What’s in a name?

Well, plenty, I reckon. I’m stuck for a name for this blog, though. I’m thinking it’s probably going to remain ‘dianneblacklock’ so you’ll still be able to find it. I have at least changed the tagline. Must get around to decorating next week …

Names of blogs aside, I love naming things, namely, the characters in my novels. And that’s what has been occupying me lately in my current novel. I have most of the major characters sorted, though the female protagonist took three goes to get right – hoorah for ‘Find and Replace’ on Word. I had a name in mind as I began, but it jarred as I read back over the first few chapters. I tried another name, but it didn’t feel right either, and finally this one evolved – one I’m sure I wouldn’t have come up with in the first place, but it feels absolutely right now.

In a way, characters name themselves, at least they certainly won’t be shoe-horned into a name that doesn’t suit them. When I was writing Almost Perfect, I could not settle on a name for Liam. I had a very long list but I just couldn’t decide. One day, a scene from later in the novel came to me, and I quickly scribbled it down – by the end he was Liam, and he couldn’t be called anything else after that.

I have an admission, I’ve always been obsessed with names. When I was a girl I wanted to have eighteen children, weird but true, and I think at least part of the reason was that I would get to choose so many names. I made long lists of monikers for those would-be children, giving them second, and sometimes third names. It was updated regularly as my tastes changed. I still have an extensive handwritten list – needless to say most of the names make me cringe now.

I only had four children in the end, and didn’t even give two of them middle names. So I have plenty of names to use up! The names of my characters are very important to me: they have to go with the surnames, they have to fit with the other members of their family, they have to be true to the age of the person. And somehow they have to reflect, as best they can, the personality of that character. It really grates on me if names don’t seem right when I’m reading a novel. One thing (among many!) that really bothered me in The Slap was that the names didn’t feel right. ‘Connie’ was a very odd choice for the seventeen-year-old daughter of hippies. And ‘Anouk’ was a white, thirtysomething, middle-class woman – the only explanation for her name is an offhand comment that her parents were francophiles. But as I remember she has a sister called Tracey. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for giving her such an unusual name, and it irritated me throughout.

Maybe it’s just me? Are names in books important to you? Are there names that grate for you as well? Would the wrong names affect your enjoyment of a book? Or would a rose, regardless of its name, smell just fine to you?

PS: Thanks for all your lovely comments and feedback on my first blog! So encouraging xx

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Popping the blog cherry

Welcome to my new blog!

Sorry, I’ve only just moved in, so the place is a little bare at the moment – it doesn’t even have a name. Give me some time to settle in and I’ll make it more homely. But I had to ask you over now or else I might never get around to it.

I have been hesitating because I wasn’t sure what I could put in a blog, until I got to thinking about the next few months. My latest novel will be published in November. I have one son leaving for overseas and one who will return from overseas, one sitting his HSC, and one who is likely to do anything, and most certainly blog-worthy. I also have to sell my house and move to a totally new area, all while I try to write my next book.

So I think I should find something to blog about.

And so now I finally begin – at the same time as I begin my next novel. It should be an interesting way to chart the journey, at least. Perhaps I’ll come here when I’m stuck, or when I’m tearing my hair out because it’s all getting too hard. I could say I’ll drop in when it’s going like gangbusters, but then I probably won’t. Because that’s when you can’t stop, and you don’t want to stop. The characters have taken over the story and are running with it, so you have to run to keep up. That is the time I like the best, really one of the main reasons I keep writing. Because if it was all as hard as it is when the going is tough, what would make you want to keep going?

Sometimes it’s beginnings that are hard, like walking into a party with a lot of people you don’t know. Even if you’re outgoing and interested in getting to know them, not everyone will respond so willingly, or turn out to be type of person that you want to get to know. Then you’re stuck in a corner struggling to make conversation and waiting for an appropriate amount of time to pass before you can make an excuse to move on, go to the loo, get another drink, whatever. We’ve all been there, right?

Other times it’s a great party, you get along with everyone, you’re flitting about in all directions having a wonderful time, and you all want to party on … but then it gets late and you have to leave … which is when you realise there’s nowhere to go.

So here I am, on book number 9, with a little experience under my belt, taking my time to get to know my characters, not expecting too much, but hoping things will develop into a nice steady relationship.

How about you? How much time do you give characters to get to know them? A few pages, or a whole chapter? A couple of chapters perhaps? Or do you judge a book by its cover and the blurb on the back?

Leave a comment, or just say hi, so I know I’m not out here all by myself!