Do you remember the early books you read? Or the first films you saw? In my case my favourite early childhood book was Enid Blyton’s ‘Five On A Treasure Island’ and one of my first film memories is 'Broken Arrow' starring James Stewart. Two very different stories, a treasure hunt off Kirrin Island with Julian, Dick, Anne, George and dog Timmy, versus cowboys and injuns in the broken wild west.
As a young girl, I sometimes wanted to be George, Blyton’s tomboy female character. I was fascinated with her character and the fact that she insisted on Georgina being abbreviated to George, a boy’s name. Other days, I wanted to be Sonseeahray, the apache girl who was Jimmy Stewart’s love interest. If I’m honest, most days it was Sonseeahray (meaning ‘Morning Star’). I even named my special Christmas doll after her. A blonde doll, whose hair had to be given a makeover with my father’s shoe polish in order to make her more authentic. I was six years old.
See, for me, the story began with the name of the character – and still does. Give me a name and I’ll write you a story. Each and every time I start to write, I begin with the character’s name. I roll it around my tongue - imagining where that person lives, what they look like, what their favourite colour is, who they live with, who they love, what they do for a living, what their struggle in life may be. All of it, all of it stems from that first thought – what’s their name? And for me, it’s always instant. I know immediately what they’re called and I rarely change it, because they become that person straight away. It’s like the word – the name – makes them flesh.
Looking back on my most recent novel ‘Plumb Crazy’ the antagonist is named Paul Chadwick. In fact, I rarely refer to him as ‘Paul’. Is this because the use of his full name implies straight away he may be a bit of a cad? Or maybe a more complex Mr Rochester type? My main character Samantha is a female plumber known as Sam (Hmmm...shades of Miss Blyton’s gender subtleties here?)
So, I thought I’d pose a little name game and challenge you readers to come up with instant characteristics with just a name offered. My current WIP features a main female character Libby Bowen. Other characters are married couple Cal and Chrissie Neames. All three have specific characteristics, jobs etc as created by my head. But what would YOU make them? What does Libby Bowen say to you? And what exactly do Cal and Chrissie Neames do that might be eh, misunderstood in today’s society?