Paula thinks about the names for her supporting and minor characters.
Most writers take care when naming their two main
characters, and we all have our own methods, whether that involves studying
lists of baby names popular in the decade our characters were born or
choosing names with ‘significant’ meanings. I don’t actually have much
difficulty choosing my heroes’ and heroines’ names. As soon as I start thinking
about a story, their names seem to appear out of nowhere.
I’ve discovered that choosing the names of my secondary
characters often leads to more brain-searching than the main ones. This was definitely
the case when I was writing my novel set in Egypt. I wished I’d written down
all the names of the crew members on our cruise ship, or the staff at our Luxor
hotel. Lists of Egyptian baby names produced names of ancient gods and
goddesses, as well as more modern names. In the end, I found Egyptian
newspapers online, and looked at the names of the reporters or correspondents.
Similarly, when needing Irish names for ‘Irish Inheritance’,
I had to tread a fine line between the ‘obvious’ Irish names of Paddy and Mick,
and the names that sound nothing like they’re spelt (e.g. Caoimhe - pronounced
Kee-va). In the end, I went for middle-of-the-road names like Daniel, Eve, and
My heroines usually have a ‘best’ friend in whom they can
confide, and for these I quite often use the first name that comes into my head. That was
certainly the case when I had my heroine mention her friend on the second page
of ‘Irish Inheritance’: Maybe Charley
would lend her the money for a quick trip to Dublin. At the time, even I
didn’t know whether Charley was male or female (and neither did the hero until later
in the story).
Now, however, I’m writing a new story with Charley as the
heroine (yes, she is female, Charley is the nickname for Charlotte). When my
editor suggested a spin-off story about Charley, my first reaction, was that I
didn’t really want a heroine called Charley, but by then it was too late to
change her name in ‘Irish Inheritance’, so I was stuck with it. Having said
that, I’ve now become used to Charley as my heroine – and couldn’t conceive of
her being called anything different.
The other friends in ‘Irish Inheritance’, Liz and Maria,
have also reappeared in this new story. Again, those were names that jumped
into my head and, as they were only minor characters, I didn’t give them much more
thought. They are not names I would normally think of giving to one of my
heroines, but if I eventually decide on another spin-off Irish story, one of
them might become my new heroine. After all, a likeable young taxi driver has
just appeared in the story and the hero has addressed him as ‘Ben’ – so who
I’ve now made a mental note to myself: Choose your secondary characters’ names carefully because you never know if you will eventually write another
story about one (or more) of them.