How I Write – Names & Meanings

12 12 2011

Having discussed the importance on naming my characters, earlier in this blog, I thought I’d share some research I’ve been doing this week.


It’s been on Bedlam Maternity, which I’m now hoping to get finished in the next couple of months.  It’s a horror based in a maternity unit in the East End of London.  Present day, although there is a connection back a few centuries.


I have five present day mothers-to-be to name.  As well as a main character.  All are involved in the mystery of deaths in the maternity unit.  All have special characteristics, that are important to the narrative unfolding.  All have a history – a specific age, and a specific class and family background. I could have stuck a pin in a phone book, but I’m not like that.  I love names, their meaning, and their power.  So, after some serious research, I offer you the following characters: all of whom could be found in the East End of London, on any street.


Rose Templar is our main protagonist.  Rose is a midwife, in her mid-fifties.  A Catholic woman who has lived and worked in the East End for over 30 years.  Part of her local parish community.  ‘Rose’ as she is of an age where it was slightly old-fashioned when she was born, but fits entirely with her background.  Roses are strong, and fragrant, and can be wild and thorny, and not over cultured.  Our Rose is like that.  But there is a softness, in heart and complexion, and intent.  Templar.  This is our holy warrior, fighting for what is right and to keep the poor safe on their travels.  A lone warrior, dedicated in service to others, through religious belief as well as innate personality.  Rose is country old fashioned British, but I never make it clear which area of Britain.


Eliza Jennings –  Poor Eliza.  A name that evokes age old London, and street urchins.  A diminutive of ‘Elizabth’ which means ‘God’s Oath’ or “God is my Oath’.  Jennings as we used to have a butcher named Mr Jennings, where I used to live.  A solid, working class British name. Eliza existed – see the later narrative.  But she was nameless.  I decided to give her a name, and hopes she forgives me my impertinence in fleshing her out as a person, with a name and background.


Shafiah Begum – my first dead mother.  (I didn’t kill Eliza and her twins, someone else did.)  Shafiah means ‘intercessor’.  And Shafiah is, indeed, an intercessor in the story.  Begum means an unmarried woman.


Mercy Nakalinzi – Mercy is from Uganda where many of the women are named for human emotions of care and concern.  Mercy does not receive much Mercy in her life.  The internet provides lovely lists of surnames that are popular and appropriate to different countries.  Therefore I chose ‘Nakalinzi’ as it is easy to read and in tune with her origins.


Omega – a lost soul.  Omega is 15, scrawny and homeless and desperate.  Omega is the name she chose for herself, for her street persona.  She thinks it means ”last” or ‘the end’, and she feels she was last in everything, so it is a good name.  But it actually means “great”.  I’m aware of the irony, she isn’t.  Her real name is Alice Smith, but no one ever finds that out.  Omega is so much more cool, honest!


Kaja Sobczak –  is a Polish immigrant, recently arrived.  Kaja mean ‘pure’, and Kaja is a pure and gentle maid.  Sobczak, her husband’s name, means son of Sob.  It’s a common Polish name and I chose it as it is identifiable and matches Kaja.


Cerys Roberts – is Welsh, as is her name.  Cerys means ‘love’ and ‘Roberts’ means ‘bright fame’.  I wanted my final mother that Rose fights for, to shine with love.


There are several other females in the books (it is set in a maternity ward!) and it’s quite hard naming a lot of women for their own time and geography.  One, Maggie Saro-Wiwa, is an incidental character who is Rose Templar’s boss.  She is named after Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer who was executed by the Nigerian Government, for speaking out against human rights abuses undertaken to extract oil for Shell in his homeland. Maggie is Nigerian and fights for human rights.  The human rights of mothers and babies.  She has seen the worst atrocities of war, in refugee camps in Africa, before settling in the East End of London to help mother’s birth.  I hope she is a small, but fitting tribute, to Ken.


We live in a world, where we still kill writers for speaking out, and I have never forgotten Ken Saro-Wiwa.  To this day, I’ll let the car run out of petrol, before I’ll buy from Shell… 

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2 responses

12 12 2011
The Unbridled Editor

Love to hear how the gears work in your head. 🙂 Offering up any of the names from our family for your use in any combination if you need more. I have an entire family tree at your disposal. 🙂

12 12 2011
Morgan Gallagher

Be careful what you offer…. 😉

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