Tuesday 17 March 2009

What's in a name?

A few days ago I was close to finishing the first draft of The Miracle of Santa Maria. But I started to have doubts and I couldn't identify why. There's still a climactic gunfight to write, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to write it.

I thought my reticence had to do with the fact that the Pike's Peak eclipse had yet to play a significant part in that climax, but some further pondering identified the main problem. There was no bad guy in the story. And in a western this is admittedly a bit of an oversight on my part!

Well, there was a bad guy but I'd accidentally killed him off in chapter 8, which I should have realized at the time was a bad idea. I thought of bringing him back from the dead (done that a few times!) but he was very dead and resurrecting him would have ruined a good scene. The answer therefore had to be to make him the not-quite-so-bad guy and add in a new main bad guy, but who and how and why?

No particular answer came to me until I remembered the interview author Ray Foster conducted on his author day (details in the Black Horse Express magazine). He related how he'd come about naming a character in his most recent western. A debate had been underway on the BHW discussion group about naming characters and I'd offered the view that a Felicity couldn't be a feisty heroine. To prove she could Ray cast his main female character in Lawman as a Felicity, and ensured she was very feisty indeed.

I couldn't remember the full debate we'd had at the time and I rooted around to see if I could find the original post where I offered that opinion. I didn't find it but I seem to remember that I also said that Thaddeus could never be a bad guy, or a hero for that matter.

So I reckoned if one author was up for the challenge so could I, and so yesterday Thaddeus T. Thackenbacker the Third was born. He's debonair, stylish, witty and all the things a Thaddeus should never be. And he's the new bad guy in the novel, even though nobody's told him that with a name like that he can’t be!

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