Saturday, May 7, 2011

Taking Names

Old_RadioI was in Anderson, SC, on Friday morning, visiting my parents after talking to the Sisters in Crime’s Greenville chapter on Thursday night.

My mother likes to listen to a local talk radio show in the mornings. I didn’t pay any attention at all to it, so it was a sort of white noise in the background for me as I read the newspaper.

Suddenly my mother turned up the volume a little. “Let’s see what Pork Chop has to say,” she said, under her breath.

Excuse me?” I asked. “What did you say?”

“I said that I wanted to listen to Pork Chop.”

“His name is Pork Chop?” It was hard to wrap my head around.

“Well, that’s what he goes by.”

Yes, I am a Southerner. Yes, there are names like Pork Chop here in the Southern US. I come across them all the time. They are not made up. You can’t make stuff like this up.

I also come across amazing names almost every day—first names and surnames. I got a truly incredibly surname the other day from someone who emailed me. I added it to my collection. I love my name collection Word file. Some of the names immediately evoke a particular image.

Sometimes? I get caught.

“Is that my name in your book?” I’ll be asked.

Well, it’s a name they share with the character, I’ll tell them. Sometimes I can’t even remember where I collected the name….TV? Radio? Newspaper? An acquaintance mentioned the name?

And I need a lot of names in my books. There are five suspects. There’s a sidekick and a sleuth and various supporting characters. Some characters make return appearances in books…some don’t. I always need fresh names for each book.

One thing I always make very, very clear---the characters are not the people whose names are used. I always make a point that they’re nothing like the character. Because people wonder…if I used their name, what else did I borrow?

Do you borrow names? Do you have a name collection like I do? How do you handle it if you use the name of someone you know?


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