How much time does a writer spend deciding on a character’s name? Is it as tough as naming a child? Did JK Rowling consider other names for Harry Potter? Claude? Or Marvin? Now that we know Harry, can we imagine him by any other name?
because an editor might change it anyway. For me, there’s more to it than that. If I want to do justice to a character’s story, I need to get inside his head, and the right name can make that easier.
In one of my historical fiction novels, my protagonist’s family history is integral to the plot. Her ancestors have lived in West Virginia since it was part of the Virginia colony. The family name had to be appropriate to the time and place. And I knew it would help my writing if the name evoked something in me.
The girl’s grandpa had a brother who died in battle, and Grandpa is a key character in the story. When I thought about Grandpa and his brother, I remembered a pair of brothers who lived nearby when I was a kid, Jimmy and Sammy Kent.
Jimmy was older, and Sammy followed him everywhere. Jimmy often tried to ditch Sammy, especially when girls were around. Once, as Jimmy hurried up the street, trying to outdistance his brother, Sammy fell and skinned his knee. Jimmy was beside his brother in an instant, comforting him. He took Sammy’s hand and led him home to take care of the injury. I didn’t know these brothers well, but that image remained with me.
It already served its purpose.
Kathy Cannon Wiechman