I always think that if I can get a character's name right, then the character is much easier to write. Once I've got their name, they're real to me, and spring off the page. But getting that name in the first place can be tricky.
I'm the sort of writer who hears her characters. They talk to me, argue with me, and go off and do things that I hadn't planned. And when I'm in the early stages of writing a book, and finding out who the characters are, they often have their own opinions about what they're called. Initially, the character of Aidan in Paternoster was called Matthew. But he didn't like being called Matthew, and grumbled about it, arguing that 'I'd better not shorten it to Matt.'
So there I was with a loud character but I didn't know what his name was. So I went to my book of baby's names, and flicked through the pages, trying out names I liked on this opinionated little so-and-so until he agreed that he liked being called Aidan. And there was no question of shortening it to Ade. Once I'd got his name, he was off and running. Next was my protagonist, the character who is now Eden Grey, and she wasn't easy to find at all.
The trouble with Eden is that she's self-contained. She's used to keeping secrets, working undercover, and keeping her own counsel, so getting her to open up to me was tricky. Originally she had a very old fashioned name, and I wrote the first few chapters with my private eye called Thora Harte. But Thora Harte was very safe, very measured, and frankly, very dull. A new name was needed, but no matter how much I tried to prize it out of her, she just shrugged at me and said, 'It's not my real name anyway, so it doesn't matter.'
I tried rewriting the chapters with various different names, looking for a name that was punchy, exciting, and different. And eventually Eden Grey stepped onto the page. As soon as I had the name I knew it was right. Two short words, only three syllables, and that repeated 'e'. And as Eden Grey, she certainly wasn't boring. I started to rewrite, and within minutes she was rescuing a child, wrestling a beefy man for her camera, and dreaming about her glory days undercover.
And now I can't imagine her being called anything else.
Kim Fleet lives and works in Cheltenham. Her two cats help the creative process by standing on the delete key.