Dorothy Cannell: Call me presumptuous but when it comes to my characters I am in disagreement with William Shakespeare’s assertion that ‘a rose by any other name smells just as sweet.’ Before putting type to paper I spend – could be said waste – an exorbitant amount of time endeavoring to fit or contrast first and last names to personality, physical appearance, means of employment, mannerisms, etc. This being the case I shouldn’t need to make the number of changes midstream that I invariably do.
One of the causes for this is suddenly realizing I have a couple, if not more, similar sounding names e.g. – Pilchard, Purdy, Pruitt, that will likely cause the reader to have to flip back through prior pages to see who I am talking about. Another is simply frivolous. A name will pop into my mind. I had a teacher called Miss Holdforth, met a Mrs. Lovely and Mr. Snidge – names too delightful not to be used for no other reason than to indulge myself. This said, the major disruptive factor to name choice is that characters often refuse to toe the line upon arriving on the scene.
In the book I am currently writing the new vicar of St. Peter’s Church in Dovecote Hatch was to be Adrian Macready, a handsome thirty-seven-year-old bachelor with fair hair and dark eyebrows. He stuck to his assigned marital status and eyebrows, but had chosen not to be a Scot. His hair has deepened to brown, and handsomeness was reduced to rugged good looks. He introduced himself as Aiden Forrest – the Adrian making for one R too many. There was no point in arguing with him. It would have made for more effort changing him from masterful to meek.
The sexton cum grave digger was set up in my head as Ezra Dewhurst – think hearse – a gaunt curmudgeon with a grim laugh and a hollow cough. But who showed up was a stout, cheery fellow incapable of not making himself helpful, welcome or not. After the initial irritation I was quite pleased because the alteration of his personality gave me the glimmer of an idea of how he could further serve the plot. On inquiry he informed me kindly his name was Jock Merriweather
And that’s just the start of who in this book wanted to be other than intended. I wonder if other writers face these insurrections? Warning: There can be unfortunate results if alterations are not thoroughly checked. Global search and replace has its limitations. In my book Sea Glass Summer, I had a dog named Pocket because he was small enough to be put in one. Midway through I changed him to a large dog named Jumbo. This resulted in phrases such as “he stuck his hand in his Jumbo.”