The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What’s in a Name?

As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

But is that really true? What if the rose was actually a slice of Limburger cheese, or a hunk of lutefisk? Even the sound is smelly.

We think names are important. But since we write as a team, with little or no outline, names of new characters are totally at the discretion of whoever has the manuscript in her hands and is charged with writing the next chapter. (We are also at liberty to send our established characters in any direction, introduce new ones, or get rid of those who are just plain annoying or, worse, have sinister intentions. Regardless of their names.)

Names come on the spur of the moment, but we try to keep character names different from those of people we actually know. There are exceptions. Detective Culotta, for example, was totally stolen from a friend who lives in Chicago. We both loved the name Culotta, and it sums up the “yummy detective,” as one of our reviewers kindly described him. Detective Pufpaff or Squatpump (although there is nothing wrong with either of those names) wouldn't play well for the police guy we have living in our heads.

Sometimes names have to be changed on the fly as we continue the writing process. Perhaps a fictional Svetlana introduced early on (because the lady who served us at Chico’s was so helpful and had a badge displaying that name) turns out to be a stinker later in the book (and besides, we just remembered we have a dear friend called Svetlana), and the connotation of stinker will not sit well. So Svetlana becomes Sabrina.

Long-standing characters, those we want to keep, and those who serve a purpose to the story will hopefully keep their given names throughout the narrative. But mistakes can easily happen. For example, a name can be introduced with a clear vision of what that character is like. But it can reinvent itself for no apparent reason as the book progresses. An Ellen might start out innocently enough, then become Helen, and before you know it, she’s now running around Downers Grove going by the name Helena. (We’re not admitting, of course, that this ever happens to us.)

If we’ve offended any of our friends or would-be friends by stealing their names in a not-so-nice way, we apologize. It was definitely unintentional, and well try harder in future novels.

We are currently working on the next book in The Val & Kit Mystery Series, happy that our latest one, Palm Desert Killing, has left home, so to speak. It hasn’t quite made it to high school, or even junior high, but you could say it’s zooming through grade school.

Thank you to all our wonderful readers who have bought it. We love ALL your names.

Rosalind (right) and Patriciaor Roz and Patty:
By any name, at any age, BFFs and writing partners.

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