What’s in a name?
I recently changed my villainâ€™s name. Computers make this blessedly easy, although in one of my early books, back in the days before words were processed, I had to go through and stick that white paper tape in a hundred spots after I decided that the name was just wrong. Not, in those days, a decision undertaken lightly.
But now, buttons remove the sweat from changing names, or places or colors or even sexes, although that last takes a bit more work. So when I decided that Aldous Martin was just a bit too noncommittal, that I needed something that hissed in the mind, changing him to Aldous Carstairs was a task that didnâ€™t take a complete read-through of the manuscript, paper-tape in hand.
My main character has retained his name since the very beginningâ€”Bennett Grey (English spelling, since heâ€™s English.) And although I have both a Sarah and a Laura, and may in the end change one of those ladies, I donâ€™t altogether mind the similarity of their names.
But Iâ€™m wondering about my hero. (And by the way, please donâ€™t worry that Iâ€™m giving anything away hereâ€”youâ€™ll know the hero and the villain the minute they walk on. And of course youâ€™ll suspect that one or the other of them isnâ€™t what he seems, which may or may not be true.) Heâ€™s an American in England, very much the stranger in a strange land, a tough, New York gumshoe-type among the bluebloods. His name is Stuyvesant, distantly related to governor Peter (although yes I am aware that the last descendent died childless in 1953) although heâ€™s of a part of the family thatâ€™s come a ways down the economic ladder.
Whatâ€™s giving me hesitation is that although his nameâ€”Harris Stuyvesantâ€”looks fine on the page, knobby and rough and interesting, itâ€™s a bit of a mouthful. Half the readers out there probably couldnâ€™t pronounce it. Stooeyâ€”? Stoy–? Which in itself might not be bad, except that my publishers are thinking of another with the same characters, which makes it into a series of sorts, which means that the name is attached to it. (Thereâ€”Iâ€™ve given something away: Harris Stuyvesant survives. Except, of course, if the next book Iâ€™m thinking about is a prequelâ€¦)
So I have my ear out for an alternate identity for my Yank hero. If anyone out there is struck by the perfect Stuyvesant substitute, let me know, and you can get your name into the acknowledgments page of Touchstone.