Saturday, 9 February 2013

Naming the nameless.

It’s easier to tell a story if your characters have names.

 There were two alternatives for naming the Neanderthal people in SONG HUNTER: I could either use meaningless words like Kalgot, Bonzol or Smutch; or I could name the people after things they found around them in their valley.

 I decided to do the latter, and to make it easier for my readers to keep track of who is who I decided on to split the names very obviously between the women and the men. The men I named after animals: Elk, Bear, Lynx, and the outsider Seal. That was easy.

 The women had to be named after something else - but the trouble was that they don’t really have much else. There is grass and reeds and a few low shrubby trees.

 Stars, the sun, the sky, the clouds. Shadows. Ice. Snow. Rocks.

Plenty of rocks.

 Pebbles has already been taken as a name for a stoneage little girl; and Boulder, Flint, Quartz and Gravel don’t sound much like girls. But there are prettier stones that my people might have come across: Pearl, Mica, Amber, Garnet.

 Once I had their names they began to speak to me.


  1. How lovely! And how true. You cannot do anything without naming odd fact in itself. And often when you've named someone, they come to life instantly. Dickens (I know what you think of him) did half the work of characterisation through his names...

  2. Yes, and one does still use the Dickens system on some sort of level.

    Of Garnet and Amber, for instance, it's quite obvious which is the kind one an which the shrew.