What's In A Name?

I will never speed-read a book again. After all the work that has gone into my debut title, I have a newfound appreciation for the hoops authors jump through just to get their stories out there. Things that I never even expected to resolve came across the table with gusto, and I am fortunate to have Ms. Saritza Hernandez as an agent to help navigate.

Most recently, we had a discussion about names for Ollie and his friends, as it had come up in some recent negotiations regarding OLLIE’s future. I’d shopped names for my characters long before I even got in front of a keyboard, pouring over census readings from the mid-20th century and baby name lists. I painstakingly went through last names, some of which were regional, some of which were street names, and some of which were just hijacked from bands I like. It made sense for Ollie’s last name to be Barret, because Syd Barret seemed like an apt role model for my rock ‘n’ roll junkie. His love interest was a more delicate issue, one which I thought I’d resolved well, but now has become something new to think about.

The point of giving your character a good name is to make him believable. One of the main things I did was measure out syllables and say first names along with the surname, checking for a perfect combination of sounds. Even the way the name sounds with other characters in the story have to work. I thought I’d done a pretty bang up job with Julian Fairclough, the broody rugger that has such a keen eye for Ollie. I’d wanted something a bit French-sounding, perhaps because of some image I’d rolled over in my head. Even Saritza liked it. I thought I’d nailed it — until we got into talks with a certain British press that has an interest in OLLIE.

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Our contact there brought up a good point about Julian. If he’s a working class Yorkshire bloke, what business does he have with such a posh-sounding name? A shock ran through me at once, because for all the effort I’d put into Julian’s name, our potential partner had a very good point. I loved Julian, loved his name — and then decided I loved him enough to chuck it out. I’d missed the most important, most obvious element in choosing a name. It was more than just handing out a title that sounded like an actual person (and not something engineered): the name had to tell the story you weren’t writing down. Yes, the backstory is touched on in the text, but it rings deeper when you have a name that matches. Julian’s father owns a buy/sell/repair electricals shop, one he fully expects Julian to take over one day. For a simple man to give his son a fancy name would be like putting on airs, elevating him to a stature that is unbecoming. So Julian had to change, which was easier to agree to than I thought. It’s just a name. People change their names to reflect their personalities all the time. Ask anyone who went from Katherine to Katie, Justin to Jessica.

I’m still rolling various names around. For the moment, I’m stuck on the name Liam Clarke, which is a little bit more fitting for a northern boy like Juli— Liam, rather. So say hello to him properly. After all, a rose by any other name will still smell as sweet.

Silver Screen Beauties

Lately, I've fallen in love with Ivor Novello, which sort of jumped off my love for Buster Keaton. All those early film sorts, like Valentino and Astaire and the lot amaze me so much -- and are pretty easy on the eyes. I think it must be how emotive their faces are that I've got so wrapped up in drawing them lately. All these drawings ended up shaping the lead character in the manuscript I've got in super-duper-rough draft. Hope you like my little retrospective here. 

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Painting Painting Painting

I've been steadily plugging away on my third manuscript, which I'm happy to report is nearly finished. I've also been doing a whole lot of painting in acrylic lately, which has been a good study for me. Here are some of the ones I'm working on right now. I've realized I have a great love of painting portraits of vintage men, as you can see in the one of Ivor Novello, Ollie and Julian! I've another one of Buster Keaton in the work, and then some inspired by the James Norton adaption of War and Peace. 

 

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Character Sketches and Ideas

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It's sort of strange to think that I've begun a third manuscript when OLLIE's barely out the door and the second hasn't even been put in front of my agent yet. I can't stand being idle, though, so here comes the next story I've been planning for some time. It's another historical piece with a broken hero in love with another equally broken person. I suppose you could say it's my aesthetic! Interestingly enough, I've found that it really helps my writing process when I use visuals to plot out things like how characters look, or even how a certain scene might play out. In that way, I would compare writing to stage acting for the reclusive. There's still practice and research and learning and important dramatic things to resolve, but all without the bother of the big, scary stage! Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to get a look at some of the character sketches I've begun for this third story, which is currently titled The Pinniped Club (for explorative gentlemen). Strangely, part of the inspiration for this particular story was found in an antique shop in Savannah, Georgia. I bought this mysterious portrait of this handsome Edwardian gentleman and knew he had a story. Now I'm finally able to work on it! I hope it lives up to the task! 


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Over here are some more Eddie sketches (the bottom two), and then some concept sketches for two other characters. The other lead is named Francis and is the upper left character, while the upper right character is called Deidrick, and his look was sort of an accidental discovery while doodling the other two. But it helps having him in mind when I imagine his personality. 

The lead character's name is Eddie Finch, but I won't tell you too much about him or else you won't want to read his story! But he's a pianist in the 1920's, which got me thinking about the talented but oft forgotten Ivor Novello. I thought he had such a beautiful face, and his features are the base for Eddie's looks. It helps having that to fall back on, especially when I'm trying to come up with little ticks and nuances, like the turn of the hair or the cut of the mouth, the nose -- what have you. 

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OFFICIALLY ON SUBMISSION!

Apologies for the radio silence, but it's that dreaded time of year that sucks the life out of you. On the bright end of things, Ms. Saritza Hernandez, my agent has begun the arduous task of finding OLLIE a home in publishing. It's a little crazy to think of how far OLLIE has come since I was goaded into picking up writing again by a friend. I suppose you could say I'd been on a bit of a sabbatical, stuck in a shit relationship that kept me from doing a lot of the things I once enjoyed. Strangely, even after moving on, I still was nervous to go back to something like writing, which I was rusty and and surely no longer any good. In that mode, it was nice to find things to get my boots wet on, a little fanfic here or an exercise in poetry there. Before I knew it, I'd pulled OLLIE off a shelf I'd set him up on over ten years ago. Thinking on it now, its a little surreal it might actually become something more than just my friends will read! Even more exciting is how it's restored my confidence in storytelling. Already, I have a second manuscript about a man on the run with another miscreant and his dog in the test reading phase, and have begun hammering out a third. I'm pumped for you to meet all these new characters just as much as Ollie! Thanks to everyone who's helped place me this far. There's still so much further to go!

 

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