where the writers are
More on Character Names...

Naming Characters…


I am completely obsessed with finding the right names for all my fictional characters.  You would not believe how many name changes some of them have suffered through and how many variations of names even one individual will have that I keep track of. 


Little Jane Silver, in my upcoming book is of course named after Long John Silver, from Treasure Island who is her grandfather, the name’s just twisted around so that it sounds like the most completely unintimidating pirate name ever, which is kind of the idea for a twelve year old girl who’s trying to prove herself a decent pirate.  Definitely, an uphill battle for her with a name like that.  Incidentally, her middle name which is only mentioned once is after my friend, Irene. 


One of my personal favourites from the book is Alistair Florence Virgil Villienne.  He’s the magistrate, and sole representative of colonial power on the island in the story and as such he should really be the villain (Villienne sounds like the word villain) of the piece,  certainly he would be if it was a piece of proper post-colonial literature.  Of course, Villienne is probably the least villainous person in the whole book and is too much of a day-dreamer to have any nasty designs on anyone and actually ends up helping the pirates instead of fighting them.    I really like playing around with this sort of thing, taking characters who might be automatically cast as villains in another person’s story and making them weird sorts of heroes in my stories.  Villienne has one of those long femine sounding names that Victorian poets seemed to give to their offspring, which I’ve always found pretty comical sounding, especially to a 21st century ear. The Virgil part is after the classical poet Virgil, who really was famous, contrasted to Villienne, who really really isn’t famous for poetry.   And yes they did call boys Florence in those days.  (It was the name of one of Mary Shelley’s sons). 


Bonnie Mary Bright the female pirate captain is named after a real famous female pirate from history, Anne Bonny.  I thought Bright was a cool last name and later on found out is also something athiests call themselves, which I thought was neat, being something of an atheist myself. 


Jonesy in language, personality and appearance is based on a particular person, namely Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols who had a radio show called “Jonesy’s Jukebox” which I used to listen to when I lived in LA on Indie 103.1.  It was the bomb. 


One of the true villains of the piece, Fetzcaro Madsea got his  name from the Werner Herzog film Fitzcaraldo.  There was a poster for it up for a while at Innis College at U of T where I was doing my undergraduate studies in Film and the name just stuck with me.  I still haven’t seen the film and altered the name from Fitzcaraldo to Fetzcaro in part after Fettes, a character from one of RLS’s short horror stories about Body Snatchers.  Madsea, well that came because he’s basically mad in both respects of the word.  His physical appearance is based on that of Robert Louis Stevenson, as is the fact that he has a long standing case of tuberculosis. 

 Long John Silver II. 

The original Long John Silver from RLS’s Treasure Island’s real name was John Silver.  Silver, probably because of the money association.  Long because it was another word for “tall” and he was supposed to be a quite a tall individual in the story.   There was actually a famous pirate named “Long Ben” from the golden age of piracy, so maybe that’s where RLS got the idea from. 

In my lovingly derivative story, Long John Silver II, is not actually the character’s real name.  Although Long John Silver was his adoptive father, my character’s real name is Jim Silver.  The original Long John named him Jim, because as a baby he managed to catch him off guard and pee on him, which Long John  associated with Jim Hawkins, he being the only other person to get the drop on Long John Silver ever in his life time.  When he became a pirate Jim Silver, took his adoptive father’s name because it was well known and would  strike fear into his enemies.  Jim Silver, is not actually very tall or long so the name doesn’t really fit him. 

On a side note, if you read the original Treasure Island closely you will realize that almost all drawings of the character of Long John Silver are inaccurate. He did not have a pegleg, mainly due to the fact that his leg was cut off too close to his hip, leaving him no stump that he could’ve worn a peg leg on.  Jim Silver (aka Long John II) in my story, does have a wooden leg though, because his natural leg goes down to his knee so he would have something to attach a pegleg to.


Just about everything medical in the story was checked up on and is completely real, except of course to the bit about the fictional green lichen’s antibiotic properties.    My parents are doctors, so they always made me aware when some medical thing in fiction was completely bogus and it always punctured the suspension of disbelief for me, so I always strive to portray medical matters accurately in my fiction.  I have to say that it really irritates me when medical conditions are portrayed in blatantly unrealistic ways in fiction, when the author could’ve so easily done a basic fact check.  Whatever medical mistakes I’ve put in, I apologize for, but I did do my research at least. 


*I mean how many times have you seen people with albinism in fiction represented as having red eyes, (the preacher in Jamaica Inn, Elric of Melborne, to name a few that come to mind).   Not true, if you’ve ever known a person with albinism or seen a photo of them their eyes are very pale blue.  Only albino rabbits and other animal species have red eyes, but I digress. 


More on names at some later date, now for dinner—at 10:24 pm no less!