This whole summer I’ve been trying to write a story about a character named July. The idea came to me this past spring when I was reading Sula by Toni Morrison for a final essay in my class. There was a sentence that mentioned two girls and the month of July. Reading quickly, for a moment I thought Morrison was talking about a third girl named July. From that moment I was intrigued by that name.
Names fascinate me. I don’t feel that I really understand who a character is until I find the right name for them. It reminds me of growing up and how names are so particular. In school Christopher K. is drastically different from Christopher M. who is different from Chris. Some people are referred to with their full name and some you only know by their nickname, which could be as particular and out there as possible.
So I try to find a name that evokes something of the character. For me, name should be as reminiscent of a person. It should be like kindergarten, when forming words and name was new and exciting and powerful.
So I have been really interested in finding out who this girl named July is. What story does she fit into? What does she look like? Does she like her name?
I went to BehindTheName.com to look more into the name. That is my favorite place to research names. I can spend an hour (or more…) on this site looking into names and generating ones to get ideas. Of course July as a name is rare and has less information. I might have to look at variants of the name Julius Caesar, from which July comes from. Maybe Julie, Julia, or Juliana. But I’m still drawn to the sound of Juh-LEYE. (That’s how I pronounce it.)
So I’m still searching for a story for her. It might take a while. I’m focusing on another story for NaNoWriMo, my first crack at the exhilarating endeavor to write a novel (50,000 words) in 30 days. So I’ll focus on a character I have a better grasp on (though I still haven’t settled on a name).
But while I’m mentioning a story for July, here’s a little bit of something I wrote a couple months ago trying to figure her out. Let me know what you think.
July sat across from her grandfather at the chess table. It was a small sturdy table that he had made himself. But the resolute chess pieces did not stand in their positions. Instead, the checkerboard pattern was covered by two knitted place mats and two steaming bowls of soup.
Some girls have tea parties. July had hearty meals with her thoughtful grandfather. They were extra special when July was not feeling well. She could miss school and relax eating hot soup, the trick to drive away a cold and soothe the spirit.
Grandpa liked to spruce up canned soup. Tomato soup gained pizzazz and punch with chunks of meat, vegetables, and seasoning to taste. Lots of spice helped clear the sinuses, but sweetness from the tomato and from cinnamon seasoning the ground beef balanced it all.
To top it off, there were slices of buttered black bread. After his wife passed away, he had learned to bake basic recipes, to savor memories and enjoy what he loved. Specialty items he procured from shops or received them from neighbors and family. The black bread was a treat. On a stroll, he had managed to buy some from a popular local bakery before it was sold out. July dipped slices in her tomato soup. Her grandfather chewed pieces with relish.
The radiators lining the wall hissed quietly. Gray light streamed in from old window. Munching and slurping for a while, they enjoyed the warmth of the soup and each others company.
July put down her spoon and took out a wad of tissues from the pocket of her jeans. “Feeling any better?” her grandfather asked after July blew her nose.
“A little bit. I don’t have such a bad headache anymore. Grandpa, you have crumbs on your beard.”
He looked down at his chin, crossing his eyes in the process. “So I do,” he chuckled. He wiped them away good naturedly.
July smiled. She hoped moments like these would last for a long time.