Every once in a while, I come to a place in a book where I need an unexpected character. Someone I wasn’t planning on. Usually I have all my characters mapped into the outline, names picked and they wait in the wings until their curtain comes up.
Then a story will take a little bit of a twist and I find myself making a quick casting call.
In the case of Lord Langley is Back in Town, that character was Lord Andrew Stowe. Suddenly, I needed a young agent from the Foreign Office willing to help Langley. Basically, I needed a younger version of Langley–a young gentleman, rash and impetuous, with a keen mind. The sort who had easily seen too much, but couldn’t be easily gotten rid of because of his connections to Society. He leaped onto the page, “Ta-Da,” but then came the tough part.
What to call him. As I sorted through my usual naming sources, I found myself delving deeply into creating his character–where he’d come from, that he was a second son, that he was brilliantly wise–an old soul, but a name! What to call this character who was stepping onto the page in a moment of plotting need and now demanding a full and engaging place in the story. This doesn’t happen all that often, but as a writer I know his name is going to be important.
But at the moment, I just couldn’t come up with one that fit.
So I did what I always do when a character needs a name, I can’t find one, and I must get back to the writing: I borrowed one.
Yes, borrowed one. I call these “placeholder names.” I use someone’s name (usually a friend or family member’s name) to hold the place until I have time to come back and find the right name. I do this, so I don’t forget to remove it. Because when I use a familiar name, then it just blares at me every time I see it to “find me a REAL name.” Only sometimes, the placeholder name becomes the final name.
This happened in This Rake of Mine. I needed my heroine, Miranda Mabberly to have an assumed name. So I plucked out of the hat, Jane Porter, the women’s fiction writer who is a good friend of mine. Yet I never got around to changing it because by the end of the book, Jane Porter fit so perfectly.
And so it was with Lord Andrew. I plucked a name from my family at large, and then it stuck. It became the perfect name for the character–a young man of conviction and dedication, like my nephew Andrew. So Andrew, thank you for letting me borrow your name and being such a good sport about it. And thank you to the fictional Andrew for being such a wonderful character. And yes, eventually, you will get your own book.