I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

They're alive; they need names

Marja-Leena recently mentioned a Japanese artist who copied words from English film sub-titles to accompany his abstract works. In a different context, writer Dick Francis (whodunnits with horses) admitted stealing a telephone directory from his Oslo hotel "as a source of Norwegian names" for his next novel.

Both these acts resonated. I needed names for characters in my three novels and Joe Doak (or its French equivalent) simply wouldn't do. In Gorgon Times I knew the surname of the male central character - Hatch - before I knew what he would do. Otherwise, I Googled.

My best name, in that she leapt from the page proclaiming it, was Jana's French flying student Dieudonné (lit. God-given) which shortened mischievously to Didi. Good job she was married and that I am. In the same novel I needed a misanthropic property developer so I avenged myself yet again on my birth region, made him a West Ridinger, and inserted him in the chapter labelled Dreaded Grandage.

The novel's title was Risen On Wings but it always sounded too holy. Now it's re-christened Arizona Exit.

Here are the names of four characters from Blest Redeemer with their echoes: a petite apple-cheeked Scotswoman called Caitlin (say it with a Borders accent), Colin Levitt who over-reaches himself professionally and whose surname - which hints at rising - takes on an ironic tone as the walls come down, Ibrahim who is able to justify singing Christian masses, and Mr Chaudhry, with roots in the Punjab, is a civil servant who's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

Sometimes, after midnight, I don a pea-jacket and wander the neighbourhood. If anyone asks I'm Barrett Bonden.


  1. I'm pleased my comment at Joe's inspired this post about your sources of inspiration for names. Where did the BB name come from? Perhaps you told us once but I've forgotten.

    (Not to be picky, but my Japanese friend copied Finnish names from a Finnish film with English subtitles.)

  2. M-L: To be equally picky, if I stuck a hyphen in between "film" and "sub", resulting in the phrase "English film-sub-titles", all would be well. You've got to remember, I'm writing to a 300-word limit with my posts. Many people have complained about what I've written but no one has ever accused me of being too long.

    Barrett Bonden. Patrick O'Brien wrote a 20-book series of novels, based on a very fruitful (in literary terms) relationship between Jack Aubrey, a Royal Navy ship's captain during the Napoleonic Wars, and Stephen Maturin, an Irish ship's doctor who is also an anti-Napoleon spy. The series was remarkable for its exhaustively re-created authenticity - especially regarding spoken language - and was taken up by all sorts of bandwagon-chasing celebs including cabinet members in the Tory government. Barrett Bonden was Jack Aubrey's bosun, a sturdy, dependable, practically skilled individual - all the things I'm not. I was at the time practising irony but it's a quality that rarely survives a trip across the Atlantic.

  3. We've moved on a bit from Dickens and Mr Pumblechook.

  4. Robbie Barrett Bonden the first of your pseudonyms - an inspired choice, ironic or not - was the best. I miss him.

  5. Sir Hugh: I agree. And there is the Dickens paradox: why are so many of his other names so good? You couldn't improve on Mr Pickwick, Bill Sikes, Estrelita, David Copperfield, Scrooge, Magwitch.

    Joe: I mourn his passing even though I engineered it. An author's privilege: to erect, to cast down, and to regret. And then - sneakily - to write about these artificial happenings.