Hawking Up Hairballs

Friday, June 17, 2005

Name, Names, Names

One of the reasons I'm starting this blog is to chronicle my struggles to complete my novel, "Buster Bungle's Big Top". It's a coming-of-age story about a young man, Neal Pilger, who has just graduated from college. His stepfather has arranged a job for him at Sisyphus Software as a technical writer. Neal doesn't want the job. It seems like such a pointless existence, hence the "Sisyphus" in the company name. He ends up running off to join Buster Bungle's Big Top, a tacky traveling circus, and the adventure begins.

One thing I agonize over is names. I like them to be meaningful, as in the company name above. It may be a little heavy-handed, but I'm satisfied with it. I'm not all that pleased with the protagonist's name though. "Neal" is just what I want, since there is a character who criticizes him for spending his life on his knees and, at the end of the novel Neal starts going by the name of "Ace". "Pilger" is a compromise that doesn't really ring true. It's German for "pilgrim", which is the name I really want, but Kurt Vonnegut, and perhaps others have already used it.

One of the key figures in the novel is a big-cat trainer named Syria Sable. It took me two years to come up with that after trying a number of unsuitable names, like "Circe". She has three cats with which she is very close and I have found it frustrating that I have not come up with names for them that I like. I am currently using "Alpha", "Beta", and "Gamma" as place holders.

Meanwhile, there is an antagonistic character who is called Joey Menace. He was Joey Alabama, but I didn't like that. I don't like his current name any better though. I want something that conveys the menace that characterizes the man, but I don't want to be so direct about it. Mack Mendel is a dwarf clown, and I'm very pleased with the name, given that Mendel was the father of genetics and that dwarfism is a genetic defect. I also intend the allusion to the novel "Mendel's Dwarf".

Jesus, this is worse than trying to name a child, though I think Frank Zappa had the right idea there. How about Joey Moon Unit?


Blogger collardsnpeas said...

How about Joey Boucher? Similar to butcher in French, no? I do very much like Mendel's dwarf. Pretty sick, but I like sick, as you know.


5:46 PM  
Blogger Chuck Oliveros said...

Thanks for the suggestion, collardsnpeas, but "Boucher" doesn't grab me for a couple of reasons. He's a menacing guy, but he's not a butcher, so it's not really appropriate. In addition, Joey is a redneck. To give him a French last name would suggest a Cajun origin, which I don't want.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Neal said...

My name is Neal Pilger.

10:09 AM  

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