When I’m writing stories and I introduce a new character, one of the things I find hardest is matching a name to the face that’s in my head. With Bronwyn, for example, I hunted through literally thousands on baby name websites, and it was only after about three weeks of forcing her to use Wyn that it began to fit her at all. I had a lot of trouble with her. She was a difficult character.
Some characters, on the other hand, come straight into my head with a name. How do I think of names?
Well, Jennie was always Jennie. I invented her so long ago that I can’t remember how I came across the name, or why I decided to use the ‘ie’ spelling (and yes, it is short for Jennifer, but nobody ever uses that). She didn’t have a surname until I needed her sister to have one for effect, however – then she posthumously became Jennie Hatton.
Alys, her younger sister, had her name stolen from a previous story I’d written. I loved the name Alice, but was also going through a Welsh phase (umm, that hasn’t passed, two years later), so I chose the alternate spelling. A few people have difficulty pronouncing it so I put a note at the front saying that it’s just like Alice!
She wasn’t the only one whose name I stole – Alex was my favourite name for male characters at the time. He used to be Alex Thompson, although the surname is only used once in the entire book, but in the most recent draft I changed it to Robson as a tribute to a friend ;) In my head, he is the Alex Kian Robson who haunted so many of my other stories, but the Kian is never mentioned. Just as well, as one of my other characters calls their violin Kian and it would be confusing to have multiple Kians in there.
The Dagda was named after an Irish legend, so that wasn’t hard at all. Lenna was the name of someone I sat next to on an orchestra course, and I really liked the name. Mel seemed perfect for an adrenalin junkie; Irial was an old name, possibly Irish (I can’t remember now), that I liked; Leah was originally Leia but I changed it when I realised that made her Princess Leia; Cormac was ideal for the fairy minder… and so on. Once you find the right name, it sticks. That’s what I’ve found with every one of my characters except Bronwyn :)
I did have one character who changed his name in the second draft. Originally he was called Scar, or at least he called himself that. Fairies don’t give out their true names, and for a boatman with a massive scar on his face it was a good nickname, but it just felt too clichéd and fantasy-ish, so I changed it. He’s now called Gerraid, which is actually similar to one of the Old Irish verbs meaning ‘to cut’. Don’t even ask how I know that.
I’ve also been working on the ‘faces’ thing. I know some people who look like a few of my characters, but it’s not easy. And so, without further ado, I present to you …
More sketches to come soon, when I next feel like presenting my incredibly bad drawing skills to the world…