Saturday, April 12, 2014

Meet the People of Northam

I’ll be visiting with the residents of Northam as time and their schedules allow. For such a small town, there are a variety of characters here, and I can’t wait for you to meet them.  

Dwight Matheson has agreed to be the first. Well, he only agreed because we flipped a coin and he lost, but nonetheless, he’s the one you’ll meet today.  

 Dwight’s the local mortician and the owner of Matheson’s Memorials. In fact, the Matheson family has served Northam's funerary needs for 75 years. 

 Dwight, you've lived here your whole life. What's one thing you’d change about Northam if you could?

DM: One thing? Just one? It’s too quiet. Nothing ever happens. The same, day in and day out. Crying. Organ music. Flowers. Otherwise, I don’t see much of anyone. No one ever says, “Hey, Dwight, wanna go for a beer?” Or, “Dwight, did you see them Red Sox last night?” You know, I asked a girl out once, and she told me it didn’t feel right after I’d seen her grannie naked. Can you believe it? People here don't get it--it's just a job, not who I am. 

You don’t sound very happy, Dwight. I’m sorry.

DM: I’m sorry too. Sorry I went along with my family and got into this business. I should’ve picked something else. The Army, or car racing. How about bull riding? Hell, I wouldn’t even mind working in a bar. Anything where there was some excitement happening. Anywhere I didn’t have to wear a suit, speak in whispers or drain life's remnants away. Did you just hear something?

No, I didn’t. I can see you're busy, Dwight. One more question and we’ll be done. Who’s the person you admire most?

DM: That’s easy. Sam. Sam Miller. He’s a good guy. We were kind of friends growing up ‘til I started to apprentice with my Dad. He still asks me how I’m doing when we run into each other. He was a sniper in the service and did several tours. Boy, I bet he saw some action. Yessir. Wait--there’s someone out front. We're done here, right? The Donaldson wake is in less than an hour, and the family wants to come in early and have a drink over Mr. Donaldson.

Of course. Thanks for your time.

DM: You’re welcome.  Oh, and look, all that stuff about another job and excitement, could you keep that just between us? It’s not very good for the Matheson image. Excuse me….Mrs. Donaldson? What are you doing? Please stop. Please don’t try to give Mr. Donaldson a drink…

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's in a Name?

The significance of character names cannot be stressed enough. Names often reflect the region of the character’s origin and should convey some meaning about the character, even if it's subliminal.  

I'll use My Mother Grows Wallflowers as an example. It takes place in Vermont. Most of the people in this area are of Puritan stock, so I picked "English" sounding last names. Mason, Winslow, Whitman, Fields. Even Miller is a good old Yankee name, though I used Two Bears to let the reader know there was something different, exotic even, about Samuel Two Bears Miller. Names are an important facet of character development.  

First names are just as important. Biblical names are common place in New England--with nary a Miyoko, Lebron or Jesus among the bunch...which in itself tells you something. But there could be, if such a character moved to town. Mina Mason's parents are very old, very plain Vermonters and their names reflect that, George and Gertrude. Sam’s father’s name is Jack, quite ordinary, while his mother’s name Lilith is a bit more unusual, just like the Millers themselves aren’t the typical mix for Vermont.

Wilhelmina- means “resolute protector.” Mina means “love.” (Mina's mother named her after a soap opera character, but Mina is a protector.) 

The Miller kids have biblical names to honor their father's New England roots:  Orrin, Joseph, Samuel and Sarah-- all except Winona. Winona is actually a Sioux name that means “first-born daughter.” So, how could their first daughter be named anything else? And their last daughter? Sarah means “princess.” Is there a more appropriate name for the baby girl of a family?

The name Blair became popular as a girl’s name in the late 80's to early 90's, thanks to "The Facts of Life," a television show whose most prominent character was a rich, pretty and spoiled blond named Blair.

Robbie- I used Robbie because it intimates a small boy--they still call this character Robbie even as an adult, hinting he never grew up.

The bottom line is a character name should be picked only after careful thought and with good reason.