This is a strange post—so strange that I’m not even sure where to begin.
I guess it started about two weeks ago…
I was working on my next novel Unfinished Business and the scene I was writing involved my antagonist, a shady nightclub owner named Mike McMahon, and one of my protagonists, a detective named Dave Steere. In the scene the two men are having a discussion and in the course of the conversation it is revealed that they have a history that goes beyond “cop and robber”. In fact it goes all the way back to their youth.
This is a good time to talk about names…
Obviously every character in a novel needs a name and naturally those names must be chosen by the author.
I can’t speak for other authors, but I think I spend more time than needed in choosing names for my characters. There are a bunch of criteria to go by (time period, nationality, ease of pronunciation, etc) and then it must be a name that I am happy with.
More times than not I try to use names that I will remember with little or no effort and also ones that will help me identify my character . It’s quite common for me to pick the name of an old friend or co-worker who fits the general description of the character in order for me to keep physical details straight – ditto with personality traits.
Okay – back to my work in progress…
In the aforementioned scene between Mike McMahon (the name of a guy I knew in high school) and Dave Steere (a close friend from college) I had originally intended their historic connection to involve a girl—so the scene was written with a girl whose affections the two had competed for in high school. Since the girl would play no significant role in the book I decided to use a name from my own high school days…that of a girl I knew for a short period of time, but whom I lost contact with thereafter.
Her name was Mary Ellen Henry.
She was an attractive girl with a big smile and the kind of laugh that makes you smile when you hear it. We met through a mutual friend (whose name will probably appear in a future novel) and we got along very well. I was a sophomore and for the entire year Mary Ellen and I were pretty close friends. After that year I never saw her again. I never knew what happened to her either…I suspected she moved away.
Back to the book…
After writing the scene where McMahon and Steere discuss their competition for Mary Ellen’s attention I moved on in the story. As the story progressed I realized that this struggle over a high school romance just wasn’t enough…so I went back, deleted the scene and rewrote it with something a little more intense.
In so doing, Mary Ellen Henry was removed from the story.
That was the day before yesterday (Tuesday, Nov 13).
Last night (Wednesday Nov. 14) I was writing and hanging out on facebook when I saw a post form another old friend from the neighborhood – I literally stopped and said “Holy shit” aloud when I read it.
He had posted the announcement of Mary Ellen Henry’s death.
I really wish this was one of those clever stories that writers love to create with Rod Serling-esque twists…but it isn’t.
It would be weird enough if that were the end of it…but if you read my last blog entry (My Next Book – I Hope it isn’t Dead to You) you remember that Unfinished Business is a bit of a Stephen King type story with the predominant theme of the book dealing with the final thoughts of the dead.
As I said in the beginning – I feel very strangely about this.
Sometimes things happen that you just can’t explain – and this is surely one of them.
Most likely…but who am I to say?
I just write books…
As always – thank you for reading and Rest in Peace Mary Ellen