I’ve written before about the necessity of making up good names for fictional characters. Names should be distinguishable from each other, memorable, and somewhat reflective of the character’s personality of position. You wouldn’t name a French pastry chef Cletis Von Schlussenklugle for instance, or give a Viking the nickname Fluffy. Of course, Dickens was the undisputed champ at this, but we lesser mortals should at least try.
So I thought I had done pretty well in naming one of the recurring characters in the Max Hurlock Roaring 20s mysteries. This character is the town librarian and resident know-it-all. She’s the go-to person whenever a bit of esoteric knowledge is required. (Remember, this was before the Internet.) So I named her Isis Dalrymple. The Dalrymple is just a little bit fussy and Isis was an Egyptian goddess sometimes associated with wisdom, learning, and magic, among other things. (The more specialized goddess of wisdom was Seshat, but I didn’t like he sound of it, so Isis was close enough). Anyway, this gave her a first name that was both descriptive and just a little on the pretentious side. The whole effect, I thought, was a good-humored poke at Ms Dalrymple’s Cliff Claven-like tendencies.
And so Isis Dalrymple was born and appeared in all five of the Max Hurlock mysteries, beginning with Death of a Flapper. All was well until another ISIS showed up in Syria and Iraq determined to make Genghis Khan look like a moderate. The pretentiousness is certainly there, but not a lot of wisdom, and even less good-humor.
So now I have a recurring character associated with people and actions that are, to say the least, incompatible. Even worse, the name is a constant reference to events that would not occur for almost a century, sort of like a flapper talking on a cell phone. After five books I can’t go back and change her name now, so what to do? Maybe in a future story, Isis will discover her birth certificate and find her name isn’t Isis after all. Hey; how about Page Dalrymple?
Any suggestions will be gratefully acknowledged and possibly stolen.