Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Names

Finding the right names for characters in a novel is a tricky business.  I have no magic formula.   John Hersey says that “novelist Sinclair Lewis doted on names; he believed people became their names.  He had a stack of telephone books from all over the world, so he could find an odd but apt name for a character…When he had to name a new character, he would make a list of a dozen possibilities and …day after day he would pick up the list and cross off a name or two, until he had made his final choice by elimination. ”
I am not nearly so extensive in my search for a character’s names, but I will admit to changing several halfway through the novel, sometimes, daily.  Every  now and then a name just pops out at you.  I asked a friend once if he’d mind it if I used his name in my novel.  It just felt so right.
“Tell me about the character,” he said.
“He’s a Quaker turkey farmer,” I replied.
He laughed.  “Just so when people google my name, Turkey Farmer doesn’t start popping up.”

To be so lucky.

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