How do you choose the names of your fictional characters? How important is it to find the right name?
Ever since I started writing my science fiction novel Flight of the Kestrel: Intruders (and it’s a very long time), the Captain of the Kestrel was Joseph Martin. It’s a good strong name in my opinion, suitable for a Captain. And his friends call him Joe. (I was a bit disconcerted when a friend pointed out that there is a Christian singer called Martin Joseph, and that’s probably where the name got into my subconscious.)
Throughout the book, the crew of the Kestrel are referred to by their surnames, in military fashion. The trouble is, Martin is a Christian name too. When people started beta reading for me, they got confused. ‘I thought his name was Joseph?’ So Martin had to go.
It’s hard, because I’ve known this guy a long time. Joseph Martin is who he is. Could I still relate to him under another name? I tried Mason – Joseph Mason, like James Mason. Then I found out that Mason is now a Christian name too.
Finally in desperation I came up with the actor Paul Darrow [picture] , who famously played Avon in Blakes 7 , one of my favourite TV series, which is being revived, I’m pleased to say. I met him recently and bought his autobiography, which I really enjoyed. Avon was an unscrupulous fellow, but didn’t take any nonsense and usually came out on top.
The Captain of the Kestrel is definitely not unscrupulous – in fact, he is a stickler for the rules (at first), but he is a strong character like Avon. I’m still attached to the name Joseph, so for now, his name is Joseph Darrow. I’m rewriting the novel for NaNoWriMo in November, so we’ll see how the name fits.
How do you find names for your characters? I’d love to know.