My mouse pad bears a picture of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam
. God is depicted as an old man with a white beard who is reaching toward Adam, presumably with the intention to impart life.
The mouse pad was a gift from my daughter many years ago. She understood that writing involves sparking life into characters, because if you can't do that, you won't be a fiction writer.
"What do you think of the name Sasha?" I once asked the family at the dinner table. I was beginning a new book, and naming characters is one of the fun parts. "Good name for a dog," said my son, and poor Sasha, doomed, was renamed Juliana or Mariel before I returned to my computer.
It's hard for me to picture a character in one of my books if he/she doesn't have a name yet. Sometimes I fall in love with a name for no particular reason. My heroine Sasha was adventurous, way out of the mainstream, and given to wearing gypsyish clothing. But she wasn't doglike at all, and I couldn't burden her with a name that engendered an image of anything canine. So she never existed on the pages of my book. Sorry, Sasha.
Feeling comfortable with my main characters' names is important to me. They have to be fairly short. If I'm going to be writing a 75,000-word book, I don't want to be typing Elizabeth 6000 times in the course of telling the story. Plus that name has a Z in it, and despite being rigorously trained as a typist by the crotchety Mrs. Wray, who was the scourge of typing class at my high school, I still hit SHIFT more often than Z. It's something about the little finger. Unlike God, I have a hard time reaching out to create life, and when I do, it's going to be to someone named, say, Dash, the letters of which are all in my keyboard's Home Row.
Then there's renaming. Sometimes a hero seems like a Jake at first. You know, a dark-haired, restless, devil-may-care individual who might or might not have a beard. In the course of the first draft, Jake helps his friend retile his bathroom floor instead of watching the Super Bowl. He makes thoughtful comments like, "You know, I really like the color blue. Baby blue, like the sky after a good rain." This clues me in to the possibility that Jake isn't the rakish fellow he seemed at first. No, he's a calm and sensitive James, though not a Jim. Or maybe he's an Arthur. Thank goodness for Search-And-Rescue in my word processing program, because I can transform Jake into Arthur with a few key strokes.
Character naming is not to be taken lightly, nor is choosing a pseudonym. I've written books under a few different names, and people often ask why I've chosen them. My first books were published under the name Melanie Rowe. Early in my career I sold a book to Silhouette. They insisted, in those days, that all authors use a pseudonym, and no one cared that my real name, Pamela Browning, is lovely and euphonious. After much thought, I chose the pseudonym Melanie Love. I was writing romances, right? However, my editor, Leslie Wainger, didn't like the Love. She wouldn't accept the Love. She gave me a couple of hours to come up with something else.
It was my son's birthday and I was frosting cupcakes I'd baked to take to his birthday party at Cub Scouts. My mind wandered back to the day he was born. He was delivered by Dr. Rowe. Melanie.....ROWE! Before I loaded the cupcakes, fruit juice and party favors into the car, I phoned Leslie and told her my choice. She liked it, and that's how Melanie Rowe came to be. It seemed poignant and fitting that on the anniversary of my son's birth, when I'd given him life, I created a new self who would publish a few books under that name and then become Pamela Browning - again.
What with the creation of Deke and Martine and Nick and Cricket and Tim and Maura and Xan, not to mention Melanie Rowe, it's been a satisfying career. I still haven't used all my favorite names. I want to name someone Brock. And Claire, and Gabriel.
And Sasha, if a Russian Wolfhound should ever turn up in one of my books. Read More