Friday, August 11, 2017

Writing: Naming Characters

On my blog post a few days ago, I asked for suggestions. One of the comments posed some excellent questions: "I always wonder if real people are the basis for fictional characters? Elements of real personalities? Many of your characters come to life on the pages. I also wonder if real-life news or events spark the main story of novels on occasion?"

I've made the mistake (and it is a mistake) in one or two of my earlier novels of using real names for characters. One particularly memorable occasion comes to mind when I wrote a character as a deputy sheriff and left the reader wondering if he was a good guy or bad guy. And I used the name of a high school classmate!Then I went back to my home town for a class reunion, and the chairman of the event was the wife of the man whose name I used. Fortunately he was happy about it, but I wrote him into a subsequent novella and made certain he ended up wearing a white hat.

Some of my characters are based in part on individuals I have encountered, and often I see an event in the news that sets me thinking, but after that I turn my imagination loose. In my latest novel, Cardiac Event, there's an undercurrent of professional jealousy in the start of the book. I have seen professional jealousy color actions. (Yes, it happens with doctors, the same way as with novelists and any other profession). But I've never seen it taken to the extreme that I portray in the book.

As for setting, some of my earlier novels took place in Dallas at the medical center where I trained and finished my career as a professor (a nice closing of the circle in real life). Recently I have set my stories in fictional towns drawn from the city where I live and the one where I attended college. I can make them larger or smaller as the occasion demands, and no one seems to care. And it's no mean task to come up with these names--I have to make certain there are no actual Texas towns with these names. 

What other writing (or non-writing) questions would you like to see addressed? I'm waiting.

Tweet with a single click. "Has author Richard Mabry ever used a real name for a character in his writing?"  

5 comments:

Paula said...

Thanks Richard. That is interesting to know. The way you describe the hospital complex puts me right there. I can picture it! Keep writing and I'll keep reading!

Richard Mabry said...

Paula, thanks for your comment.

Elise Griffith said...

Thank you for sharing about how you come up with characters. So many of yours seem "real", and it's interesting to hear how you make that happen.

Richard Mabry said...

Elise, glad you enjoyed it. Should I put someone named "Elise" in one of my books?

Elise Griffith said...

Ha, ha! That would be a kick. Be sure to have other minor characters mispronounce it as "Elsie" or "Eloise" as people are want to do. ;-)