I’ve talked about character names on this blog before, and you may recall that I get many of my names from gravestones.
Well, in relation to that, a funny thing happened the other day… or not so much funny, but more such a striking coincidence that I really just had to pick it up and run with it.
So here’s what happened…
Being a swashbuckling kind of adventure, I want to loosely base this new character on Jack Sparrow; at least the unhinged side of him anyway, but I additionally want him very well-bred.
Of course, the first thing to do was name him. And, in my usual way, I found a suitable surname carved into a commemorative plaque on the wall of a church near my dad’s house in High Wycombe.
The name I had discovered was Dashwood.
“Yes!” I thought. “It has a maritime, slightly pompous and yet mischievous ring to it.” And so, all I needed to find then was an appropriate forename.
Of course ‘Jack’ would have been prefect: Jack Dashwood: the heroic, eccentric, but slightly insane pirate captain. But, yes, this is far too close to Jack Sparrow.
In the end, I went for Lucas Dashwood. But that name never quite rang true with me.
Anyway, a few months later, I was sat with my wife watching The Importance of Being Earnest, and the name Algernon was thrust before me — as in the character Algernon Moncrieff.
“Algernon,” I thought.
“Algernon Dashwood,” I thought further.
“Yes, yes, YES!” I concluded.
This was perfect.
“Stop the film!” I shouted to my wife, as I ran to grab a notepad and pen, with which to quickly scribble the name down — I’m terrible at remembering such things.
I then resumed the film, happy I’d just come up with such a wonderful name.
But the story doesn’t end there.
About ten minutes later, and further into the film, a scene came up that is set in a church.
And it was a church that I knew…
“Bloody hell!” I said to the missus, who was now getting a little cross at the continual interruptions, “that’s the bloomin’ church where I saw the name Dashwood carved into the wall.”
And so it was. I mean how weird was that?
The Importance of Being Earnest was filmed at West Wycombe Park and Church, near High Wycombe: the exact same place where I’d first discovered the name Dashwood a few months before. And, by sheer coincidence, the very same film that had just provided me with the illusive forename I needed, was filmed in that very same place. The place where I found the surname. Cool, eh?
Now there’s a coincidence that should not be ignored.
To be honest, though, in the cold light of day, the name Algernon Dashwood didn’t quite sit right with me. But, being born of such serendipity, there’s no way I would change it.
And, may I add, it might perhaps be a good omen? The play The Importance of Being Earnest is a classic, Oscar Wilde was hugely successful, and the film did alright too.
Naturally, there’s no way I could go with any other name now, and I shall have to insist that Rupert Everett play the character of Algernon Dashwood when they make my books into a set of seven films. Failing that, I suppose I could insist on Colin Firth instead…
So how about you? Would you stick with the name of this character, even though it wasn’t exactly what you want, but bearing in mind the uncanny process of its creation and such an odd coincidence? Or would you see it as just that: a simple coincidence?
Thanks for reading
P.S. As it turns out, the Dashwood family once owned the estate where they filmed the movie.