Tag Archives: writing

Naming a Character

BLAMED Small-promoWith my feet propped up on my desk, and a legal pad in my lap, I study the list I’ve written on it. The creak of crutches behind me expels a sigh from me. “Do you have to do that?”

“Hey, you said I’d be on crutches all through the story, so I thought I’d practice,” the character in my upcoming airline thriller, Blamed, said.

I go back to contemplating the list.

“You know, it’d be easier to pace on these if that dog wasn’t lying in the middle of the floor.”

My faithful friend, Hunter, lays nearby as he always does when I’m at my desk. “Get used to it. You’ll have a golden retriever in the story.”

“Really? Cool. I like dogs. Have you named it? Or is it nameless like me?”

“Casey.”

He tests speaking the name. “Casey. All right. That works. So what are you thinking for me? Since I’m a pilot, it should be something distinguishing. Like… Buck Teager.”

I shake my head. “That’s too close to Chuck Yeager. Besides, your first name will be Bill. It’s the last name I’m having trouble with.”

Bill stops his pacing. “Bill. Okay. That works. But why Bill? Seems pretty common.”

“I’m using my late brother in-law’s name. He too was a pilot.”

“Bill it is. Let’s test out what you’ve thought of. Run them by me.”

Luckily, no one is home to hear me having this conversation, or I’d probably be locked up in a mental ward. But I’m sure every novelist would understand letting a character assist with choosing their name.

“Here’s what I’ve thought.” I hold the pad up. “Kopp.”

Bill scrunches up his nose. “Kopp? Bill Kopp? Think about it. In the story I’m in an airliner accident. Won’t people think I should have kopped to it?”

“Yeah, you’re right.” I run a line through the name. “How about Wilde?”

An eyebrow is lifted. “Isn’t an airline pilot supposed to be a buttoned-down rational person? Not a wild Bill?”

“Good point.” Another name gets crossed off. “Wilbur. No, forget that one. One of the Wright brothers was named that. Butler.”

“Bill Butler. Who probably would have the nickname, BB. Seriously?”

“Hadn’t thought of that. Then I can scratch off Bower too. Hunter.”

“Your dog’s name? Wow, your imagination is amazing.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“How about Egan?”

“Egan? Bill Egan.” Bill looks like he’s tasted something bad. “I suppose, if you’re really set on it.”

“Fine. You come up with one.”

“Let’s see.” He resumes pacing with the crutches. “Mid-fifties. Pilot. Do I have a sense of humor?”

“Yeah.”

He stops and smiles. “Kurt.”

“Like James T. Kirk?” I shake my head.

“No, Kurt. K-U-R-T. But the similarity could be a joke. Since I’m an airline captain, my rank and name probably will be spoken a bunch of times throughout the book. Captain Kurt. It could be a little joke.” Bill lights up. “Hey, I could even say in the story at some point that my mission is to boldly go where no airline has gone before.”

I chuckle. “If that thought was interjected during a serious moment, it might give some levity to the scene.”

He’d nodding. “See. It’s a good choice.”

“Yeah, but… Kurt is too close to Kirk. How about Kurz?”

With his hands held in front of him like he’s making a frame, he says, “Bill Kurz.” He gives a nod. “Not bad. Close to Kirk so the line will work, but still unusual. Works for me.”

“Bill Kurz it is.”

“Am I married?”

I type Kurz on my list of character’s names. “Yeah.”

“What’s my wife’s name?”

“That’ll be a possible topic for another blog.”

If you want to read what Bill’s experienced in Blamed, it will be published in December 2016.

Writers, do you have these same conversations with your characters?

Charlie’s Story Improvement

ImageCharlie here, I’m Dana’s other dog. Recently while he was away on a trip I pawed through one of his novels and had to shake my head. Not the ear flapping shake I give it when I wake from a nap, but a slower one. There isn’t a single mention of a dog in the story. After living for years with Hunter and me you’d think he’d know how much better a dog can make a story.

Here’s a short passage from one of his stories. Afterward I’ll show how much better it could be if he’d put a faithful four-legged companion in the story.

A movement outside the glass doors leading out to the pool caught Kyle’s eye. He stared, but didn’t see anything. Was he seeing things because he’d had a long day?

When he flipped the switch for the lights out back, blackness greeted him. Had the circuit breaker popped? A kid in the neighborhood might’ve sneaked over to use the pool and unscrewed the bulbs. That had happened once before.

He swung the door open and stepped out. Before he was fully through the door, he sensed more than saw movement coming at his head from the side. His Kung Fu trained reflexes took over. He leaned back, letting the punch fly past him, and latched onto the attacker’s arm.

He lurched forward, twisted, used the arm as a lever, and propelled the guy to his knees.

He kicked the extended arm hard enough to cause pain but not break it. If it was the neighbor kid, he only wanted to teach him a lesson, not cripple him.

The arm belonged to a black-clad man who wore a ski mask. The guy cried out.

Clothing rustled behind Kyle. He spun and landed a heel kick into another masked guy’s stomach.

Attacker Two let out an “Oomph” but grabbed Kyle’s leg.

Kyle launched a palm strike at the man’s throat. Before he connected, Attacker Two touched his leg with a device.

There was a flash of blue light and pain raced through his body. Kyle yelled and crashed to the patio, twitching with seizure-like spasms. His limbs seemed to have a mind of their own.

As if from a distant place, he heard Attacker Two asking One if he was okay.

“Fucker might’ve broken my arm.” Attacker Two grabbed Kyle’s ankles and dragged him towards the pool.

Kyle’s shirt rolled up. The concrete tore into his skin. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. The majority of his twitching had subsided, but he was powerless to squirm away. He lay quivering at the pools edge.

Assailant Two leaned down. “Stay away from Stacy Herren. If we find out you’ve talked or met with her, your next warning won’t be as gentle.” His gravelly voice suggested he was a heavy smoker.

He rolled Kyle into the pool.

Now see how much better this scene would be if he’d included a one-hundred-plus-pounder like me.

Charlie began to growl before movement outside the glass doors leading out to the pool caught Kyle’s eye. He stared, but didn’t see anything. Was he seeing things because he’d had a long day? No. Charlie didn’t get riled easily.

When he flipped the switch for the lights out back, blackness greeted him. Had the circuit breaker popped? A kid in the neighborhood might’ve sneaked over to use the pool and unscrewed the bulbs. That had happened once before and Charlie had chased him off.

He swung the door open and before he could step out, Charlie bolted barking with that deep bark that would scare off the jackals from hell.

“Ahh,” a man yelled out.

Charlie had clamped in his teeth the hand of a figure clad in black. Faithful loyal Charlie gave the hand a vigorous shake.

“Get him off me! Get him off me!”

Charlie must’ve smelled someone else as he let go and turned to sink his teeth into the wrist of another man. An object fell from his hand and clattered on the patio.

Kyle picked it up and touched it to neck of the first guy Charlie had taken out.

A flash of blue light lit up the night accompanied by a buzzing noise before the guy fell to the ground and lay quivering.

Kyle twisted and touched the second man with the device. He also collapsed.

“That’s enough, boy,” Kyle said giving Charlie a pat.

Charlie let go and looked up into his master’s eyes.

“What would I have done without you, big boy?”

If you think the second scene is better than the first, let Dana know. Maybe he’ll start putting one of my brethren in his stories.