Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Names You Won't Forget

Naming characters occupies quite a bit of time for anyone who writes fiction. Making them fit the person can be a challenge. At that Charles Dickens had few peers. Names should be distinctive and if they are memorable, that makes them all the better. They should not be preposterous, of course, unless they belong to a living, breathing individual.
A group of people in England with too much time on their hands has made a list of ridiculous names found on that pleasant but sometimes cantankerous island. I believe the parents could have been innocent of possessing twisted senses of humor when they named Barb Dwyer. They probably christened her Barbara. It is harder to be forgiving for the mom and dad of Mary Christmas. Can there be any doubt that old dad was chuckling when he insisted his son be named Justin Case?
There were others, including Hazel Nutt, Chris Cross and Paige Turner. The latter may have had a writer for a parent. But it took a pair of fiendish parents to name a kid Terry Bull. That was terrible.
This business of a writer naming characters not only is challenging, it can be risky. Since Google came along I have used it to check out names I have dreamed up. Doing so has taught me that it's unlikely there is a single possible name that somewhere in the world hasn't been taken by an actual person.
I made what I now consider an embarrassing mistake in a story written a year ago. It is scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. For a really nasty individual, a through and through rotter, I chose the name Wally Shanks. I did so quite innocently, forgetting that Rob Lopresti has a series character called Shanks. Compounding this blunder, the latest story about Shanks appears in the issue one month before my evil Shanks shows up. My apologies, Rob.
Twenty years ago I was selecting a name for the protagonist of a series still running. In fact he is the man who got the best of Wally Shanks. I wanted the name to be short and rhythmical and I did not want the last name to be that of anyone I knew or had even heard of. I chose Jack Eddy. About the time the first story appeared in print I remembered a Ball State professor of my acquaintance named Diane Eddy. Then I recalled that Manton Eddy was a well known general during World War II. Soon after that, Eddy's Bike Shop in nearby Stow came to mind. Earlier this week we had lunch at Eddy's Deli & Restaurant. Where was Google when I needed it? Well, it's here now and I have discovered there are real people named Jack Eddy walking around somewhere.
Maybe I should have followed the lead of Bill Pronzini. For thirty years he has been writing books about a character and never has gotten around to giving him a name.


Anonymous Deborah Elliott-Upton said...

I personally know in my town alone there are -- or at least were -- a Merry Christmas and a Justin Case. I think our names shape us into who we become somewhat and the choice of nicknames help us define ourselves. I just did a presentation for a women's organization where I was given the film, "West Side Story" and the elements to follow in my speech were: self-esteem, confidence and feeling pretty. I didn't have to delve far to find the lone girl who wanted to belong and be a Jet, was known by the name, Anybody's. Seeing as the gang members' aliases defined them as they and others saw themselves, I thought her Jet name most telling.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Dick Stodghill said...

Very true, Deborah. Childhood nicknames dreamed up by other kids can affect a person for a lifetime. My wife was called Peachie by her family - still is, actually - but I have never been able to say that cutesy name even once. She's Jackie in my book. On the other hand, I've always liked the nickname "Stodgy" and you know what that means to most people.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Robert Lopresti said...

I forgive you, Dick, and look forward to reading the story. Of course,my Shanks full name is Leopold Longshanks, which he is not fond of, for some reason. Only after I created him (we seem to be creating the had-I-but-known school of blogging here) did I realize that the editor/founder of Biblical Archaeology Revie, one of my favorite magazines, is Herschel Shanks.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Dick Stodghill said...

Thank you, Rob. That's a load off my mind. I was truly shocked when the coincidence dawned on me.

8:11 AM  

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