What's in a Character Name?

Lemony Snicket, Charlie Bucket, Simon Legree, Voldemort, Sherlock Holmes, Scarlett O’Hara, Huckleberry Finn, Ebenezer Scrooge…the list goes on and on. A character can leap off the page and onto the reader’s shoulder with the right name. The very names themselves burst with personality. How do writers conjure them? Often the name “pops” into one’s head (Corrie Locke jumped right in my head, first thing. I pictured a strong female who believes folding or caving in is not an option and who thrives on dangerous, risky situations). Other times names are carefully selected. I’m going to focus on the latter since there’s no accounting for the popping.

Names set the tone for the book. What if Scarlett had been Susan? Or Huckleberry had been Harry? It wouldn’t be the same. A sampling of the stories behind my namings:

Michael and James: These are the real life, middle names of my favorite men. I wanted classic, strong names for heroes that represented every man…if every man was smart, brave, hot, handy in the kitchen and at the beck and call of the heroine in their lives.

Veera Bankhead: In high school, a student had this unforgettable surname, which I’d mentally filed away. She’s Corrie’s sidekick and friend. Gwenaveera (Veera, for short) is a derivative of Guinevere and reminds me of a resourceful, driven, loyal, noble, virtuous woman, or so I imagined from the Arthurian tales. Veera is resourceful, loyal, noble and almost virtuous, so it was a perfect fit.

Druby: I met a cabinet maker named Druby, which I adopted for this book. The real Druby was talented, handy, and popular, kind of like the fictional character. Hence, the victim in my story was born with a simple, different, yet memorable name.

Paprika: This character’s original name was Kristy, but was changed in a late draft because I felt it was too close to “Corrie,” not to mention mediocre and dull, unworthy of a volatile, unpredictable, and manipulative character. And a spicy one as well.

Clayton Pott: One afternoon, I drove home with a large ornamental clay pot in the passenger seat. I thought, “Look at you, so pretty on the outside, but empty on the inside. It’s all about looks, isn’t it? You shallow, self-absorbed, dirt bag.” The conversation continued in this manner. And Clay Pott was born.

The Two Minute Interview: Author R.W. Wallace

I’m very pleased to welcome author R.W. Wallace to talk about her latest release, THE RED BRICK CELLARS: A TOLOSA MYSTERY

Lida: Hello R.W. Tell us a bit about yourself.

R.W.: I’m a Norwegian who lives in France and writes in English. I usually say I’m linguistically confused, except I’m not, really. Family is in Norwegian, everyday life is in French, and reading and writing is in English. Simple!

Lida: It makes perfect sense to me. What’s your book about?

R.W.: A murdered mayor. A second body reduced to skeleton and dust. The public display so horrific that the police are baffled.

Everyone assumes uninterested heir Louis Saint-Blancat will finally settle down and focus on the politics of Toulouse, France. Louis becomes the center of attention in the press while his mother and sister pressure him to follow the family’s political tradition when all he wants is to track down his father’s killer, then return to his globe-trotting lifestyle.

Determined to ferret out the story behind the perplexing assassination that took place at the very center of Toulouse to advance her career, struggling English journalist Catherine Marty finds an unlikely ally in Louis.

Will the two sleuths discover what is lurking beneath the apparent congeniality of la Ville Rose?

Lida: I certainly want to know what’s lurking! How did you come to write this book?

R.W.: Deciding that I’d set the story in my hometown, Toulouse, France, really got my creative juices going. Instead of having a bland setting with no particularities, I suddenly thought of all these awesome places I wanted to take my readers. I found several anecdotes regarding an ancient church in the city center (today only the bell tower and part of an entry arch are left standing), which made me decide to have the climax of the story right there. I just had to figure out why anyone would go there, and work my way backward.
The two protagonists actually came from a comment made by Jennifer Crusie on her blog. She claimed that “everyone wants to write a Cinderella story.” I didn’t really agree, but all of a sudden my mind started wondering how I would write such a story. So my story starts out with a ball (ahem, funeral), a prince (well, son of the mayor), and a poor girl (sorry, woman, who is low on funds because of a pending divorce). It’s not a love story, though; the mystery took over from chapter one.

Lida: I like your turn on “a Cinderella story.” Do you have a favorite character?

R.W.: Probably Louis. Physically, I based him on several guys I find attractive (and when I named him, he suddenly looked kind of like the French actor Louis Garrel) and some of his characteristics are inspired by my boyfriend – like being able to bring everything back to soccer. So what’s not to like?

Lida: Isn’t that funny how sometimes small traits of loved ones wind their way into our books. Why should I (or any reader) read your lovely creation?

R.W: In addition to being a murder mystery, The Red Brick Cellars is also something of a travel log for Toulouse. If you’re curious about France and want to see something different that Paris (don’t get me wrong, Paris is great, but France has so much more to offer), my novel should give you an insight into this laid-back city that pretends to be a small village despite its almost one million inhabitants.

Lida: I want to know more. Sounds like an exciting read, R.W. Thanks so much for joining me and sharing the juicy details of your new book!

Author bio:
R.W. Wallace grew up in Norway, but has lived almost half her life in South-Western France. Since books were always more enjoyable in English, that is the language she chose for writing. Fascinated with Toulouse and its history, it became the natural setting and inspiration for her stories.
She divides her time between a busy city life in Toulouse and a laidback country setting at the foot of the Pyrénées with her better half and two miniature versions of herself.

Book Buy Links: AMAZON

To learn more about R.W. Wallace, please visit her website.

Don't Be A Fool. Be A Writer!

I’ll come right out and say it – sometimes I feel depressed. Not a deep, droopy, dull-eyed, “what’s to become of me” despondency, but the more shallow sort, lurking on the surface. This is what happens when I shift into slacker mode and stop writing. I do write fairly consistently. But what’s sent me into this dip is that I’ve yet to finish my second book. It should have been done by now. I’m halfway there. The manuscript sits in my full view daily; I’m not blind (only very near-sighted), yet I choose to ignore it. All I have to do is complete it, take the pages, clean them up, give them a scrub, and polish them till they glitter. But I don’t.

Could I have indolenza? You know, that affliction that combines laziness and indolence, meaning my teacup is full, and I lack the drive to look for more (excuse me, while I give my fingers a rest from typing).

It’s no fun to stand still. As my heroine says in my novel, “We’re not here for compromise or small victories. We’re here for complete victory.” For the win.

Many people, including experts, have trouble following their own advice. Is not one’s greatest enemy oneself (or at least one’s thoughts)? Did Dr. Wayne Dyer ever want to beat the heck out of anyone? I think so. I can read between the lines. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of Dr. Dyer’s, but I think we fall off the wagon sometimes, and it’s not always easy to chase the rickety thing down and leap back inside, especially while it’s moving.

What’s preventing me from completing my book, you might ask? Well, there’s the windowsill in the kitchen that hasn’t been dusted all week. And I haven’t written a thank you note to Geico for the insurance information they send me each and every month. But ultimately, I think it’s some sort of a fear. A ridiculous, ludicrous, nonsensical fear of what will I do once it’s done? Or what if I do a half-cocked job? Or what if I fail? Or (insert your own convenient “what if”)?

When I find I’m hiding beneath my excuses instead of standing atop the pile, I know I need help. I try to find another writer and discuss what ails me. Last night, I found my friend whose third book is coming out any minute, and who exudes motivation and gives a natural boost to all in her presence.

May I suggest that if you find yourself dragging in any undertaking, grab someone who embodies the attitude you should have and tell him/her how you feel. Talking it over may give you the direction you need and the motivation to do what you should.

At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires for your success ~ Goethe