My mother recently asked me where I come up with the character names in my books. I’ll be honest and confess that this has been one of the most challenging and interesting part of my journey into writing. I spend more time deliberating, changing, and tweaking the names of some of my characters than I probably should. As a lover of Dickens, the names mean a lot to me. I would NEVER be so bold as to compare my writing to his. But I can say we share an infatuation with odd names.
Who can forget his characters Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Daniel Quilp, Wilkins Micawber, or Pip. Each name is forever associated with the traits he wrote into the character – so much so that Scrooge became a recognized word!
With my town of Portsong being set in rural Georgia, I have an advantage of pulling from the colorful language of the Deep South. There is a distinct line between Southern and Redneck. I am careful to avoid the latter. Whenever I hear a name with possibilities, I jot it down in my little Moleskine, which shows everyone just how much of a nerd I am. I’ve scribbled dozens in there over the past few years. In Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption, I used only the first few pages. There are many more to come in Virgil’s further adventures. Here are just a few examples.
In the Creech family, besides Virgil, there are his brothers: Lomas, Wendell, Stanley, Tanner, Webster, Dalton, Eustis, and Roscoe. You will meet some of them in varying degrees if you stick with me. The parents of the Creech family are Abner and Henrietta.
Colonel Clarence J. Birdwhistle came when I was looking for vintage sounding British names. I found it on a list of surnames that are dying out. Shame – he’s a good sort.
The rascal, Burton Perry is actually the name of my brother-in-law’s grandfather (used with permission, of course.) You won’t find him in this first book, but he will give you a laugh in time.
I hope my preacher sounds formal and stuffy: Reverend Josiah Crane. The mayor, Earnest Shambley, is a fussbudget and typical politician. I drew a contradiction between first and last names. Ms. Louise Prattlematt, the chairperson of the Ladies Historical Society, just sounds like a busybody to me. Our grocer, Harland Gentry, struggles with pride. The list goes on.
In my name-giving journey, one surprising thing actually happened. I named the sheriff of Portsong Hub Whitaker, with no particular meaning assigned to his first name. As I wove a story around him, there was good cause to use a more formal name that he hated, thus Hub became a shortened form of Hubert. I can honestly say I had no intention of going that route when I named him.
So now you know. If I ever meet you and I reach for my Moleskine, you probably have an odd name. Please, consider it a compliment.
What are some odd names you’ve come across in literature or real life?