A thriller book – in fact any fiction – author usually has to devise names for the characters in the story. There are many mechanisms for doing this and telephone directories are a good source. Even then, how are the names selected? I believe that some authors use a pin although I’ve never tried that myself. Anyway, telephone directories are an increasingly rare item as the world goes mobile. Firstly though, the basic question: Do all works of fiction require a character to have a name?
There are probably stories written in the first person where there is no name given to the characters. I guess that such books would involve a journey through a person’s mind, a journey where there is total self-obsession. It seems to me that ‘I this’ and ‘I that’ would become very wearing to read, but surely such a book must be possible? Let’s move as that’s not the point of this article – an author needs to choose names.
Do you want to convey character with a name?
Here I’m thinking about ‘Blofeld’ in James Bond thriller books – and films. The name sounds menacing, but is that because I remember the character and associate the villain with the name? It probably is. However, there was also a well known BBC cricket commentator known as Henry Blofeld. Hmm…And, on the other hand, ‘Pussy Galore’ conveys a certain something whether you know the books/films or not – no imagination needed provided you understand the particular usage of ‘Pussy’. How about ‘Hannibal Lecter’? Does that name conjure up a vision of evil?
I do recognize that in general, names are only foreign to the people who don’t live in a particular location. In my own writing I use the names of people I have known or worked with, but occasionally there are challenges. For example, finding a name for a Chinese character and having to understand how Chinese names are structured. Then there was the time when I needed a name for a character from Cephalonia in Greece. I picked a name and then discovered that most people from that island have particular name forms. The name I had chosen suggested that the family came from the other side of Greece. Not impossible, but I felt that it had to be changed. I renamed the character.
There are many Arabic and Farsi names in several of my books, and this too presents a challenge. How would I get hold of a Tehran telephone directory? When the writing involves a US (or Canadian) character, it seems to me that the meld of the population is so great that almost any name can be chosen without causing a problem –but the names still need to be chosen. I work mainly with online name site – there are plenty that people use to help name their babies. For example, Arabic Boys Names. That’s half the name. Then there is the surname – same approach.
To inject a bit of serendipity into the process I devised a way to do this using a competition and maybe raise interest in my books as a bonus. I certainly don’t claim I’m the first to do this.
Your name – is it threatening?
Let’s find out. Would you like your name to feature in my next novel? If so enter the draw now (ends 31 July 2017). It’s free to enter – you don’t have to buy soap powder or chocolate!
I’ll also give the winner a signed proof copy of the novel (publishing circa April 2018). The provisional title of the thriller book is ‘Red Sea Rising’.
As an added bonus you’ll get to choose whether you are a good or bad character – but I decide whether you live or die…