Terry is my New Name
Published on: 10 June 2010 Author: Evie Wyld
The award-winning writer Evie Wyld became our third Writer in Residence back in 2010. In this blog Evie gave her advice on how to create characters.
Terry is my new name.
Not my new name exactly, but the name I've given a character in what I'm writing at the moment. This is exciting because for about 5 years now, every time I've sat down to write about someone new, it's been Elaine for a girl, Jimmy for a boy. I like how Elaine sounds with an Australian accent - Eee-lane, the way your tongue moves around your mouth when you say it.
The name Jimmy is good because it's a child's name, and there's something very satisfactory about having a grown man with a child's name. Bobby is good for this too, especially if the grown man is a little rough and grizzled. Frank sounds a bit like a slap or a bark, a nice strong one-syllable name that seems to someone shortish and a little heavy.
When I was younger and writing the bad stuff, I used names that I thought meant something. Nearly all of my female characters were called Lilly, why? Because I was reading lots of Angela Carter and I remember that this cover of the Bloody Chamber was very exciting to me (sex and death sex and death sex and death).
The male characters had names to stand in for their personality because I was far more interested in myself. Things like Coal and Jack. Sexy names that meant I didn't have to think about them anymore.
It's strange how hard it is to come up with a name, if it isn't there immediately when you start writing. It can really pull you up, because often you start with the name and go on to describe who it belongs to. But then I suppose this is the same way we all get our names - you've got 2 weeks to decide what your completely unknown baby's name is.
What happens if Cordelia is really a Linda? Or Brian is more Tarquin? It's a worry.
There's a character in my novel who is loosely based on a person I know. I had planned to change it if my book ever got published, but I kept the name in while I wrote, just for ease. But he grew into the name so much that I found it impossible to change it, even though by the end he was not at all like the man he was based on. The result meant a fair few sit downs with the real life person and many reassurances that the character I ended up writing about was not him, but just someone who looked similar on first impressions and had the same name. He's still not convinced.
The wonderful thing about the name Terry, is I don't know a Terry (yet). The Terry I'm thinking of grew up in a small inland town in eastern Australia. He's late thirties and a bit wiry. He's loud, at times oversexed and he likes chops of lamb and pork. If this is you then I apologise. It's purely coincidence. I don't really think you're a git.