…might smell as sweet but wouldn’t sound nearly as lovely if it were called Cuthbert. In my opinion names matter. I just went out for a spot of lunch with my girlfriends B and P. We were at school together, and I think sharing egg sandwiches and walker salt n’ shake for ten years, creates a certain bond. Over a lunch of dim sum (not salt n’ shake crisps for us anymore, we’re grown ups now), I started blathering on about character names. How they matter to me. How I can’t see the character properly until I find the right name. I was talking away and they exchanged that look… ‘here she goes again…’ ‘Do I sound incredibly pretentious right now?’ I asked. ‘Have another prawn/leek/puffball/ thingy,’ said B.
It’s true. I’m not one of those writers who can talk elegantly about writing without sounding a bit foolish. But never mind, you can’t see me right now. And it’s true, I do spend many good hours fretting about names. I wrote several drafts of ‘Mr Rosenblum’, with my hero called Sam, rather than Jack. No wonder it wasn’t right. The novel clicked for me when I discovered Jack’s real name.
But, it’s not just characters, it’s places too. The right name for a village, a house, or even the piece of music. As writers we try to find the perfect verb or the precise shade of blue, so why would a name matter any less?