Naming Names

In my initial draft I often don’t always name characters. They are X Y etc. Sometimes they are named from the very start too. In my current project ‘Harris’ came to me fairly quickly once I started. It took a while before I had a last name for him though. I follow standard naming advice – “keep names easy to pronounce when reading” “keep them fitting for the context” – Fantasy allows for more fun with names – ‘Oak Spirit’ would never work as a name for any of the characters in my story. As it is set in Toronto I use names as a way to reflect the multicultural nature of the city. To find names I often search soccer team leagues in other countries.

Scenes often happen in bars, cafes or near subway stops so I’ve been creating names for these that sound real without being site specific – Greendale Station, a Plaza Place is condo high-rise, Story is my hero’s favorite bar, Mug Thuggs – as it sounds, is a funky coffee shop.

My hero, Harris, works for a marketing firm that deals with online retail called dE.tail – I’ve had fun making names for the various companies and products he deals with.

The one name I’ve not finalized is the title of the novel – I’ve had, so far, three working titles: Curse of Love, Casanova Conundrum & the current one The Lazarus Kiss. The last arose as the origins of the curse/blessing became clearer in writing about it. I’m not attached to any one of these as I know editors often change titles to suit markets.

not a doorable either
not a doorable either

here’s another of the chopped scenes – Ellie is one of the women drawn to Harris as a result of the curse (what curse you might ask – we’ll you’ll have to buy the book when it gets published to find out) – In this early draft I was exploring how the curse changed the lives of the people who fell under it – Ellie’s backstory fascinated me but ultimately adds nothing to propel my plot & takes too much space & time away from the real story. The scene ends in a fulcrum of three people caught up in this curse with Harris – Alex who remembers, Kate/Frances who had been ‘forced’ to accept they have met even though she doesn’t remember, and Ellie who doesn’t remember meeting Harris a first time. I was hoping to create some sort of axis of resolution for Harris when all these ‘cursed’ were together – but that never jelled – so out this scene went. I still have one where Alex ‘rescues’ Harris from Dave and Kate.

samples

“He’s here Gran.” Dina poked her head into her Gran’s room.

“How do I look.’ Ellie brushed her moire silk blouse. “Pink is age appropriate. Then again so would a coffin.”

“Gran you look great. Really. Younger everyday.”

Tracing Billy hadn’t been as difficult as Ellie expected. Not that it was easy but she found the kindness and politeness go a long way in getting things accomplished. She’d gone into the Native Centre on Spadina and asked there how she could find him. They had access to records of different tribes but those records weren’t accurate or complete. Many of the natives had more than one recorded name. The one given them at birth, the one given them when those births were recorded and finally ones given them by schools or families that took them in, if they were taken in at all.

There was a confusing array of possibilities for her search. A young woman at the centre helped get her started but she was then left on her own to sift through online records and the endless collection of information on microfiches.

After days of searching the one lead that helped was what she remembered of his boxing career. Not many natives had a title shot in their background. She narrowed it down to a William Hard Nose Sampson. There were a few photos but they were so dim she couldn’t be sure.  He was still alive and living in Toronto.

She asked the young woman if she would pass on her number to William. Ellie doubted if this was him, as Billy would have been only a few years younger than her. This William was about sixteen years younger. But she felt there was no harm in trying.

William had called Sunday and after a few tentative questions she was convinced this was her Billy. Now she was meeting him.

She followed Dina down the stairs.

He stood as she came into the room. Stood and bowed his head.

“You haven’t changed a bit Mrs. Macmillan.”

“Still a liar, eh, Billy.” he wasn’t as tall as her memory. The face was older, wrinkled but the eyes were the ones she knew.

“Turn around. Let me look at you.”

Ellie giggled as she turned a slow circle. “All original parts.”

“I’ll let you two get reacquainted.” Dina started to leave the room.

“That’s fine dear but I think we are going to take a walk.”

“Okay, Gran.”

Dina saw them to the door. William was smiling and silent.

“I’ll try to be home at decent hour.” Ellie joked.

“I shall take care of her.” William looked from Ellie to Dina. “I’ll get Mrs. Macmillan home before curfew.”

“My goodness,” Ellie laughed. “I haven’t thought about that curfew for years. And it’s Ellie. Mrs. Macmillan makes sound like an old, old lady.”

They got caught up as they walked. Ellie’s children, her husband’s war record, how Dina came to live with her while she studies at U. of T.

They sat on a park bench.

“Mrs. Macmillan …. Ellie …. it is wondrous to meet you again after all these years. But there are some things I must confess. It has been a great shame for me all these years.”

“What?” she took his hands in hers.

“I was not honest with you. I let you think what you wanted to think. You see I was no man when we met but a boy.”

“A boy?”
“Yes. When I came to your door at that big house I was just a boy. I was only fifteen playing at being much older. I let you think I was older so you won’t send me away. Send me back to the  school. But I was just a boy who had to be a man. You understand.”

“I guess I do. You were so mature. You didn’t have the body of a boy.”

“I matured early. I used that. You would be surprised how few people ask to see a native’s birth certificate. If they did it was easy to tell them the date was wrong.”

“Ah well at least the boxing was true.”

“Sort of. Hard-Nose was my dad. We looked a lot alike and well …. I pretended to be him. I’m William Jr. I figure they thought I was the Hard-Nose when the Centre passed your number on to me. I hope you aren’t too disappointed in me?”

They continued walking.

“The past is the past.”

William told her about his travels across Canada. getting in trouble here and there, cleaning up his life on the west coast, coming back to start a life in Toronto. He had married and his wife passed away two years ago, had four children, all boys. They kept him young and firm. He helped street kids like himself. he taught them boxing. Taught them to be themselves.

“It was easy to be untrue with you. We kids were told that because we were native we were liars and drunks. In school when I told the truth I wasn’t believed anyway so I tried to live their truth and that was what I acted out for years. It was simple to fit that than try to find out who we really were.”

They stopped to sit at a cafe patio by the Sherbourne subway station.

“I sometimes come here to watch the people.” William pulled a chair out for her. “Not as busy as Yonge but busy enough to feel the flow. What can I get you?”

“Something cold but not ice tea. It’s always too sweet.”

Ellie did as he suggested. Watched people come and go. She realized how isolated she had become in her life. Her granddaughter was often the only person she saw or spoke to for days on end. That was until last week when something had nudged her back to awareness. Got her out to the hairdressers for the first time in many years. When she shopped for new clothes she couldn’t figure out how she had fallen into such a drab vision of herself. Out with the browns and grays and in with the pinks and blues. It felt good to be back to life, resurrected, reborn.

“Here we are.” William put two tall drinks in front of her. One was a light green the other a milky-pink. “You choose.”

“What are they?”
“Choose one and find out. Go on. Take a chance.”

She choose the milky-pink because almost matched her blouse.

“That is the summer berry.’ William told her. “Mine is melon soother or something like that.”

As she sipped a van pulled up sharply in front of the subway station. The driver jumped out and grabbed at a chubby man who was exiting the station.

“So it is you.” the man tried to push the other one into the van.

William turned around to see what she was looking at. Horns were beeping. The men began to scuffle. Another one in shorts and a tank-top dashed across the street and pulled them a part.

“Let him go.” the tank-top guy shouted. “I said let him go.”

These two men faced off. The first guy was so much taller than the tank top guy she was afraid he’d get the worse of it even though the tank-top guy was quite muscular. In a blur one of the tank-top guy’s bare feet shot out and knocked the tell guy over. They continued to grapple but the shorter guy clearly had the upper hand.

“I’ll be right back.” William jumped the railing.

The first man that was being was pulling at the shoulders of the shorter guy.

“I’m fine Alex.”

“Yeah, listen to your boyfriend.” The tall guy punched the short guy in the stomach.

The short guy gabbed the tall guy by the front of his shirt and had his fist ready.

William grabbed the short guy by the biceps and yanked hard. Pulled him away.

“That’s not the way brother.” he was saying. “That’s not the way.”

……..

magenta
magenta

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