When someone asks me what I write, I see a slight look of disappointment when I say nonfiction. Fiction writers must have all the fun, right? Well, I have a logical explanation for my shortcomings: I is flawed, you is flawed, we is all flawed.
Hello. My name is Sheila and I’m a name-a-holic. That’s right. For years I’ve been convinced the only reason I can’t write fiction is my inability to think of interesting names for my characters. So I collect names like some people collect stamps or coins or antiques. If I think about my favorite novels or short stories, I always remember the names of the characters. For example, my favorite short story of all time, How I Came to Live at the P.O. by Eudora Welty, is chock full of great names. PapaDaddy. Uncle Rondo. Stella Rondo. Mama. I could’ve written that story if I’d had those names to work with.
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Harper Lee’s Boo Radley and Scout. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March. Laurie the boy next door. Papa. Mama. Or, lest you fear I haven’t read a book in the last twenty years, Amir and his friend Hassan in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Then of course, the Texas names Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Llewellyn Moss, the evil Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy are equally terrific.
Well, somebody slap me….I see the problem. In order to think up great character names you have to be an author with a fabulous name yourself. Eudora Welty. Mark Twain. Arthur Conan Doyle. Louisa May Alcott. Khaled Hosseini. Cormac McCarthy. Harper Lee. Sheila Rae Morris. Aha, that explains it! My name is so blah my imagination follows suit. My only hope is Margaret Mitchell.
Oh well. If I ever do get my fiction in gear, here are a few of the names you can look for in my novel: Colt, Chance, and Charlie Cantrell. (Three Texas brothers for sure.) My twins’ collection so far: Leon and Lon Lane. Madell and Adell Tolliver. Winnie and Minnie McCune. If the novel includes horses, the mare’s name will be Nacho. Her foals will be Frito and Dorito. Possible shero names: Sequoia Potter. Ethel Lorraine Wilson. Maurice Sawyer. Carolyn Briggs. Willie Joe Boaz. Possible hero names: Cotton Lyles, Harvey Wilson, Forest J. Hutchinson, Lester “Gene” Archer, Vannoy Stewart, Elvis.
As for plot to go along with this potpourri of names, I plan to start with the fact that Whitney Houston’s mother Cissy Houston was once one of Elvis Presley’s backup singers. Now, that’s a story just waiting to be made up. I’ll get right on it. I predict Mama will be one of the principal characters, but how will I ever come up with a title? Sigh.
On a more positive note, Pretty surprised me yesterday afternoon by bringing our grandbaby Ella to visit me outside in our backyard for an hour. Since yesterday was Day 36 of my self isolation due to Covid-19, Pretty figured I would be one of the safest people for our six month old granddaughter to see. I was overjoyed when Pretty opened our back gate and came walking up the brick path holding Ella plus her big travel bag. Pretty and I had the best time playing with her, watching her take in her new surroundings, telling each other how brilliant she is, wondering what she will be like when she’s older. And when that girl baby looks at me with her smiles, I feel like life is good again.
Ella and her mother Pretty Too on Easter Sunday
I is definitely flawed, you is flawed, we is almost all flawed. Ella is not flawed.
Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.