Monday, June 28, 2010

When One Thing Leads To Another

Before releasing the moniker Cash Laramie into the wonderful world of fiction, I Googled the name to make sure the it hadn't already been taken, and, outside of Six Ways To Make Cash fast in Laramie, WY, I found I was free to use it. Later, after the first Cash Laramie tale had been published, I ran across several interesting links for Cash's partner Gideon Miles. Which brings me next to "The Sins of Maynard Shipley," my latest piece of crime fiction for the upcoming issue of NEEDLE. I dug the old-fashioned sound of the name, but, as you can tell by the story title, Maynard is not the finest of folks. As a matter of fact, he's downright evil but I'm digressing. After I sent editor Steve Weddle the story I came across the OAC site with the following:

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 1, 1872, Maynard Shipley was educated at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. A self-taught musician, Shipley gave music lessons to pay his way through college. At Stanford he specialized in the study of science and became a writer and lecturer on scientific subjects. For twenty years he lectured on astronomy and evolution, both on the platform and over the radio. In 1898 he founded the Academy of Science in Seattle, Washington and later became its second president. During the 1920s Shipley took an active part in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, lecturing and debating on the side of science and liberalism. In 1924 he founded the Science League of America Inc., a national association to protect freedom in teaching and to resist attempts to unite church and state in the United States. Shipley wrote The War on Modern Science (1927), The Key to Evolution (1929), and was the author of thirty-three "Little Blue Books" on scientific subjects as well as numerous articles on science and criminology. He married Miriam Allen de Ford, a writer, in 1921. Shipley died in June 1934.
While this non-fiction Maynard Shipley sounds like someone I would have like to have known as a very productive member of society (sidebar: Ms. de Ford is interesting in her own right), my fictional Maynard is the polar opposite: self-centered with a penchant for killing the geezers at the Witherbee Assisted Living Center.

I'll let you know as soon as the next NEEDLE issue is out. But, for now, my question is for all you writers. No matter how small the character is in your story do you research a name or say the hell with it?

17 comments:

Chris said...

I can't recall every having researched a name before, honestly. All I know is names are the hardest part of the process to me. That and the title.

David Cranmer said...

Names come fairly easy for me but my wife looks over my shoulder and says "Nah, gotta change that." And usually she's right.

Scott Parker said...

When it comes time for me to choose a name, it's usually when I'm in the act of creating or brainstorming. If an actual name doesn't jump out at me, I use a placeholder. "The Prisoner." "Carter's Dad." "The Brother." Other times, I scan my bookshelves and put two names together.

Ron Scheer said...

When I have written fiction, names pop out like they've been waiting in line. BUT I stick only with single names, a first name, a surname, or one that could go either way. So there's no need to do a google search.

However, putting together a complete name (first+last) is next to impossible.

G said...

The furthest I've done research for names was to go to my library and read about a half dozen baby books looking for an appropriate first name for a couple characters to a few incomplete stories.

Beyound that, if I do make a first and last name, I try not to combine names that may lead to a real person.

David Cranmer said...

Scott, Whenever I hear an interesting name I write it in my notebook. I usually piece full names together that way. And I always use placeholders. Currently Cash rides into a town populated by Matt Drudge and Arianna Huffington.

Ron, I mean finding a completely original name is impossible. One of my current characters Dr. Robert Berlin (a scientist) is everywhere in a Google search but the name hasn't risen to Einstein or Oppenheimer level.

G, Baby books is a good idea but those same names can be found now online. Off subject: I find it interesting that the name John and Mary were the most popular names throughout most of the 19th century leading into the 20th and then other monikers found prominence. I mean were people without originality or were they generally happy with these common names?

sandra seamans said...

I usually make up names, though I do research if it reminds me of a character name from a book. And I don't start a story unless I have the character's name, it tends to make them more real.

I made up a "mob" name and a social club once and had a gentleman contact me to ask where the club was located as it was his family name and he was researching his family tree!

Then of course there are the "fun" names. I had a character who was going to be a pain in the butt so I named him Carbuncle Moon.

David Cranmer said...

Ha. Carbuncle Moon. That serves him right for being difficult:)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes one, sometimes the other. In the recent WIP, I've changed the names three times of the two major characters. I just needed to send the right message.

David Cranmer said...

Once I name a character I hate switching which is bad-and where my wife steps in.

ARCHAVIST said...

I say to hell with it but I just Googled Delta Rose (my 2011 Black Horse western) and found there is a rock band with the same name. Never mind.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

As a matter of fact, it's never even occurred to me to research a name. Now I'm thinking maybe I should. The real Maynard does sound like quite an interesting character.

As to your suggestion for me--I wouldn't call that a problem--and I think it just might work! :)
Thank you!

Oscar said...

If a name doesn't pop in to my brain, I pull out my ancestry book and take a first name and a last name from different individuals. With 10 billion people living, not counting those who have passed on, you're bound to use someone's name, is my way of looking at it.

David Cranmer said...

Archavist, Maybe you can sign books on their next tour? (very lame joke and I immediately apologize)

Alyssa, Ah, I'm glad Katherine could work. Super.

Oscar, I agree but you also don't want to find out, after your book has come out, John Garfield or Piper Laurie sounds familiar for a good reason.

G said...

While yes, baby names can be found online, I enjoy perusing the library stacks, mostly because one thing does lead into another and I found a couple other books on various types of mythology that helped me in the long run with a couple of others.

As for the off topic, I think it was a little of both. Back then, originality was probably naming your kid after someone in the bible, and happiness was simply having a kid.

However, John and Mary became instant fodder for cartoons and comedians in the 50's and 60's (like Stan Freberg with his "John & Marsha" bit).

Sorry about that last bit, it cropped up in my head while I was composing this comment and I just had to work it in.

Richard Prosch said...

Sometimes I'll page through the phone book, pulling a first name here, matching it with a last name there. It also gives some perspective, (as does Facebook) on just how many scores of people share the same name.

David Cranmer said...

Rich, Good and maybe obvious idea, but I've never went the phone book route.