The coffee is filtered, the dark ginger cake is being cut, we’re ready to write.
The truth is more that we write a bit, chat a bit and discuss projects or aspects of writing. Such are Thursday 11am-2pm Creative Brews’ sessions at Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
This week we talked about the challenges of finding THE perfect name for a character. Does the character suggest a name? Does a name modify the writer’s perception of a character? What is conveyed when the form of address is not an actual name?
The radio drama I’m writing needs to identify a person by how the protagonist perceives her and not by her name or relationship. So ‘Mother’, ‘Mum’ ‘Sylvia’ just won’t do. I asked the group to say the images that came to mind for a female character called ‘The Magpie’ by one of her daughters but not by the other.
‘Well the bird. And that character with long hair on the telly.’
‘The TV programme.’
‘The rhyme – one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl etc.’
‘Yes, it’s the one for sorrow, three for a girl and seven for a secret never to be told that underlies my choice of The Magpie, or just Magpie.’
‘Thieving magpie, magpies liking shiny things to build nests.’
‘Is it the male or the female that builds the nest?’
‘There’s something purely instinctive though in them doing that, it’s not a moral stance. Isn’t it about courtship?’
‘That lack of morality fits the character well. As a conscienceless psychopath she’d probably want to make out that she couldn’t help it, that what she did was some mysterious force’s responsibility, or indicated something wrong with her brain that negated her ability to take responsibility and left her blameless (in her eyes).’
‘They steal eggs, all kinds of things.’
‘They’re a bit sinister, not as much as crows or ravens.’
‘Those birds are rather clichéd, more of the horror genre or witches and wizard tales.’
‘They pick at wounds on animals, they’ll even prey on small creature, baby rabbits, they eat dead flesh.’
‘They’re not popular birds, we don’t get sentimental about them.’
‘As a name for someone, it doesn’t suggest the daughter is wanting to be vindictive, there are many alternatives that would give the daughter a viciousness.’
‘Yes. That’s what I want to avoid, the daughter is not going to stoop to the level of the mother who refers to her elder daughter as the Devil’s Whore and other similarly vile epithets.’
‘It conjures a visual image, which has to be good for radio.’