What’s in a name?


It’s a sad fact – for me anyway – that most writers don’t make a lot of money, especially when they start out. They need another job to pay the bills (or a pension, or very tolerant parents, or a supportive partner earning a decent wage). Needless to say, even with another job, very few writers have servants, and yet more time gets taken up with shopping, chauffeuring kids, cooking, cleaning, and general household maintenance. Precious writing time gets nibbled away at by the day to day needs of keeping food on the table and clothes on our backs.

Consequently, when they do finally sit down to write, writers will find their own ways to make the best use of their time. One of my time savers is to give my main characters short names, or abbreviations of long names. It is a lot quicker to write Alex, Sam, Nicky, as in And Alex Still Has Acne; or Grace and Courtney (shortened usually to Cor) in Girl Friends, than to have them called, say, Richard, Benjamin, Elizabeth, Georgina etc. Writing all those extra characters really does take up more time, and every second helps!

Here is some completely unscientific research to prove my point.

  • Two of George Eliot’s leading characters were called Dorothea (8 characters) and Gwendoline (10 characters). Each takes quite a time to write, especially using pen and ink, as she did. But then she had help around the house by the time she came to write her novels.
  • Jane Austen’s family had servants too, but they were relatively poor and she was also expected to do some of the work. As a result (?) many of her main characters have short names – Eliza, Jane, Fanny, Anne …
  • JK Rowling is now a rich woman, but she was a hard up single mother when she started writing the Harry Potter. Who knows, but if she had been time-rich then, do you think her boy wizard might have ended up with a name like Montgomery Huffington- Clutterbuck?
  • And Alex -cover

And Alex Still Has Acne

(Girl Friends is to be published shortly)

Girl Friends - cover


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