Imaginary friends.

I was thinking about the next book as I wandered through Abney cemetery with the dogs this morning. Abney is a great place to find names, though I tend to forget them by the time I get home. (Note to self: pen and paper.) It's hard not to consider the large community of dead people when you walk through Abney cemetery -- there are whole stories based on the date a child died, or two children, in one case six under the age of eighteen -- and then a spouse, a second spouse, or parents. It's not a lot of information but sometimes tells nearly all you need to know about a life.

Superstitiously, I imagine that conjuring up a long gone existence based on a name, some dates, perhaps an epitaph--occasionally even an address and a few relatives--pays homage to the ghost.

But it doesn't matter whether it does or it doesn't. Thinking about things is what matters.

In the meantime, all this thinking about names made me consider how many names I've used up in the course of writing six books.

  1. Edmond

  2. Daisy

  3. Piper

  4. Isaac

  5. Osbert

  6. Penn

  7. Joe

  8. Elena

  9. Davina

  10. Leonora

  11. Justin

  12. Agnes

  13. Peter

  14. Anna

  15. Dorothea

  16. Charlie

  17. Hilary

  18. Finn

  19. Reese

  20. Pell

  21. Bean

  22. Esther

  23. Birdie

  24. Dogman

  25. Lou

  26. Jack

  27. Dicken

  28. Frannie

  29. Ellen

  30. Sally

  31. Harris

  32. John Kirby

  33. Esme

  34. Bob

  35. Mona

  36. Estelle

  37. Eck

  38. Mr B

  39. Emoto Hed

  40. Lucy

  41. Luke

  42. Bernard

  43. Laura

And in the new book, there's:

  1. Mila

  2. Gil

  3. Marieka

  4. Matthew

  5. Suzanne

  6. Gabriel

  7. Honey

  8. Catlin

  9. Jake

  10. Lydia

Fifty-three names (give or take) in all.

It looks as if ten is pretty much the average number of characters I can manage, with five at a bare minimum.

Now, class. What does this tell us about the optimum number of characters in a novel?

You, in the back, shouting 'bugger all.'

Are correct.