica.") Therefore, I called her Jessica until one of her sisters addressed her as Jessie. From then on, she was referred to as Jessie, and she didn't haunt me anymore.
Sometimes I wonder about characters. They become so real to us authors, their "creators." They seem to live and breathe in our imaginations. Could they be real in some other dimension, or some past time? Are we really recounting stories that actually happened somewhere in the vast Universe? Or are we practicing creation for some future time?
What do you think?