I’m a lot of things, but one thing I’m planning not to be is that guy who says he’s giving a two-part blog post, hands you the first part and then completely ghosts you, like a lot of other hobby bloggers I’ve come across. At this point, of course, this is a hobby blog for me on the technicality that I haven’t made any money as a writer yet, and really haven’t made money as a writer since 2017. Even with the publication of my first two plays. The more you know!!
Anyway – the naming process of characters is one of my favorite parts of writing. In the previous post, I took you through why I like names and then the thought behind each of the names in Knights of the Square Table, and today I will continue right where we left off and take you through the names in The Thousand-Year Rose and See Amid the Winter Snow.
So let’s dive right in!
So as you may know, I drew loving inspiration for this play from my favorite video game of all time, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. It was a game with a quirky sense of humor that a) probably shaped a lot of my sense of humor as a writer and b) managed to give a lot of personality and backstory to the characters in the story that made no appearance in any game prior or any game to follow. They were just interesting characters showing up for that game and that game only. Most of the principal characters in Rose fill a similar archetype to a corresponding Paper Mario character (with overlap in name for a few).
Kimmi Larkin (Kimberly Renae Larkin)
In the original draft of The Thousand-Year Rose, we are treated to this exchange (cut from the published edition for time, and to avoid dating the play too much) between Kimmi and Professor Davis that accurately sums up my reason for choosing Kimmi as her name:
PROFESSOR DAVIS: No, no, Ms. Larkin. Ms. Peaches is indeed clever and witty, but this is not a general offer. I’m offering you a job. It’s an offer for Kimberly Larkin.
KIMMI: (Taken aback.) Ooh. Kimberly’s what my passport says. Just call me Kimmi, Doc!
PROFESSOR DAVIS: …“Kimmi”?
KIMMI: Yeah! Like Kimmi from Full House, or Survivor. Or The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! Anyway though, seriously? You don’t have any of your people for the internship?
So let’s look at each Kimmi:
When I think of common traits between these characters, I think bouncy, adventurous, resilient women. Kimmi Larkin is intended to be a natural addition to this family of Kimmi in the media, while providing perhaps a more book-smart image of her name. I intend her to be a well-educated picture of an energetic, fast-thinking college student. I had toyed with Sarah Larkin as the name of the character, but when I saw Kimmi Kappenberg return to television to compete in Survivor: Cambodia in 2015 while I planned the draft, I realized Kimmi was the perfect name for her. Her surname, Larkin, is simply in homage to my intelligent, fast-thinking AP US History teacher from 10th grade, Thomas Larkin.
Her name is a one-degree of separation reference to the biblical Abigail. At one point in my life, I had a difficult person to work for who we’ll call “David”. He was sort of the “King” of his Christian organization. As his subordinate, the treatment I received from him felt borderline abusive. When I went to write this, I channeled some of my experience with this “David” into Abigail’s speech patterns and her treatment of Vivian. And since I stuck to referring to this supervisor as “David” – and one of the wives of King David in the Bible is Abigail – Abigail seemed to be the natural name for the wicked witch.
Also, in The Crucible (the Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials), the main antagonist is Abigail Williams – manipulative, power-hungry, dishonest, and does not bat an eyelash at letting people die. Certainly sounds a lot like our Abigail, too.
The jig is up – Vivian is the exact name of her character inspiration in Paper Mario. She’s on the villain’s team initially and is treated abusively by her sisters but then she betrays them to join Mario. I pay homage to this obviously through Vivian’s namesake and her plot beats, but this Vivian and her story (and her having an actual character arc) have grown to be much more of their own thing, now sharing only the name and basic plot beats. It was important to give Vivian agency and I wanted to see her grow to be empowered.
Professor Frank Davis
This very basic name is the only name near-lifted from the corresponding character in Paper Mario, Professor Frankly. The original draft had his name even closer, as Frank Layton – but one of my cast members pointed out there is actually a video game series also called Professor Layton. So Layton was quickly swapped for Davis.
Scott (Reed) Foley
I’m paying homage to two different friends with Scott Foley’s name – first, we have my Wheaton College classmate and Men’s Glee Club president Scott Reed and then the last name of Foley, shared with my summer camp director, Josh Foley. Foley was also chosen as it is a recognizably Irish last name that doesn’t feel like cartoonish stereotyping (like O’Flannigan or O’Connery or really any of those names starting with O’). Scott is a somewhat timeless first name that feels appropriate for a teenager to have – and his name allows him to be played flexibly as either an American teenager visiting his grandmother in Ireland or an Irish teenager living with his grandmother.
Diana Marie Bailey
I knew for the grand dame actress character, I wanted to do a first/middle/last name that just rang like a grand woman. Bailey was chosen as another last name that was recognizably Irish but not a cartoonish stereotype (Bailey’s cream, anyone?), and Diana and Marie are names of a British Princess and an Austro-French Antoinette, and the full name together rings like a grand actress: Diana Marie Bailey.
Captain Seamus Boggs
Seamus is such a cartoonishly stereotypical Irish name, and I picked it knowing full well this is the case. I wanted Boggs to be unequivocally native to Hanenbough – a sailor who enjoys whisky and is friendly to a point. The cartoonish stereotype he embodies is intentionally mitigated a bit by pairing first name Seamus with surname Boggs, an English name (and got a chance to pay homage to a friend from college, Winsor Boggs. That man has a truly epic name).
This is Scott Foley’s grandmother. I wanted to pick a grandmotherly sounding name and decided I wanted it to be a little youthfully-spirited as a grandmother’s name (after her original name Maude Foley sounded too matronly). When I realized I could make a stealthy Gilligan’s Island reference by naming her Maryann (“the professor and Maryann”), I was attached to Maryann being the perfect name.
The Gardener (Desrosier)
The Gardener, of course, is the Gardener. Desrosier, a surname meaning “of the rosebush” in French, is a fitting name for the man behind the legend of the Thousand-Year Rose. Kimmi even lampshades this in the final scene of the play:
KIMMI: Yeah. In order to ensure someone with a pure heart who truly cared to seek the treasure would find it, Desrosier… Omigosh – that gardener guy has to be Desrosier. Desrosier. Rose. Thousand-Year Rose. Wow, this guy really got the mileage out of his name, didn’t he?
So that’s all well and good – but I do have a personal connection to Desrosier as well. Desrosier was chosen in homage to Harris Desrosier, one of my very best friends and one of the kindest people I know.
I had to come up with a douchey name for the master impressionist. Never revealing his given name and having an obnoxious stage name with an emphasized rolled R (especially if the actor portraying him is not Latino) easily accomplishes this. Of course, the name itself is the Spanish for “I look like” – which is a fitting name for an impressionist.
This is a fun one! So my mother’s name is Beth – just Beth. My uncle, one of my mom’s brothers, married a woman named Elizabeth, who primarily goes by Beth. For the cousins in the extended family who have two women on the same side of the family named “Aunt Beth”, it gets rather confusing – so somewhere in the early 2000’s, my Aunt Beth decided to occasionally call herself “Aunt Peaches” (I honestly don’t think I’ve ever actually called her that). I had to make up a name for this one-scene-wonder character and thought it would be hilarious within the family to give a character the name Elizabeth Peaches – and thus, Kimmi’s roommate was named!
All right, so that’s everyone for The Thousand-Year Rose. This blog post is already getting hella long, but I’m not going to pull a Hobbit film series and make a trilogy out of what I promised would be two parts, so let’s go right into See Amid. There is a lot less to unpack with these names, admittedly – since some of the characters came with names and others I just decided not to name.
I chose to not give The Snowman a revealed first name. I had toyed with Frosty in early drafts as their first name, but I wasn’t completely sure if it was in the public domain. Nonetheless, I based the Snowman’s speech pattern on Dolly Parton and say so explicitly in the stage directions in the script.
It’s Santa Claus. I chose not to give him the first name Nicholas like most writers do and simply made his first name Santa. I did consider giving him the first name of Denny, but it just sounded weird and I abandoned it as quickly as I thought of it.
She’s Daisy and IdaLynn’s Granny. Doris is her one-time-only mentioned first name since Doris is my grandmother’s name.
I wanted to pick a name that sounds like a 20-something in 2019 who maintains his life well. Most of the Mitchells I know are successful young professionals with white-collar careers, and it seemed like a sensible name to give to the only son of the Claus family. As Mitchell is informed by my father’s personality, I had to pick a name that would work as an alternate name for my Dad if he were a millennial – and Mitchell seemed like a great choice.
I based the role of Daisy on my mom, and I came to the decision to name her Daisy for a few reasons: first, to make the throwaway pun in the third act when Granny buys the gun and says it’s a “Red Ryder, Daisy” and second, in reference to Princess Daisy in the Super Mario series. While Daisy since about 2003 has evolved into a brash, tomboyish personality, she was still cheery and warm but humble in her appearances on the Nintendo 64. I can’t really explain how the connection was ever made in my head, but there’s something about Princess Daisy’s characterization in Mario Tennis and Mario Party 3 on the Nintendo 64 that also reminds me a little of my mom - and served further inspiration for the role of Daisy. It made for a memorable name for the role. Scarlett, of course, is her last name since she fulfills the role of Red Riding Hood in the story when the plot develops into a retelling of the classic tale.
My parents were set up on a bet between my father and his co-worker IdaLynn over an ice cream sundae. I decided to write IdaLynn into the story of Mitchell and Daisy and based the character on our family friend full-stop. Marble was chosen as her surname in homage to my multiple-time Wheaton College classmate, badass lady, and dear friend Kylie Marble.
Maureen Gaines Claus
Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the inspiration for Mrs. Claus in this script, so I wanted to pick a name with a similar cadence for our long-serving North Pole Mayor. For her name, I went with 2 syllables-1 syllable-1 syllable since Claus was predetermined to be her final name, so I just had to find another first name and a middle name that would invoke power and class – thus, Maureen Gaines was chosen to round her name out.
When snow covers a meadow, you could call it a white field. Smash those two words together and you get Whitfield. The original plan for this character was to emulate President Snow from The Hunger Games, and so I named him with the intention of creating a more villainous figure. While the plan changed for the character to make him more humorous, I actually really liked the name and it worked for his new Sarah Palinesque characterization. “Ebenezer” was chosen in reference to Mr. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol but it was also chosen for the biblical meaning, “stone of help”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek twist I take on it with his new characterization, but when I look at Ebenezer Whitfield, I look at someone who wants to help his village and then I also think if he were in charge, “God help”.
Original plans for this play had Wolf as simply a talking wolf named “the Wolf” (to fulfill his role in the Red Riding Hood potion of the story), but I developed the specifics of the story more, I realized I needed to make Wolf more human (or, I suppose in this case, elven) – but I knew Wolf was a monster and wanted to give him a name to fit.
I will definitely butcher this – but in the origin legend of Rome, we are told there were once twin boys, Romulus and Remus. They were raised by a Wolf until they matured and Romulus actually ends up murdering his twin brother, Remus. So, as Romulus was the surviving twin (by virtue of murder), the city was named Rome in honor of him. By naming him Romulus Wolf, I pay homage to a legend and picked a name that reflected “this character is capable of murder – he’s a big, bad wolf”.
Here’s another fun one! Hines was chosen as his last name for the beta inspiration for this role, Big Brother 20 HouseGuest Winston Hines. In the summer that I wrote the first draft of See Amid, I went to see a production of Mamma Mia! at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. I had been writing this character, the ridiculously attractive news reporter, but I couldn’t settle on a name for him. I did know what he looked like, though. Enter Schyler Conaway.
I yet to have a moment where I had thought of a character and then saw the actor perfect for the role like that. So I edit-replaced the placeholder name “Kris” with “Schyler” and the rest is history.
So there we have it - I love names!