I do a lot of research for the MIE blog. This week’s has been awful; I had to sit down with three friends drinking latte and eating huge slices of lemon and lime marble cheesecake.
I hope you appreciate the depth of my endeavour and the way I suffer for my art.
Backstory- At the moment I am auctioning off a character’s name for the Clic Sergeant charity to help children with cancer.
A nice enough thing to do, but it can be fraught with all kinds of difficulty because, for me anyway, the name has to fit the character. So I don’t know which character is going to be renamed. I can’t leave a character blank and write them in called ‘anon’ then just stick the name in, in case the name is not a good fit. It needs to fit. A name says so much more than just the label for that character. It has to suit the character, like a well chosen hat.
Confused? Well, what do these hats say about these guys??
There are some stereotypes that the reader feels comfortable with. Sometime, in a complicated story, it’s better to name within some ‘boundaries’.
In Scotland we have a weird class of society who wear tracksuits but never go to the gym. They tend to have tattoos and pit bulls. Some have tattooed pit bulls. And spiky hair. They are typified by a banner my lawyer friend saw hanging out a window, it said ‘Happy Thirtieth Birthday Granny!’
Their children will be called Nike, Luca, Princess, Pocohontas, Chantelle, Savannnah, Tyrone, Jasmin. The infamous Yehudi McEwan is an example of this.
Folk with a bit more money are doing the Olivia, Andrew, Niven, Owen, Elizabeth, Jessica thing at the moment. Trendy folk will call their kids anything but spell it the Gaelic way sentencing their kids to a lifetime of spelling it out. True Gaelic speakers are called Donalda (daughter of Donald), Hectorina (daughter of Hector) etc. The ‘Ina’ is pronounced as in line.
I have no idea where Chinaide came from. The person came from Dundee but I have idea where the spelling came from.
Folk with loads of money are still with Findlay, Angus, Douglas, Callum, Alistair for their kids.
Here a stripper called Gladys would not sound right unless she is Welsh. Effie is a cleaner, not a neuro surgeon. Mavis would be over 60. Colins make good librarians.
Did that help? No.
It depends on where you are in the world of course as to whether a name is common place or exotic but it does matter to the story. My cop, Vik Mulholland is spelled that way just to remind readers he has a Russian mother. Which came in very handy in book four but there has been that wee reminder there since book one.
The last time I auctioned a name off, it was bought by a lawyer. I then had to write a sex scene for the character. I emailed him to make sure he was ok with that and explained that the sex scene was very short. He emailed me back and told me that any sex scene with him involved would be very long indeed, many pages, 50 shades indeed.
So I killed him.
When I do workshops I put a name in front of the class and get them to list what the name suggests. For this blog I got three friends together and asked them to describe the person that went along with the names of my fellow bloggers. The friends were female, two are sane and the other is a beauty therapist (BT). They all read, but not crime fiction so had no idea who they were talking about. I have just listed their comments as I jotted them down. Some of it is uncanny. Some of it was unprintable.
The other Ramsay....
Caro Ramsay; They know me of course. Nobody is actually called Caro. You just chopped your name in half. And the Ramsays were a load of sheep stealing murderers. The blonde ones swear a lot.
Verdict; No great fictional depth to any of that
Zoe Sharp; Young? Sounds dangerous? Bright. I mean Zoe Blunt would be quite different, wouldn’t she. She sounds about 12. Is she a snow boarder? If not, she should be. BT thought she was a fashion designer, edgy, size 6. But all agree, she’s a Brit.
Verdict; precocious, very thin fashion designer who designs winter sports gear.
Lisa Brackmann; BT- did she not sing ‘self control’ (Laura Brannigan?). She’s an American? Downhill skier? Swimmer, something athletic. Yeah, if she’s a librarian or a secretary or something she’s only doing that because she’s a spy. Way too young to be mumsy. All Lisa’a are young. Tall, slender, long black hair. Cindy Crawford.
Verdict; supermodel discovered in a library and models swim wear for Zoe above.
Stanely Trollip being 'nicked'?
Stanley Trollip; A real cockney geezer. Probably in the Sweeny. He’d say ‘watch it guvner’ a lot. Lovable rogue.
The other one disagreed. Stanley to her was wearing flannels, a brown suit, hiding in a courtyard at Oxbridge with some kind of secret formula. He’d be really intelligent but might not manage to tie his shoe laces properly. He’d be there in the 1930’s, in the golden age. But English for definite.
Verdict; Stanley Trollip belongs in The 39 steps.
Yrsa Sigurdardottir; She must be Lithuanian (BT). Supermodel. Sexy smouldering. Swedish blonde, (??) Or is that an Icelandic name? She could be something to do with volcanoes. Or fish. She could wear a white coat and hold a clipboard, letting her hair tumble down at the right moment. A love interest for defo. Big blockbuster American film…. She’ll be stopping a meteor in her lunch hour saving the planet from destruction. While having an affair with Michael Fassbender. (BT- she has a thing about Fassbender.)
Verdict; Hollywood’s next big thing!
Saving a planet from an Icelandic meteor??
Annamaria Alfieri. (BT thought she was at school with Annamaria, her dad owned a café on the Govan road) but the other two are now well in the swing of it. Mafia moll! Voluptuous, dangerous, probably has a stiletto knife down her stocking top. Or an Opera singer, does Tosca. She lives in the foothills of Rome to protect her voice. She will have lots of wee dogs that have ribbons in their hair. Handsome young men run about after her. She’ll have a lot of tantrums.
Verdict; an opera singer in trouble with the mob who throws herself off the tower in Tosca and somebody has sabotaged the landing. Colin Dexter will write a book about it, Morse will solve the crime. The music to the film will be fab!
ls he pulling her hair?
Jeff Siger. (BT)Did he sing Hollywood nights? An incredibly handsome young man, square jawed defo American. Actor. He’s cleaning tables waiting to be discovered. Been known to sing hits from the musicals in the kitchen when they are quiet. The other girl didn’t agree, thought he sounded more like a naturalist. Thought he would spend his time elbow deep in rhino dung while whispering at the camera so as not to disturb his subjects.
Verdict- Johnny Depp lookalike - he can be in the film with Yrsa. Looking at strange dung on the meteor and save the planet too. And the rhino’s.
Michael Sears; Has loads of money. Old money. ‘Mickey’ Sears has money but is younger. Both wear handmade shoes. Very tastefully cut suits. Cufflinks. He’d take you out and treat you to a nice dinner. He knows how to use cutlery. He’ll have his own jet (a Sears jet no doubt). Nothing flashy about him, all very understated money. Both my pals would like to meet ‘Michael’. BT is already googling him on her phone.
Verdict- A bit like the Ewings of Dallas but smaller shoulder pads.
The Sears Family annual lapel competition
Cara Black - Exotic dancer. Must be. Something fiery about her. Or a romantic heroine who struts around in a crinoline getting stroppy. She will have a Spanish or Latin American father. Or might be a very beautiful gypsy girl who looks after the horses. She will enchant the landowner and marry him against all odds. ( She reads Mills and Boon I think!)
Verdict- Catherine Zeta Jones in Zorro?
The chin hold. Three submissions or a knock out.
No comebacks! Remember I might come and steal your sheep…
"Caro Ramsay" 07 03 2014 GB