Friday, June 15, 2012

How Characters Get Their Names

I can't imagine India Black with any other name.  India has an exotic element that evokes adventure, and the surname Black, being simple and rather stark, complements India very nicely.  It's also true to the time period of the books.  The Victorians often named girls "India" in homage to its colony, considered the jewel in Britain's crown.  Her name also fits a major criteria for me:  it's easy to type.  If you're going to use a name hundreds of times, it better be something that doesn't require the skills of a contortionist to bang out.  That's why I chose the names "Harkov" and "Flerko" for two Russian characters in India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, rather than something like "Dargomyzhsky," for example.

Not long after the first book was published a reader from India castigated me on Facebook for using the name "India" for my prostitute heroine, saying that it was condescending to the "masses" of India.  I thought referring to people as "masses" a little condescending in itself.  I replied politely, explaining the rationale behind the name.  The reader responded that it was still an insult and would I please change India's name?

At this point, I was beginning to get irritated.  I wanted to point out the "masses" of India had rather more to worry about than my character's name, starting with poverty, illiteracy, absence of basic health care and a corrupt government and that perhaps if my correspondent was really worried about these folk, she should get off Facebook and do something useful in these areas.  But then I remembered this,

so I held my tongue.  Until now.


  1. As Joseph Campbell said, "Everything you do is evil to someone." And as my grandma also used to say, "There's no accounting for stupid people."

  2. So true. I think I would have liked your grandmother.