I wrote previously about names in murder mysteries and this set me thinking about some of the names I’ve used throughout our various stories. Our plots events are always designed around a murder or murders which can be solved by careful observation and listening, logical (if sometimes lateral) thinking, but in parallel with that we ensure that the story is fun, and that often also means funny. Characters come before plot, and in a typical mystery, finding an appropriate name helps suggest their key character traits, which is useful both for the actor and those watching the story unfold. Writers such as Charles Dickens were great at this – you can’t imagine an “Ebeneezer Scrooge” being a kindly young chap any more than “Uriah Heap” would be an elegant gentleman Alfred Jingle a terrible curmudgeon.
Taking the Dickens approach to naming characters is a good approach, and many names do immediately suggest a certain upbringing for a character; think of Hugo and Wayne for instance. If we want to immediately send a message to the audience or the performer, a punning name can help, and it also often also ticks the box marked “fun”, particularly if the performer doesn’t realize the significance in their name until they’ve been playing them for 2 hours.
In nearly 10 years of penning our mysteries, many of these names remain in the memory banks as being particularly apposite. Some of my favourites include:
- Talented, but somewhat foul-mouthed chef, Gordon Blue. What’s most annoying about this is that my wife deserves credit for the name.
- Pugnacious female lawyer, Sue DiAsov.
- Feckless and in-bred upper class English twit, Juan Sandwich-Short (his father meant to call him Julian, but the pen used to register the name was running out of ink).
- Beautiful and well proportioned actress, Gloria Stitzenhaas. This is often one of those “Oh I get it now” names after a couple of glasses of Prosecco at a hen party. For younger audiences, she often becomes Gloria Slooks.
- Country lane chauffeur Onslow Rhodes.
- Chatty hairdresser Wendy Ugoaway and beautician Tanya Hyde.
There are many more and I’ve spent many frustrating hours hunting through baby name sites to find something appropriate for a new character until the obvious hits me. My favourite has yet to see an outing, but one day we will see the curmudgeonly Yorkshireman, Willy Eckerslike.