by Mervyn Love
We've all been there. You know she's called Sandie or Kaylee or some other cool name but can't for the life of you find a suitable surname. You've wrung your hands to the bone, you've drunk the midnight oil, but still a good solid name won't come. What, oh what can you do? Read on, dear writer, an inexhaustible supply of quality names awaits.
The answer lies, in fact, in the common or garden road map! Most homes have one, but if yours doesn't your local newsagents almost certainly will. And before you say, "What is he blathering about? I'm not naming MY hero Chorlton-cum-Hardy!" just hold hard one cotton picking minute and let me explain.
Centuries ago when someone moved from their native town or village, say Nyewood in Sussex, and settled down somewhere else, they might be known as John of Nyewood in order to differentiate them from all the other Johns. Eventually they would simply be called John Nyewood. So there is nothing wrong with taking this principle and bending it to our own creative purposes.
I have before me a road map of that fine county of Essex and I need a few names for my next best-selling novel and they've got to be believable. OK, so I cast my eye over the page which is awash with the most amazing and inspiring towns and villages with names like Bishop's Stortford, Stansted Mountfitchet and Stondon Massey.
Of course you don't take these names quite as they stand, but with a little bit of tweaking a fine bunch of characters can soon be standing in front of you bursting with life and veracity.
Take for example Bishop's Stortford. You might be tempted to include a Bishop in your story and call him something like Bishop Gerald Stortford. I would advise against that. We don't want to make it too obvious, do we? But you could use Gerald Stortford, or maybe adjust it slightly to Gerald Startford or Stertford.
Let's move on to the redoubtable Stansted Mountfitchet. What a name! It would almost work as it stands. But no, we must refine it and make it believable for a human being. The idea is to use these place names as inspiration and develop them. So, what if we drop the Stansted and also, I think, the Mount and call our likely lad Fitchet? Better still add an extra 't' to make him sound a bit posher and call him Fitchett. Brilliant. You could even pick up on the Stansted and call him Stanley. Stanley Fitchett. I can almost see him now ensconced in his solicitors' office peering doubtfully at me over his pince-nez even as we speak! Fitchett, Fitchett and Stanton. Hey, that's not bad!
Now I've given you the idea, what can you do with Stondon Massey? You could use Massey as is, but if it's a female character don't call her Anna! What about Stacey Massey? Or Stella Mansey? Or Sophie Mensie?
You may still be a little nervous that some of these names could still be genuine people and what if they write you a stinging letter of complaint? Well, just write back calmly and politely pointing out exactly how you arrived at 'Fortescue Mancaster' or whatever it is, giving the Ordnance Survey grid reference or other means of identifying where you got it from. I recommend culling all your names for a particular story from the same area on the map. It just makes it easier I feel.
Finally, let's drift back to that disparaging remark apropos Chorlton-cum-Hardy. If you've been paying attention this will present no problem at all. We can easily convert it to Charles Hardy, Chester Hardy and goodness knows what else.
So, when you've populated your novel or story using these tactics drop me line. I'll buy a copy. Promise.
About the Author: Mervyn Love is the webmaster of www.writersreign.co.uk offering a wealth of links, competitions, resources and more for the aspiring writer.
From: Articles Base