One huge advantage to having a BRAND NEW LAPTOP (Thanks, Mom!) is the increased ability to work on my books. My favorite thing to do in my spare time is to shape characters and advance storylines.
I almost always base my characters on real people, using their actual names, until I can come up with replacement names. Finding replacement names has frequently been a hard thing for me. I’ve identified so strongly with the characters by that time; it feels wrong to change their name.
In some ways, it’s easier when a character is pure fiction. Recently, I created a personal servant for one of my main characters. She’s a young girl, about 14 years old, and is unusually mature for her age. Her name came to me in an instant. She arrived fully formed and named in my mind.
I remember when I was first working on Gangland. My main character was based on Larry, my cousin’s friend from middle school. He was an imposing character, a tall and muscled African-American.
When my friend Carleen (and impromptu editor) read over my character list, she said, “You cannot name this guy ‘Larry.’ Everyone is going to think of ‘Larry the Cable Guy,’ and picture some redneck driving a pick-up truck. His name has to be strong. It has to inspire fear.”
I agreed I couldn’t name him Larry, but I fought for Lawrence. She thinks I need to keep looking.
My latest project has brought another round of name changing. Currently, I’m searching for a name that can also be used as a title. In the story, a young man has just come to power as the dictator of a large region. Only a select few will use his given name. The rest of the world will refer to him as…
I wanted to stay away from anything so cliqued as King So-and-so, and since this is set in the future, I also wanted to introduce new groups and titles. So, I looked up baby names that include “king” in the meaning.
Does anyone have a preference? I need input. Arkin makes me think of Adam and Alan Arkin, both good actors, but neither quite young or kingly. Basileus and Boldizsar both sound commanding and different, but I fear may be too Lord of the Rings-ish. I was drawn to Kyser, but immediately thought of Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects.
If it helps, this young dictator is 19-22 years of age, medium height, with dark hair and brown eyes. He’s muscular in a lean and healthy way and has the charisma of a natural leader, with hidden facets of youthful anxiety and mischief.
The last time I asked for advice, I got a great new name – Kole – for one tough character. So I thought maybe lightning could strike twice.
* photo is of actor Wes Bentley