Making Stuff Up

There was a card on my desk when I arrived at work this morning but it was not for me. One of the people at the organsiation where I work was leaving today and there had not been much notice before it was announced.

I do not write about work on the blog but this does not stop my blog occasionally flowing into work, like a toilet that has got backed up. The pressure gets too much sometimes and I can see my work mates’ eyes start to glaze over as I rant about the guy that made skulls every day for a year (Noah Scalin) or a short story that I wrote featuring a thinly disguised version of a mutually despised acquaintance.

Today that occasional excitement came back to bite me on the bum as my colleagues decided that I was the obvious nominee to write something inspirational in the card for the person who was leaving. I sat and thought for a while about the Shakespeare I have read, the plays of Wilde and Coward  I have seen, the poems of ee Cummings and Dickenson I have enjoyed. I thought about the humour of Python and the dry wisdom of Twain. I thought of classic literature and modern song and then I leaned forward and did what I should have done in the first place and googled, ‘inspirational quotes.’

As it happens, it took a few search terms before I read out one that met with unanimous approval. It was actually from a speaker who I did not know and used a sailing metaphor:

‘It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.’ – Jim Rohn

I have never been organised enough to buy birthday cards in advance or ‘just in case’. I have just about got old enough to keep a spare new toothbrush under the sink in case of unexpected visitors, and really, I should have a store of useful quotes somewhere, so I do not end up spending ages looking for this kind of stuff when I need it. In the same way, I have been thinking that I should start a database of names – something I know Matt Berry and Arthur Matthews, who write comedy in the UK do.

They have a number of techniques including pairing a normal first name with an ordinary object to try and make a convincing sounding name (the playwright, Carol Spatula, for example). It always feels a lot easier when I have a name for a character to start the writing. Not only that but having the wrong name, or something that sounds like a thin disguise of the name of someone I really know can really slow down my production.

I think I am going to have to find a spot to start down writing good names as I come across them. I was sitting opposite a woman the other day at an external meeting, whose surname was prefaced Ra Da, as in Penelope Ra Da Credenza. I could do something with a name like that. There has got to be a good story with a name like that, although I just re read a short story by Kurt Vonnegut tonight and only two of the characters weren’t actually given names at all. The story was Unready to Wear, in case you want to know.

Sprunk and Doick are two surnames that sound utterly fanciful but they have actually belonged to people I have met (although they were not working together in the fictional law firm that these two might be attached to. I bet they would get up to no end of trouble. Let me try and rattle a few more off.

James Chest
Michael Floor
Jennifer Dressing
Michelle Cover
Tim Weissman

There, that should keep me out of trouble for a while and now I have no excuse tomorrow about completing page two of the short story I started today.


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