Wednesday, December 20, 2006


There is a character in my current work in progress who dies quite early on but is referred to continuously throughout the book. When I was hammering away at the keys to start with, I had a perfectly reasonable name for this fellow, but as the story progressed, I realised I was going to have to change it. Not knowing what to call him, and not wanting to upset my writerly flow, I just called him 'Makeupaname' and highlighted it with a comment to remember to change it later.

Every time he's been mentioned since, I've similarly not wanted to stop and think about a name for him. For reasons that are too complicated, and possibly spoiling, to go into now, I need to research names from Western Africa and pick one suitable. Going into research mode can kill my writing output stone dead. So I keep on typing in Makeupaname and carry on regardless.

The thing is, that as I get further and further into the writing, I'm increasingly coming to think of this fellow as Makeupaname - and if you force the pronunciation a bit, it probably sounds African enough to anyone who's never actually been there. Give him a suitably ethnic Christian name - Moses, say, or Jeremiah, and he is complete.

But have I got the nerve to call one of the pivotal (albeit in a dead kind of way) characters in my novel Make Up A Name?

Your thoughts, please.


Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

No. And if you do, the fiction fairies will come down your chimney and beat the living crap out of you.

And you wouldn't want that happening, would you?

December 20, 2006 7:39 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Fiction fairies? Is that who MacBride gets to pen his works for him?

There are baby name sites online where you can search by ethnicity/origins/meanings and quickly come up with a list of suitable candidates. I've been working on a name issue today. For me, names are often essential before I start the character, because it grounds in me a sense of who they are. Going through naming them is like going through defining them. That said, I've changed character names in books, so I'm capable of making a switch after a work is written, which I did with Lara Kelly. Her original name was...someting completely different.

I have a book of ethnic baby names, and that's a real plus because I can look up the countries and see what's popular there. Helps a great deal. Email me countries that would be appropriate and I'll look for you.

December 20, 2006 9:47 pm  
Blogger John R. said...

Call him John. John's a classy name, y'know.

Or "Hank Fister".

December 20, 2006 10:41 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I could call him John, but then he might be confused with the transvestite ex-nun turned hooker who works the Leith docks, also called John. Or the John who does cruel and imaginative things to captive Rhesus monkeys. He might get mistaken for the John who's mangled and molested remains are found in the Elephant House in Edinburgh zoo and who the police think committed a bizarre suicide.

Maybe there's too man Johns in this book already.

Hank Fister is good, but not very West African. Unless, of course, he was born there to missionary parents Norman and Edna Fister from Pennsylvania.

The Fiction Fairies scare me, so I'd better try something else.

December 21, 2006 12:35 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

That should be 'too many Johns' btw.

December 21, 2006 12:36 pm  
Blogger angie said...

I did a quick google and came up with this one "Monon-Konmlan (or Konmlan for short)-- Boy name In Liberian Kru means I'm the one with the luck/blessing."

Kinda funny in an ironic "ooh, isn't the dead guy lucky" way.

December 21, 2006 5:57 pm  
Anonymous John Schramm said...

What about Kimotho Ekong? He would be called Ekong (in the familiar) by those who knew him, rather than Kimotho.

I took names those from two African people I once knew. Not sure if they pass as Western African, but definitely African.

Did I miss pomegranate week again?

December 21, 2006 6:13 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Now you see why I use the placeholder 'Makeupaname.' When the book's done, I'll research some names, but if I do it now I'll be on the net for a whole afternoon and that'll be a couple of thousand words wasted.

This book's peppered with comments along the line of 'check the street name' and 'make sure that's where that is' - all part of the fun of setting a novel in a city I've not lived in for seven years.

But thankyou all for your suggestions. Angie, I like the idea of the name meaning something ironic, but it also needs to be pronounceable. There's nothing worse than tripping over a name in the text each time you see it because you can't work out how to say it.

John S, Pomegranate week was a few weeks back. You'll have to wait until they're in season again.

December 21, 2006 10:01 pm  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Makeh Upaname sounds African enough to me.

And if you think Afrcian names are comlicated, try 1st century AD Pictish ones. :)

December 21, 2006 10:30 pm  

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