Character Names

I can’t claim originality on this topic. I replied to Joanne Guidoccios’ blog on this.

This caught my attention immediately. It is difficult to be completely original. One’s character name is really important. Part of the joy of writing fiction is that you can make things up …. that’s right, lies out of whole cloth…. and includes names of characters. At some time in the far past it was all right to use common names if your character was written to represent “everyman” or “everywoman.” So in English that would be John, French is Jaques, Spanish Jose, Irish Shaun, Scottish Sean, Russian Ivan or Ioann, Johannes or Hans in German, etc. the most common names in each culture. For our era, my protagonists need to be original and totally made up. My one exception is that I still like Biblical names that were not as commonly used. I could go on. Read Joanne Guidoccio at:

In my first novel I used a family friend’s nick name as one major character’s name. Prior to publication I thought it was NOT right to use it. I changed it to another nick name for a fellow from California, “Cal.” It was only later on re-reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, that one of his character’s names is also “Cal.” I’ll bet that happens a lot. Names we might like and do not remember why – pop up in our minds.

Fascinating topic. What is your take on the names of your characters?

Timothy J. Desmond
THE DOC, ebook conspiracy thriller novel at
SWIM THE RED RIVER short story at

Tim’s Amazon author page at:

Blog delay ……….

Sorry about the last nine days of gap here. On the topic of being overwhelmed ………….


On the subject of being overwhelmed: Yes, this is my problem too, and it really strikes a nerve. One thinks that one is organized, and then BANG. One has to drop all plans. I’ve taken to writing memos to myself on phone “memo app” – as I get blog ideas, and also novel scene thoughts; then later, on reflection, everything I’ve thought of seems so trite. Ages ago, one English/writer instructor lectured about “concentration.” His view was that “concentration” meant “taking breaks” then “getting back to the work” …. the breaks could be days, weeks. But, in the end, his point was “keeping at it.” This was from the late Malcolm Wood, English instructor emeritus California College of Arts & Crafts and UC Berkeley. So, yes, overwhelmed, but trying to stay at it.

The problem is not new, evidently. Samuel Clemens wrote of the problem of newspaper editors.

“How editors can continue this tremendous labor, this exhausting consumption of brain fiber (for their work is creative, and not a mere mechanical laying up of facts, like reporting), day after day, year after year, is incomprehensible.” Mark Twain.

Timothy J. Desmond
THE DOC, ebook conspiracy thriller novel at

More on metaphor use

Apparently there is a  lot here for discussion, pros and cons wise of using metaphor. And, perhaps I was being too visceral in my comment. Avoiding cliche is a good policy. Being original is the best and sometimes the most difficult. But, using too much “show” is a judgment, and I suppose if one goes “over the top” it is reduced to comedy, which may be what is wanted, or just plain silly if not trite. I recall a MASH episode where Col. Potter used about seven different terms all relating to horse droppings and meadow muffins, combining alliteration, allusion and synonym.

I was critiqued once, by a reader, not a writer, for not “having enough description.” This observation was from a “fantasy fan reader.” If I remember correctly, one of the shortest chapters in literature was in the book “As I lay Dying.”  Faulkner wrote his character’s observation, “My mother is a fish.” End of chapter. The character’s mother died. He had observed earlier a rotting fish. One has to show as well as tell. You must be concrete and try to involve all the senses.

On “nervousness” metaphor

A recent blogger wrote on a critique of a newly written metaphor that went something like …. “swooping, sharp pain in the stomach ….” The critique was one of not understanding and that the critiquer did “not get nervous.” The defense reaction of the writer was about trying to “show” and not just “tell” what was the sensation of the nervousness. The reference to “show” and “not just tell” is important.  And this is a lovely example and story from that group and about the critique’s reaction. The showing is so important that it cannot be emphasized enough. How much one writer uses this concept may be the art involved with the craft. The creative use of the language comes in here now. This is where new metaphors come from, from the writer’s imagination. And if these get repeated they become old cliches. As all of us remember the nervousness cliche – “butterflies in the tummy” [or whatever one calls their stomach], but none of us would use it because now it isn’t original. But, you might have a character speaking that – about butterflies.

The critiquer’s comment, while it may be true about not feeling nervous, is a quipping one, and a copout because most people get nervous about something, if not many things. What I am not sure about is if the nervousness in one’s stomach actually becomes “sharp pain” in most people. And that may be the real point the critiquer needed to make. “Swooping” is interesting, because there is familiar sensing of stomach sensations when initiating a free fall or acceleration in rollercoaster, or traveling high speed over a low rise in the road. The sense of fear and dread is another type of emotion, though. It has many anxiety symptoms that can affect the digestive tract that range from vomiting to the other extreme of colon gas to uncontrolled colon in a state of fear. In the middle of one’s torso, yes swooping is good and different. What animals swoop? Birds swoop. Birds have wings like butterflies. A hawk would be too big.  Hummingbirds might swoop and fit. Or a ………… well, that’s my take on this. Use some kind of swooping bird or swooping snakes. Snakes in one’s stomach would make me nervous.