I am 32,000 words into a very rough first draft of Tolliver 3. New people are showing up in a different part of British East Africa than I have written about before: 1913 in Nakuru, where, in my story, the administration is about to move several Maasai villages out of the area to make way for European settlers who are pouring into the country.
Needless to say, I need to come up with names for my new imaginary friends. I like this part of figuring out a story. Naming decisions in some ways dictates the details of a character's behavior and personality.
My friend Rabbi Michael Levy once told me that in Jewish tradition, parents are given a moment of prophesy when they choose a name for their child. Do you think it's true, that what name a person carries influences who they turn out to be? I do.
And I think this is true of fictional characters as well. Once we name them, what we name them has an effect on what they do once they start moving about on their own.
Think about the names of archetypal characters. Would Lizzy Bennet seem like the same person if Jane Austen had named her Felicity Fairweather.
And Mr. Darcy? Suppose instead of Fitzwilliam Darcy, he had been called George Bacon.
Hannibal Lecter! What a perfect name! A cannibal named Rufus Jones would have been an unlikely candidate for the most memorable fictional villain of the 20th century.
Would we be as frightened of Moriarity if his name had been Mulligan?
Most of my new folks are missionaries, administrators, and Maasai tribesmen and women. My administrators have the real names of men who served in the Protectorate, unless my fictional version of them is despicable, in which case I make up a name. The missionaries, a Brit and an American woman, have made up names, although they are based loosely on historical characters. The Maasai are all figments of my imagination. Giving them names is easier now than it would have been before the Internet. There are websites that list Maasai girls and boys names, or Finnish or Tibetan ones for that matter. Easy to look up. Then, comes the choice. Since mine are characters who will be introduced to American readers, their names have to be pronounceable so they can be remembered. Many Maasai girl's names are mellifluous, but look like this example on the page: -Naisianoi. A few that I found were viable candidates, like Simu, Tigisi, and Pion. I eliminated the last one because to Americans, it sounds like an English verb and preposition. We wouldn't want that.
|Simu and Tigisi? Or Tigisi and Simu?|
So Simu and Tigisi they are. I look forward to finding out what kinds of people they will turn out to be.
Annamaria - Monday