The Dead Rise Again: Odd places to look for inspiration…

Ok, so the title of this post may sound a little macabre and horror-show, but I’m not trying to scare you simply because Halloween is around the corner. I just want to talk a little about inspiration, that’s all.

Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but for me, coming up with characters’ names is a right pain. The principals aren’t so bad, but it’s the incidental characters that give me brain-ache.

Whilst out on a family walk, however, I happened upon an endless source of names and, from that moment on, I knew my troubles were finally over.

Wow, where is this place?” I hear you cry. Well, I can tell you, but you may find it a touch morbid.

First, though, I think I should mention that with my book being set in a pseudo-Regency/Victorian era, this bottomless well of inspiration works particularly well for me; but maybe not so much for others.

Where is this utopia of names; this cornucopia of hidden identities?” I hear you cry, once more.

DSC08468Alright then, I’ll tell you: The majority of the extras in my book are named after the dead (which is ironic really, considering it’s set in the future). Yes, that’s right: graveyards are the places I find these names and – much like the zombies in Micheal Jackson’s Thriller – the dead can now live again.

Gravestone 1Over the last year, I’ve assembled myself a collection of gravestone photographs – most of which belong to those who died pre-1900. So now, instead of scratching a hole in my bald head while I attempt to invent a Victorian-sounding name for a character who appears only once, I simply refer to my ghoulish gaggle of photos and grab a name from days-gone-by. Respectfully, of course.

Gravestone2I have sometimes wondered, however: is this actually legal? And when they make my book into a major motion picture, the credits roll at the end and it reads, “the characters in this motion picture are not based on real people either living or dead,” that wouldn’t be strictly true would it? Has anybody else done anything similar to this, or come up with other novel ways to name their characters?

Thanks for reading.


12 comments on “The Dead Rise Again: Odd places to look for inspiration…

  1. Anouk says:

    What about having something like that :
    – two real died people : Victoria Anderson ; John Sharp
    And your characters are : Victoria Sharp and John Anderson.
    They never existed and you can keep inspiration from graves.

    • gpeynon says:

      That’s a very good point. I don’t have to use the full name do I? I can chop and change as I see fit. Although, funnily enough, some names only work as a whole. But a great idea, nevertheless, and one which may protect me from being sued!

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. M4RT!N says:

    Can you swap christian names with alternate surnames, technically speaking would the “full names” have existed

    • gpeynon says:

      Yep, this could work. I’m quite lucky in so much as the novel is military sci-fi, so many of the names are preceded by Captain, Lieutenant, etc. so I don’t really need to worry about swapping them. However, it is most valid point and could save me from the lawyers…

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Hmmm. I know where I’ll be looking when I start my next novel.

    I actually have quite a few gravestone pics from my travels. Why didn’t I think of this before?

    • gpeynon says:

      Glad I have provided a bit of inspiration. Is your novel/next novel set in a particular period? If so, have you noticed how names can be associated with a certain time in history?

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Okay so I’m writing about vampires, most of whom have been around since the 1500s–talk about setting myself up for major historical research. Luckily my main characters so far have been colonists from the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, so I was able to use the passenger roster for the three ships to come up with names.

        For one of my characters, I did have to go back and research popular Irish names from the 1500s, but with the internet it wasn’t too bad.

        And yes, there is definitely a difference in popularity, complexity and how people obtained their names based on time period and where they are from. I mean Caitlin is suddenly a very popular name, whereas you don’t see very many girls being named Alice right now.

        And then, of course, the name has to fit the character. Are they a villain, a good girl, a cranky old man? I recently read the first book in the True Blood series and I couldn’t get over the fact that the vampire was named Bill. It just drove me nuts.

  4. Love this idea! I usually hit baby name lists if I can’t come up with any. Right now, I’m working on a fantasy novel with a bit of an Indian influence to it and I’ve used some Hindi words for names. Maybe a double edged sword for speakers of the language, but hopefully it works.

    • gpeynon says:

      I know where you’re coming from. I have a French contingent in my story, which involves finding/thinking up French names for fictional places; French names; and there’s even a little French language too. Thank goodness for Google translate. Does that work for Hindi?

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. […] I have my little ways of coming up with good names; you may even have read my post on stealing names off gravestones, but that trick was for extras, not main […]

  6. […] I’ve talked about character names on this blog before, and you may recall that I get many of my names from gravestones. […]

  7. […] a while back, I wrote a piece about how I like to find names on gravestones. Naturally, I thought this was a novel way of filling one’s novel with authentic-sounding […]

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