Character Names

I took a class this past spring where we studied first person narrators all semester. One of the books we read that really stuck with me was We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (of creepy “The Lottery” fame). The novel is narrated by Merricat, and here’s the opening:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

I love Merricat’s voice, which is chilling and compelling throughout. Anyway, I chose to do the creative option for the final project, accompanied by a brief process paper on how it came about. I’ve been trying to work on it some more–I really rushed it off at the end of the semester–and have pretty much decided to scrap the bulk of it and start over. Some parts I’ll keep as a starting point; I’ve posted some of it here, and as you can see, I drew from Merricat and used her as a springboard.

On the subject of character names, I like names that are “plain” but not too commonly encountered, and sometimes a little old-fashioned or outdated by a generation or two. Definitely can’t name a character after someone I actually know. If I can’t think of a workable name, I write with a bunch of ______ underscores and then find/replace them later.

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