This week I’ve had one of the greatest pleasures known to writer-kind: choosing a name for a new character. I hadn’t even realised I was going to create this character until a few days ago when she sidled into view and said, ‘Frankly, I think you need me.’ She was right. But what to call her?
Names aren’t every writer’s thing but I’m always amazed when an author appears to have grabbed the first Joe Smith to come to hand. I can take days searching for the right combination and I always feel it’s time well spent. A name can say so much. I have my prejudices, of course. To me ‘Myrtle’ is a lazy choice. I’ve never actually met a Myrtle. I suspect it’s just a name authors get from Old Lady Names, Volume II.
So anyway I had this newcomer to name and she’d have been born around 1875 which knocked Kylie or LaToyah out of the running. I got it down to a shortlist of five – Mabel, Hilda, Eunice, Ethel, Ida. Then I started on surnames. She’s from Somerset, I’d decided. A fine county name-wise. Even a perfunctory trawl netted me Broadfoot, Mogg, Custard, Gauntlett and Peach. You can probably see which way this is going but I decided to take time out before choosing. I needed to let the novelist bit of my brain coast for a while or, as it’s known in the profession, Do the Ironing.
Many things become clear after an hour’s ironing, not least that it’s time to buy a new cover for my ironing board. But more thrillingly I knew which name to use. Ethel Peach stepped out of the shadows. It was a close run thing between her and Mabel Custard but I look at it this way. There’s always another book.