Monday, May 1, 2023

Naming Characters and Not Naming Characters

I try not to inhale too deeply when I read the musty old phone book.  I try not to throw anything when I get through several classes before I realize the yearbook I’m skimming is another copy of the one I skimmed yesterday.  Mostly, I try to keep my sense of humor when naming characters is still the hardest part of every new project.  Has anyone noticed how that shows up in my books?  Every now and then I like to avoid giving some insignificant character a name.  Here are a few examples.

From Into the Fire

“Hey, man, hear you’re on your way out.”  The welcome voice of a coworker arriving on the scene.

“Yeah,” Joseph said.  “I’m about to grab my last schedule.”

“Hope Mr. D. is in,” the other guy said as he opened the door.

Joseph nodded.  He could still hope for that even if Joseph already knew it wasn’t true.  He sensed the other guy’s steps slow as his hopes were dashed.

“Hello, boys.”  Jillian stood from her desk and walked around to sit on the front of it.  “Here for your schedules?”

“Of course,” other guy said.

Joseph would be trying harder to remember his name if it wasn’t likely the last time he’d ever see him.

I might have tried harder to give that other guy a name if it wasn’t also the only time he shows up in the book.  Notice that the boss didn’t get a full last name either.

From Collecting Zebras

   Jon pulled out a pan and said, “Who told you my last name?”
    “Oh, I just met one of my neighbors. He said if I didn’t know someone’s last name I should guess Thorpe because there are a million of them in Hartford.”
    “A slight exaggeration, but there are a lot of us. My dad’s mom and dad had eleven kids and nine of them were boys so they kept the name and every one of them has at least two kids, a lot of whom also have kids.”
    “I know there’s a kindergarten teacher named Thorpe. Her first name is…”
    Jon nodded before I could remember it. “She’s my cousin,” he said.

He very conveniently cut her off before I had to give that character a name.  That’s the real reason Angel couldn’t remember it.

From The Art of Communication 

    Katie tried to figure out how to politely tell her sister she was making a big deal out of nothing. “Why are we even talking about Christmas ornaments in the summer? You know it’s barely July, right?”
    “Well, I…” She let out a short laugh, heading off her own tantrum before it started. She might have a quick temper, but she wasn’t completely unreasonable. “I saw an ad for some Christmas in July sale happening next week, and it got me thinking about how this will be my first Christmas as a mom and how the little one will be too little to remember it or even really do anything special and I thought about how we’d at least have a special ornament to… I thought if I worked on it now, I could present it to Mom as a way of announcing the name and everything.”
    “That would be nice,” Katie said.

What’s nice is that Katie’s sister is keeping her baby’s name a secret so I don’t have to think of one.  Later, it’s mentioned that the baby got their mom’s first name as a middle name.  The mom is never introduced.  I still didn’t actually give the baby a name.

From The Art of Introductions

“Have you had any luck with the online dating thing lately?” Ryan asked. He was looking at Cameron.

 Cameron kept his eyes on the cards he was dealing. “No comment.”

“Sounds like a no,” Logan said.

Trevor smiled. “No luck is better than bad luck.”

“For Cameron maybe,” Ryan said, “but I kind of enjoy hearing about the bad luck.”

“Me, too,” Logan said. “What was the name of the one who turned out to be nearly as old as your mom?”

“Still not commenting.” Cameron kept his eyes on the cards. His tone got a bit of an edge to it.

Cameron isn’t commenting on the name because I’m not.  I try to keep the edge out of my voice when talking about naming my characters by having a little fun where I can.  At least in my fantasy series, I am allowed to make up names.  And I can use that as an elegant segue into mentioning that the birthday of Birthdays in Wisherton will be May 27th.  I recommend my new book over any of the name lists I’ve been reading.