Sunday, July 04, 2021

On Naming Characters

Most of the time, I just use the first name that pops into my head. This is how I wound up with Sonia, the main character of Thresholds of the Grand Dream. I picked a name at random, and it stuck. It's also how I got most of the other names, although some of them (Erin, Isaac) changed between drafts. Usually I'll go through the alphabet until I find a letter that gets me a name I like.

On the other hand, sometimes the name might be a reference to something. In my stories about Alice & Marisa, I borrowed their names from Alice Margatroyd and Marisa Kirisame from Touhou Project. But I'm not just drawing from anime and video games. In "The Invisible Wall Outside the School," I swapped the names of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora to get Ted and Justina. 

In that case, the names had no real thematic importance. But in the case of The Wolf Heist, every single name is related to true crime or mystery fiction in some way.

So the story involves two thieves, Ron and his wife Claire Devereaux, going undercover as stagehands at the Gilbert Theatre so they can steal one of the treasures in the basement donated a hundred years before by the actor Arsenio Wolf. However, one of the actors turns out to be teen detective Shinichi James, who's been trying to catch the Devereauxs for years, without knowing their true identities.

Ron and Claire are a twisting around of Bonnie and Clyde, the legendary robber duo of the 1930's.

Devereaux came from taking the Japanese word 泥棒, "dorobō," meaning "thief, burglar, robber," and twisting it around a little.

The Gilbert Theatre is named for Gilbert Keith ("G.K.") Chesterton, author of the Father Brown mysteries.

Arsenio Wolf is named for Maurice LeBlanc's gentleman burglar, Arsène Lupin (and, by extension, his globetrotting grandson, Lupin III).

Shinichi James is named for Shinichi Kudo, the main character of the manga and anime series Detective Conan. When the series was first brought to the US, he was renamed "Jimmy Kudo." Since Jimmy isn't much of a surname, I went with Shinichi James.

Finally, late in the story, there's a reference to an Inspector Gatchit. Just say it out loud.

And that's more or less how I deal with names. I hope you find this helpful!

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