Call me anything but don’t call me late for dinner: Names and their importance

© irene waters 2014

© irene waters 2014

Names are a subject of great importance to memoir writers. I would go further and say names are important for us all.

Paul Eakin, states in his article Breaking the Rules: The Consequences of Self Narration that we learn from our parents at an early age the rules for the telling of life narratives. We all tell life narratives, every day, but very few people write them. The three rules he describes are  1) tell the truth 2) maintain the privacy of others 3) “to display a normative model of personhood”. I am still getting my head around number 3 but it is to do with relating stories with a person who is not in a normal state to remember eg a person with Alzheimer’s.

It is rule 2 that we get stuck on. Maintain the privacy of others as the very nature of writing memoir is also writing someone else’s biography. So how do you get around this. Some people change the names. I have great difficulty with this for a number of reasons. I have recently taken up doing Charli’s 99 word flash fiction challenge. I have noticed that I have immense problems giving my characters names. So much so that often I haven’t named them at all.  I had been pondering this problem for awhile and eventually concluded that by naming them they become real, yet as I am writing fiction they aren’t real.

I have also tried changing names in my memoir and that is equally as disastrous. The flow of the writing dries and the person shrivells and dies until I give them their identity back. Some identities in the story cannot be made anonymous even if I  did change the name. Lejeune put forward that if the author’s name is the same as the ‘I’  character in the book, you are reading an autobiographical text and that a pact is made with the reader that the writer is telling the truth and the reader accepts that. So as my name is on the book my husband is identifiable as my husband no matter what I call him.

Josie Arnold says about a character she renamed in her memoir Mother Superior, Woman Inferior “I continue to regret it as it seems to me to dishonour the truth and the woman concerned.” I feel likewise. In fact I have found that many people want their name used. They are happy to be featured. We once named a pig and a friend on asking  what was the pig’s name, was told the pig was named after her. She was horrified. She ranted and raved. Inwardly she was thrilled. She lived on the tale at countless dinner parties and now admits that she was pleased we had thought of her when we named the pig.

©irene waters 2014

©irene waters 2014

Another way is to keep your characters nameless and faceless. Peter Mayle does this in his Provence series of memoirs and so does a great blogger  Tangental. This technique works well for him as it did for Peter Mayle.

Your name is the first thing you own and the last thing you lose when it comes to identity. What comes first memoir or identity? Do you make yourself from the story of your family? Do you readjust unintentionally memories to fit with the identity memoir has given you? Is this why adopted children have so many torments as they haven’t been given a memoir by right of birth? Is this why nations struggle when their history is rewritten and their national identity tampered with such as in Japan recently with the rewriting of history regarding World War II?

Shakespeare intimated in Romeo and Juliet that names do not affect the way things are:

Juliet:

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

Romeo:

[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

Juliet:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Romeo:

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

 

but I don’t go along with this. My family name is going to die with my brother. All his children have their mother’s surname. His wives weren’t prepared to change their name. This is the modern way. Strangely I was saddened deeply by the thought of our name dying. A bit like our heritage the Mathers castle on the coast of Scotland which is falling into the sea.

© colin mathers 2005 (used with permission)

© colin mathers 2005 (used with permission)

To end on a quote – not about names – on memoir writing given to me by Lisa of Bite Size Memoir in a comment in the stream which started this post off :

“The writer of memoir makes a pact with her reader that what she writes is the truth as best she can tell it. But the original pact, the real deal, is with herself. Be honest, dig deep, or don’t bother.”

Abigail Thomas “Thinking about Memoir”

What do you think about names?

 

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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40 Responses to Call me anything but don’t call me late for dinner: Names and their importance

  1. Lisa Reiter says:

    If only I could answer this question. You asking it raises it once more in my mind! It’ll play there for a good while whilst I work out how to tread the trip wire between two sides of an impossible dilemma. I have a difficult identity issue to decide in my memoir – if I rename or re-characterise the people concerned to protect them (and escape further on-going problems with something) the impact is lost on the reader. The importance of the time is diminished. It’s because it was them that gives an event the particular impact it did / does.

    I will not ‘win’ with that one and ultimately truth will out I suspect for that is me – and in part why I procrastinate finishing the bloody thing!

    I have tried giving everyone different names as had been suggested to me but like you Irene they lose their depth and I don’t recognise them! When I write the little bit of fiction I dabble with, names are incredibly important. I have avoided them too, sometimes or I’ll write the whole thing and then work out what someone is called. I ascribe characteristics to certain names. For example, Alice would always be a controlled, maybe staid girl whereas Ruby is bubbling with unconventionality.

    When Max was born we had three names lined up and were waiting to see who he looked like but the sleepless fetus in the last month, the elbows and feet, the bloody dancing inside me at two in the morning, just made him Max – to both of us.

    There are other ways I also find names important. Max’s middle name is Solomon in honour of a man I never met – his grandfather, lost to the horrors of Auschwitz – but on his paternal side. Yet it was me who wanted to name him thus – others surprisingly perplexed or indifferent.

    And I only took Simon’s surname when we married because his father’s survival to my mind, needed recognition and I wouldn’t have a different name from my own children. Up until then I had never intended to change my name. My surname “Gooch” was my identity, not so much called Lisa then! When I left university the Head of Faculty asked me to remind him what my first name was.

    And all that before I realised I was a memoirist! My mission to keep truth and stories alive and not swept away or forgotten.

    See! Now I’ve written it down I can see what I think.. http://wp.me/p45xAV-qS

    – I’ve worked out my own dilemma – Holy moly! What post Irene – Thank you – Certainly the ultimate reflection and nightmare!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sherri says:

      Lisa, I know what you mean about getting the bloody thing finished and I’m still halfway through my first draft!! When I tried changing certain names, It didn’t work and I realised that I had to use the real names, but in facing this huge dilemma I froze. I became stuck and could no longer write fearlessly for fear that I was invading their privacy. Procrastination became the order of the day. I really do believe now however that this is the only true way to write a memoir. Thomas’s quote is excellent. Irene’s also excellent post has raised such an important element of memoir writing. I’m also thinking about my own names in reading your reply…I’ve been married three times (widowed and divorced) and when my mum and dad split up, I was told to take my mum’s new husband his surname to avoid embarrassment in the village. It was the late 60s after all…but I hated using his name because I hated him. It didn’t take me long to refuse and went back to using my given surname, my identity, the real me. I couldn’t live with that man’s name in the same breath. It was different when I married as I took up different names out of choice. Finally, I was very touched by your reason for choosing Solomon for Max’s middle name. It’s a beautiful name.

      Liked by 2 people

      • My grandmother remarried a man who had been my grandfathers friend probably a good fifteen years after my grandfather had died. He turned out to be a bit of a nasty, controlling man and my grandmother’s personality changed radically from being bright and bubbly to frightened and downtrodden. She was very unwell in hospital and on one of my visits she grabbed my hand and crying told me never to change my name. From your comment I understand what she meant as I thought at the time that not changing her name wouldn’t have made any difference to how nasty he was.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Sherri says:

        Ahh…I suppose it isn’t something anyone would think of unless they were in the situation. I just remember feeling very strongly that I didn’t want to take that man’s name. Oh your poor, dear grandmother, that’s so sad. I hope she found peace in her later years…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly they were her later years……

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        I’m very sorry to hear that. Your visits to her must have meant the world though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • What a great comment Lisa.
      I think that is why I can’t name characters in fiction because most names already have real people attached to them but I don’t want my character to have the characteristics I associated with that name. It could also be that I am writing with a person in mind and once I change the name I lose the person.
      I love how Max got his name and can understand you choosing his second name as you did. In the naming aspect it was probably lucky I didn’t have children. Two unfortunate cats I owned ended up as big cat and little cat due to my inability to come up with an appropriate name. Our first dogs we named after Mungo Jerry the English band and since then our animals have been rescue dogs and have come with a name, We did try to change the name of Bundy to Floyd (after Pretty Boy not Pink) due to bad conotations the name Bundy had for us but it just couldn’t be done.
      You are younger than I but until the 90’s christian names were yours personally that you gave out to those you chose and surnames used by others so I am not surprised you were asked what your first name was. What surprised me was that Head of Faculty knew your not only your surname but the face to put it with.
      I’m so glad you have worked out your dilemma Lisa. Can I now look forward to speed writing?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great post, Irene! Names ARE important. I like to think back to when people were only known by their first name – there were no last names but you were identified by what you did. Tom the Builder, Alice the Spinner. And then these jobs became last names! My maiden name was Parsons.
    When we chose our children’s names we spent a lot of time deciding, because a person’s name is important, their face to the world. I just think of some of the crazy names celebrities have given their children, which they are stuck with: Moon Unit Zappa, for example, and Gyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple. And of course the guy whose last name was Chandelier and called his daughter Crystal.
    You know I write bite-sized memoir pieces and I always use the correct names. You are right, the stories lose their immediacy when you change the names.
    One more thing: my son named his first snake, a gentle ball python, after his babysitter. She was delighted and often tells people about her namesake!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Noelle, I was thinking as I was writing about the Icelandic naming system where you take on your fathers given name and son or daughter on the end of it. As there are restrictions on first names for children (which would get over the crystal Chandelier and Moon Unit Zappa) it would only work in a small population I think. Otherwise you would have so many Magnussdottir and Fredrikksson’s running around it would make you quite anonymous. Perhaps though names aren’t quite so important to them as they don’t denote lineage whereas your Parson gives you not only a line to follow but also the career of some relative way back. I don’t know how many greats you’d have to go as I don’t know when the system changed.
      I always use real names when writing memoir also. How do you come up with names for your fiction characters. Do you choose name first or do you decide on characteristics and a name then follows?

      Like

  3. Sherri says:

    Well having read this and then gone back to your ‘stream which started this post off’ I realise that I missed out on a thoroughly captivating and thought-provoking thread going on over there! Where was I? Late to the party as always, ha! I’ve gone back and read all there and now digesting your post and also Lisa’s reply. I sense this will be a long discussion…great!

    What’s in a name indeed? A great deal that’s for sure. Firstly, regarding fiction and having had to come up with names for Charli’s flash posts, I too found it near enough impossible to come up with names at first. I still struggle but I’m finding that by giving my characters name they immediately take on an indentity and I imagine them in my mind. This is the very thing that caused me to freeze when it came to the idea of writing a novel, as in, how on earth do novelists come up with their characters in such depth as they do, enabling them to write complete stories about and around them? Through writing the flash pieces I’m beginning to get a taste, albeit a tiny one, of how this process might just work. This is something that has taken me completely by surprise. I love the flash for this reason, giving me practice with the names and the characters as imagined by me, even if the story is often, but not always, based on a true story…those BOTS again!

    Secondly, with memoir, I am so glad you brought this issue of naming real people. As I read your post Irene, I was so relieved to understand now why I was struggling when I tried to change some names. When I wrote my ‘fear in writing’ post and came to the conclusion that the only way to write a memoir is utterly fearlessly and truthfully, the words flowed once again, as we previously discussed. I am finding just the same as you and Lisa, once I changed some of the names, their essence was diminished and I immediately felt that I was writing fiction, not a real-life 100% memoir. This is the crux of the writing right here…Thomas’s quote is the whole shebang, everything that has to be for a memoir to work. Once I returned to the real names, I was able to write as I had done before…with complete truth.

    I read recently on another blog that some memoir writers condense certain characters, such as friends or distant relations when writing about them to get around the privacy issue. Again, I don’t know if I can do this without affecting the essence of the story. The main person I’m writing about died over 30 years ago but his family, who I haven’t seen or heard from in all that time, may or not be alive but I’ve decided to use their real names. My story isn’t one of revenge or of willingly putting anyone in a bad light – and first and foremost I am most definitely not in a good light in parts of my story – but it has to be told in exactly the way it happened. I’m only writing about them in the context of the story I’m telling from my point of view, how it actually happened, and certainly not writing anything about their personal lives about which I know nothing and wouldn’t deem to write about.

    Now I feel I’m writing to myself as I type this so I apologise for taking up your blog space my friend!! In a nutshell…I’m beginning to think more and more that using true names is the only way to go if one is write a fearless and authentic memoir.

    Now I definitely need a walk… ready?? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sherri love it when you join in. I’d be interested to know what fiction writers do as far as character building goes. Do they think of a name first or do they make the character first then name him/her. I have vague memories of a session I went to years back on character building. Lots of circles come to mind and lots more circles in the form of a round person. The first thing we did was give the character physical attributes. Colour of hair, eyes etc. Another circle was filled with the chaps hobbies, career, education etc. Another circle was his personality. Yet another gave him history. Lots of little circles gave him grandparents, friends, parents, pets with their personalities and doings also noted but not in so much depth unless they were to be players as well. These were bought in more to give the character a past and motivation for acting the way he had. All I can say is I’m glad my characters come ready formed. What was interesting was that after we had drawn up our characters we were then given scenarios in which we placed them and wrote from their reaction.

    http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2014/09/09/in-the-fear-of-writing-memoir/ I’m glad you are writing again Sherri. I’m looking forward to reading your memoir. Anyway, the first draft should be written no holds barred as it is for your eyes only. Once written you can see if you need to worry about what has come out. Don’t worry about it before the event or as you say procrastination will become the order of the day.

    No apologies needed. Take up all the space you need. Another blue Friday Skywatch coming up. Lets take that walk. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, I wonder about that too Irene. The way you describe character development with all the little circles reminds me of ‘storyboarding’ that some fiction writers use to bring the plot together. Only having written flash fiction and a few short stories, the characters I imagine come ready-made but once I come up with a name then they take full form, but only in my mind. I can see how using this method of the circles you could develop the characters to the extent you describe. I’ve touched on this in a writing assignment I did a few months ago but barely scratched the surface. A whole new horizon and new discoveries await! Thanks again Irene for your encouragement of my memoir…now let’s get out beneath those blue skies and walk… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli Mills says:

    Although I write fiction, I have trouble naming my characters. Short stories I wrote decades ago would be “he” or “she.” When I wrote my first novel I named my character, Ann because I couldn’t think of anything else! As you say, when the characters are not yet real it’s hard to name them. I’m sure there are fiction writers who feel that part of the reality is the name and do that first off. But I have to write into the story and let my characters talk. Once I get to know them, I’m ready to name them. So…Ann is now Dr. Dani Gordon which suits her much better, but took writing an entire novel to figure out! Starting on my second novel, I took more time in the beginning to explore characters and name profiles so I was better at it. With the third about to start, I already have the historic names but I had choices to make. For instance, David Colbert McCanles was known as D.C. in the history books, but I know his family nickname–Colb or Cob. I chose to go with Cob because it reflects the southern drawl in how Colb would be pronounced. And I chose the nickname because history has vilified D.C. McCanles and I wanted to explore a different perspective of him (good and bad). So much go into fictional names! Thank you for sharing the memoir perspective! I know a couple of other memoirists besides you, Lisa and Sherri who write flash fiction and when they do, they use their middle names! Both have said it’s like creating a fictional alter-ego. Such an interesting discussion and I refrained from even trying to explain that Charli has been my life-long nickname; short for Annette.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sherri says:

      Just to butt in here (again, thanks Irene!!) I just had to say to you Charli that I always seem to come up with the name Ann! It’s funny because my name is just plain Sherri, that’s it, no middle name, nothing, and I was always rather miffed about that because everyone else in my family has a middle name! So, as a kid, I pretended that my name was Sherri-Anne (with an ‘e’) 😉 I would never have guessed that your name is Annette. I will forever know you as Charli though as that’s who you are to me…it really suits you, I love it. Annette is such a pretty name too and would love to hear how you got your nickname one of these days!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ann is my default character name! I had a friend in grade school who didn’t have a middle name either and she would make up different ones. You have a “fill in the blank” middle name. 🙂 Annette is awful–I was named by teenagers who still watched the Mickey Mouse Club (named after a mousekateer!). My dad called me Charli since I was a baby. It’s after a Bill Cosby character. Did I mention that my parents were teenagers?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow – teenagers for parents. Would love to hear how that was for you. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        Yes…mine too and comes to me every time. Must get more adventurous! I just can’t imagine you as Annette but I do think it’s a nice name although now you mention it I do remember the Mickey Mouse Club so yes, I get your drift and I can see why you hate it…and teenagers for parents? Well, I’ll say one thing, your dad picked a great nickname for you at least 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your naming process Charli. I suppose the more you do it the easier it becomes as you work out ways of making it easier. The only time I used my middle name was in the twitter business as I didn’t know what I was doing. Still don’t and regret doing it. It does give me an alter ego and I’m not comfortable being anybody other than me. Weird. I am really trying not to use myself in the flashes but I find when I can link it to a historical person it is much easier than when I attempt total fiction.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        That’s interesting, that linking to a historical person makes fiction easier for you to write. One reason I was nervous to write about historical characters was the possibility of getting them wrong. But the more I write them, the more real they feel.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve just listened to a paper on fictionalising history and the difficulties it causes for the reader as they don’t know what is true and what isn’t. It has given me something to ponder on – they were referring to books such as Geraldine Brooks ‘People of the Book’ and similar types of books. I do find it easier though as they almost come with their characters already formed. Jack and Joan this weeks 99 words are total fiction. I am getting quite enthused into developing some people’s characters and running with that to see if I have characters if it is easier to write.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Reiter says:

      You are so NOT an Annette!!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. bkpyett says:

    Irene, you have given me much to think about. I agree with being honest and to an extent, keeping people’s privacy. One person in my memoir, I gave her the part about her family to read and she added to it, and was glad to have her family mentioned, even though there are negative aspects, that she accentuated! It can be a very fragile line. My own children I have said very little about them as I don’t want them to feel awkward. I know that I have enlightened them about their fathers which has caused a few hassles. I have given the draft to them to read, but have not been asked to alter it, though my middle child has changed her surname as a result! I have used real names as I feel it only fair to the people involved. Thanks Irene for a great post!
    It is interesting how attached to names we become.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is what I have found also Barbara that although it may be negative people really like to be mentioned. Interesting how your family member accentuated that negativity. My mother asked for a part of mine to be changed but once I explained to her why I had viewed it the event in the way I did she was happy for it to stay as it was. My brother also felt a little confronted by my blogs and how I saw some of our childhood but he didn’t ask me to stop or change anything and it has created a great opening for talking to each other. I am interested that your daughter changed her name. Is that because of the enlightenment about their father or because she wanted to remain annonymous when you went to publication? I agree – if you don’t use real names it is as though you are robbing the people of their own identity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bkpyett says:

        Rebecca, my middle child, learned things she didn’t like about her father, who left us when she was one. She has since formed a relationship with a man with similar qualities… who refuses to marry her. They have a child. Her other siblings are married and she’d dearly like to be too. She has taken this man’s surname probably to be the same as her child, but also because she no longer respects her father (who killed himself some years ago). Tricky! Life isn’t always simple! I’m glad that you have found your memoir has opened up communication between you and members of your family. One of my four brothers follows my blog, so the next part of the story I won’t publish on the blog. I shall see if it is ever accepted for publication. If not, maybe moldering away in a drawer is for the best!

        Liked by 1 person

      • No life isn’t simple. It must be hard for you watching her with a man with qualities like her father, whom she wouldn’t remember and because you want her to be happy. I’m sure it won’t moulder away even if you publish it yourself or just give it to the family. I’m begging my mother for information now, the personal stuff. I didn’t realise how much I would want to know when I was younger and now that she is getting so old I feel there is limited time to get as much as I can before it is too late. Your children won’t have that dilemma.

        Liked by 3 people

      • bkpyett says:

        Yes, make the most of your Mother whilst there is time. I only realised too late how many questions I hadn’t asked Irene. Xx

        Liked by 2 people

  7. TanGental says:

    Oh my what a post and what a string. Where to start on names? Before that, I must just say I am beyond flattered to be labelled great in a way that, apparently, has nothing to do with my waist. You are far too kind.
    I am a committed writer of fiction but, courtesy of Lisa and Sherri and Lori Shaffer and you I have now dipped my toe in the murky memoire mire. I will say I do struggle with using real names, not perhaps because I think people will really object what I say (I’m trying to be honest but I’m yet to write difficult) but because I feel I am somehow usurping their story by being the first to tell it my way. In y former legal life I spent years negotiating complicated deals that ran for months, sometimes years. Sometimes, of course, the course of a negotiation depended on the facts applicable to an event or situation, often in quite subtle ways. If the negotiations were delicately poised it was important for the diplomatic lawyer not to ‘upset’ the dynamics. Thus it became a game to be the first to ‘state the facts’ because calling out the opposition could cause such ‘upset’. Being the first to state the facts – ie to get your truth in first – became part of the game. It ahs rubbed off and, now, I am loathe to set out my stall in such a way, even in relatively bland situations. Using real names is part of that. Equally I can’t call a Mike, Martin or a Felicity, Florence. Thus the labels.
    In fiction I have never struggled with names – well hardly ever. I chose the quickly because I rarely write a part, a character without a picture of him/her in my head. I do, however, avoid names that are those of close family and friends. Occasionally I find I’m using similar names – in one book I have a Martin, a Mike, a Melissa, a Mary-Ann and a Mabel and a beta reader told me in no uncertain terms that after the third of fourth M they screamed. Early on, in my first attempt, there was an unpleasant female character called Felicity – shortly after I finished a young lawyer joined us – yes, Felicity. One of my partners was an early beta reader and pointed out it was perhaps inappropriate to name a sexually voracious vamp after someone I was mentoring! Even though said partner was wrong because of the timing I changed it!
    Surnames are tricky too. I steal them from the local cemetery – Christian names tend to be generational so Ebedizar and Nathanial are a bit passé but the surnames survive. And anyway, we have a few ‘closed’ Victorian cemeteries in London which are fab places to visit.
    One cautionary tale with names is the propensity of foreign names to cause phonetic problems for the Anglo-Saxon listener. When, in 2000 my law firm merged with a major German firm we inherited, I kid you not, a Caroline Bitsch, a Hildegard Bison and best (or worst, depending on whether you had to introduce him to clients) of all Bernd Kunth (oh yes a silent sodding ‘h’ in German). One day I’ll let you know his nickname.
    Sorry, I seem to have taken up a lot of space….

    Liked by 4 people

    • Geoff you can take up all the space you want as all your points were fascinating to ponder.Your legal background’s effect on your writing memoir is interesting. Perhaps you could look at it as disclosure, an essential or you get yet another delay in order for it to happen. I can understand that you can’t rename your family. For some reason it makes them not them, which I find fascinating.
      It is interesting that not only do you have to name your characters (which luckily you don’t have a problem with) but you also have to watch the number of names that are alike or start with the same letter. That was a point I have never given thought to and in memoir isn’t an issue as the names come with the characters. I wonder though if that would be a reason to change names in memoir if everybody”s christian names were the same. Loved your problem with Felicity and your international names. I love cemetries for other reasons but I might add surnames as a reason to wander……

      Liked by 3 people

    • Lisa Reiter says:

      It’s a funny thing to claim to be a committed writer of fiction, Geoff. I would summarise you as a contemporary anthropologist – sort of memoirist – fiction writer – with your fabulous recall and detail of all sorts of non-fiction topics on your blog, I’m not sure you should think of the constraint of one title or another.

      I don’t! Reiter’s a Writer. The finer labels are for others and the musts of marketing – if I ever finish the bugger ! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Charli Mills says:

    Irene, that paper you read on fictionalizing history–is it on line by chance? I’d be interested to read it. What I’ve discovered in researching James B. Hickok and David C. McCanles is that fact is often fictionalized, too! Some Hickok historians were horrid and although called out on their deeds by modern historians, many of the unproven tales continue to get repeated. Recently a movie writer contacted me for information on the Rock Creek incident because he’s writing a feature on the life of Hickok. I shared with him my research, but even still the producers of this “historic” movie documentary have an agenda–they only want facts that show Cob in a negative light. So I have no issue with writing fiction on this period in history. My fiction will probably be more accurate than the historians who manipulate or gloss over the facts! 🙂 And speaking of names–I chose to call James Butler Hickok by his last name to show that he is “distant” to the main characters. I’ll also use the nickname (Duck Bill) he was given before Wild Bill and I won’t use Wild Bill at all. As for David Colbert McCanles, I chose to go with the family nickname of Cob to show the closeness of his relationship to Sarah and other characters. Hickok will call him McCanles. Today, our family name is spelled McCandless, but I’m going with the historical version of how it was spelled back then. And Sarah will be accurately portrayed as Sarah Shull. History has flubbed her name many times and she was erroneously called Kate Shell. So much in a name! Thanks for all these great discussions you’ve inspired!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly it isn’t online. I went to a conference – A WIP on the life of Things. Some fascinating papers were given but it was interesting hearing the huge range of research that people are doing. I gave a paper on the discovery of unique issues of the sequel memoirist. The paper I was referring to really piqued my interest. She was looking at objects that had significance and history which is important on a world level rather than a family level but what she was saying can fit any historical fiction. One of the members of the writing group I used to belong to has written a historical narrative regarding a group of white men who killed some aborigines early in Australia’s settlement. One of the white people was a relative of hers. History has it written one way and she set out to write it another. She was a historian and it seemed a bit dry to me but I’m told with lots of editing it has really come alive and she has a publisher. She did probably the opposite to you in that history has the white people looking innocent where she set out to show they should have been found guilty.With your family interviews and all the other information you may well be able to rewrite history yourself. I think it is great the way you are using the names to convey a message to place the characters.
      It has been a great discussion and really glad you shared all you did.

      Liked by 1 person

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