How do you name your characters? Do you write the story first, using ‘protag’, as I do sometimes, then find a name which fits? Or do you plan the name beforehand?
In The Story of O, O is never named. Neither is the woman in Rebecca. I love not knowing her name in Rebecca; a brilliant decision from Daphne du Maurier. It means that Rebecca is the name we think of, Rebecca is the image we have, and the main character seems pale in comparison.
I found my notes on how I named Stephanie Searle in Slights. I knew I wanted her to admire Stalin. Stalin means ‘stone’. I wanted a name starting with S, and found that Searle means armour, which seemed to match ‘stone’ and gave me an idea as to what sort of character she was. Stephen means ‘crown’. I thought that worked because she is monarch in the dark room, centre of all attention.
I have two or three name books. I don’t always use them. If I’m struggling, though, I’ll seek out the meaning and match a name that way.
In Walking the Tree, all the characters are named for trees. I sat down with my 1978 Encylopedia Britannica and made a long list. I still love flicking through those books my parents bought for me when I started high school.