Names Have Been On My Mind…
Because last Friday afternoon, my publisher posted a Fan Page for The Heights on Facebook. Since I’m not a member of Facebook, I didn’t know much about how it all works. I wasn’t ready for what followed. People from my Iowa past, my North Carolina School of the Arts past, and those early New York City years, have resurfaced and posted kind words on the “Wall”.
Seeing so many familiar names and faces has kicked up lots of memories. It’s also made writing a little difficult these last few days.
Recently Jeanne Struck became a fan of The Heights. Well, I’ve been a fan of Jeanne Struck since I was five.
Jeanne Struck is the mother of Dan Struck, who was one of my best childhood friends. The Struck family was one of the great West Des Moines families: Three boys, three girls, fantastic parents. They were the Brady Bunch without Alice. In elementary school, Dan and I were inseparable. A football star in high school, Dan Struck married Darcy Kruger, his high school sweetheart. I am a BIG FAN of the Struck family.
Here’s Where It Gets Complicated.
The name Struck is also great for fiction. It’s a vivid name and it’s a verb. It also turned out to be the perfect last name for Mitchell Struck, a minor character who appears on page 23 of my new novel, The Heights. Believe me, Mitchell may have the same last name, but he is no relation.
In high school, I was a member of the Baker’s Dozen mime troupe, where we wore black tights, white bibs with colorful bow ties, and mime make-up. If we were rock stars, Brian VandeVenter was our Mick Jagger. But he is nothing like Dr. Milicent Vandeventer, the nasty headmistress of the Montague Academy, who readers will meet on page 39. Brian and Millicent only share a last name.
This holds true for another great mime – Scott Fabritz. He is no relation to Frida Fabritz, a desperate real-estate agent, who first appears on page 8. Or Leslie Hosford, who out sang me in the choir. She’s not the basis for the social-climbing Abigail Hosford…
And There Are Others.
Sometimes I’ll use a real name for inspiration and then change the name later. For instance, Gilbert Grape’s original name was Gary Gilbreath, named after a fourth-grade friend who moved away.
Finding the right name for a character is one of the most important and pleasurable parts of writing. More often than not, when the name clicks, everything else starts to fall into place.