Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Noms de Plume...
For me, part of the fun of writing is the nomenclature. Character names, especially.
More often than not, it isn't arbitrary. At least the main characters.
Jeremy Strache, for example, gets him surname from a smashing together of "stratum" and "cache." So, his name means hidden layer. You'll also find that the novel he's in, What If It's a Trick Question? is teeming with anagrams and such puzzles and plays with words. Of course, it's a conscious decision to craft it as such. For these kinds of puzzles have a great deal to do with the events and plot of the story. And yet, one might otherwise never realize it. The very odd part of Jeremy's last name is that I discovered it's in fact NOT made up. It exists. People have it as their surname. How strange, then, that I would devise a "new" name from those two words. What are the chances? (Even more odd is that unknown to me until much later, Laughter had a student named Strache. And she pronounces it differently than Jeremy told me he does.)
Sometimes the characters can actually be arbitrary themselves, though. Or at least vehemently insistent. The boy in a novel I have on the back burner has a rather odd first name. (Not disclosing it at this time. The only hint I'll give you is it's also a street in London.) The point is I "argued" with him, telling him that no one is actually named that. Man, did he put up a fight! I caved and now that's what he's called. And I've come to love it. It fits him perfectly. I couldn't call him anything else. Of course, I don't believe anything is ever fully arbitrary. I figured out much further down the road that some of the reasearch I'd done for What If It's a Trick Question? left residue in my mind. One of the brand names associated with Jeremy's favorite sport is also this kid's first name. (Another hint.)
Sometimes, though, the random choice is desirable. After belaboring over what I felt to be just the right name for the pirate captain in Peter Pan's NeverWorld, I did not exactly feel like waiting another week for the name of his vessel. For that, I opened up an encyclopedia and decided it would be called whatever I saw first, unless undeniably and utterly unusable. Thus, his ship: The Montagu.
Last night I told Banky the rationale behind the physical appearance of the villian of Midnight Chaser. It combines two of the lesser famous characters from two classic fantasy stories: Alice in Wonderland & Peter Pan (Peter & Wendy). [It applies as nomenclature on account of the combo of names smashed together, sort of like Strache. Except here it's merely a merging of words and does not have a "meaning" behind it.] But it is important which characters I chose to create him. And yet, that's not made clear from the text alone. It has to be reached for, if you're willing to dig a little deeper into it.
I'm often asked if I expect people to get these references. No, I don't. But should anyone be as wacky and harmlessly obsessive as me, at least the hidden layers are there to find.