Monday, 15 February 2010

What's In A Name?

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?
Have fun!

14 comments:

The Virtual Victorian said...

Oh - just posted and then it got lost! One more go - I'm hopeless at this, but Libby sounds very sweet and trustworthy! Am I miles off the mark? Terrible judge of character!

I loved the way the corrupt banker in Dickens' Little Dorrit was called Mr Merdle (ie Mr Sh*t) and that the BBC adaptation came out just as the bankers' scandal was going on.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Libby Bowen - I think I got some kind of free association to Library Book, so saw her as a rather sweet librarian. But Libby also gives a sense of freedom, and Bows of femininity and being tied and courtship, so maybe she's someone torn between one thing and another. Cal and Chrissie immediately make me think creative/new age/baby-making/homespun/Good Life.
Good game!
Susiex

Old Kitty said...

Oooh

Libby Bowen - rosy-cheeked, plump, likes Laura Ashley type clothes, likes cats, a florist, old fashioned romantic - cries when watching Brief Encounter - her favourite film.

Cal and Chrissie Neames - erm. Yuppies! Townies! Ooh I don't like them, I don't know why - maybe it;s how they shorten their names. Cal and Chrissie. Not sweet like Libby. Cal and Chrissie. Upper middle class. Goes hunting. Shoots things. Drives 4x4s. I'm being unfair aren't I really? LOL! Has kids called Chloe, Charisse and Cal Jr.

:-)

Take care
x

Gillian McDade said...

really interesting post!

I grew up with Julian,Dick, George and Anne. I still get quite freaked out by Five Go To Smuggler's Top! I loved Mallory Towers, the Secret Seven and the series about Spiggy Holes (?)

Swallows and Amazons was great too, and Anne of Green Gables hard to beat.

I also read a lot of novel adaptations such as Chocky, Children of the Dog Star and The Box of Delights.

Does anyone remember these?

A great TV show too was Oscar, Kina and the Laser (no one will remember this!!) And The Boy From Space.

(A little off-topic here, but enjoying the memories!)

Debs Riccio said...

Using Suzie's 'free association' of Libby Bowen, I heard Lizzie Borden in my head (the sweet little girl-turned murderer who "took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks - and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty one"?)it was the scan that did it - honest guv'nor! I'm sure you'll make your Libby a very nice girl!
I'm finding that in my books, the MC's best friend has a much sparkier name and a lot louder personality - I don't know what that means...

Rosalind Adam said...

I loved the Famous Five but got a bit too hooked on Enid Blyton's easy style. It took me many years to feel comfortable with any other writer - not good.

I don't trust Libby Bowen. I think she's self-centred and scheming. She's always been spoilt, only child, not a team player. She's a teacher but not a very good one. She can't control a class of kids and isn't really committed to the job.

Cal and Crissie Neames are a bit spooky. Their hobby is taxidermy but do they stuff animals who have died naturally or are animals disappearing from the area at an alarming rate?

Am I close?

Bernadette said...

I had Libby Bowen down as an academic, kind but slightly scatty, brunette with glasses, maybe into physics and Einstein.

Cal and Chrissie Neames - I wouldn't want to live next door to them. They probably think they're very 'eco', but only when it suits and doesn't get in the way of their imported furnishings and first pressed olive oil from the deli. Cal maybe dominates Chrissie a bit, insisting on her supporting his 'causes' when she'd rather be choosing Indian silk cushions.

Kate said...

I love thinking up names that suit characters - only time I've ever sat down to read a phone book :-)

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Have to confess I', laughing out loud at the results so far! There was I thinking my readers would automatically conjure up the same images as me from a name!!!
Susie, lose the librarian bit and you're quite close with Libby but Cal and Chrissie are FAR from Tom and Barbara characters!
Old Kitty - still laughing...think I might nick the kids names!
Gill, I remmeber most TV programmes but have to say I've never heard of that one?
Debs, hmmm word association with Lizzie Borden is interesting. Thats all I can say!
Rosalind, Libby doesnt trust herself so you're not too wrong but I am still chuckling about the missing animals with Cal and Chrissie! TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN - no animals were harmed in the conjuring up of Cal and Chrissie.
Bernadette, Cal is definitely dominating but cushions are not on Chrissie's radar!
This has really made me think! Thank you for all your comments.

womagwriter said...

Libby's a librarian, obviously. She has mousy brown hair, she's of indeterminate age and she's never married. Not sure she's ever had a boyfriend.

Cal and Chrissie work together somehow, possibly they provide some kind of non-mainstream therapy - reflexology or shiatsu massage, something like that. They've got lots of dream-catchers and windchimes hanging around their house, their back room doubles as their treatment room.

Wrote this without looking at everyone else's responses - now let's see what others thought!

Ann said...

My first reaction to Libby Bowen, she is flighty, a bit of an airhead but with heart. Cal and Chrissie are an up and coming couple, trying to live the perfect life.

Anonymous said...

On my phone here in the pub and not even sure if I'm logged in. But wanted to say, brill post and wonderfully creative comments. I'm shocked though that you could let others play with your characters like that. Mine are set in stone in my stoney mind.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Womagwriters, that's no less than telepathic!!! Love it that we both came up with the same stuff.
Susiex

Eni said...

I am glad you mention the first Famous Five book, Five On A Treasure Island. In fact, I have a summary as well as analysis of all the 21- Famous Five books in my book, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.bbotw.com).
Stephen Isabirye