I have a character in my new play-in-progress currently named “Skin Donkey.” He is a vile man who breeds and sells pandas on the black market in South Carolina. When I was thinking about what to name this character, I remembered something a friend of mine told me in college.
Pete was from Pierz, Minnesota which is located in the central part of the state. One afternoon, he was talking about the local black bear population. He spoke of them sympathetically, which I appreciated. This was 32 years ago at our lunch table, so I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but it went something like this.
“What must the bears think of us? They see us in their forest,” he said. “We must look naked to them because we don’t have fur on our skin.”
I liked animals and had high hopes of one day seeing a bear in the woods, but had never thought about what they might think of our fur-less appearance. That they might think we looked naked and bare. Ugly, sickening, revolting.
Pete’s words would forever change the way I thought of animals, wild and domestic. And his words informed the way I named the panda breeder in my play.
The “Skin” part comes from the “we don’t have fur on our skin” conversation with Pete but the “Donkey” part comes from my cat Smokey who was sitting near me when I was writing. Sometimes we think she moves a little bit like an old donkey and call her “Donkey.”
I immediately liked the sound of “Skin Donkey” but I also thought the name could work because the characters in my play sometimes get their species “confused.” For instance, Skin Donkey sometimes refers to the pandas as pigs because a male panda is a boar and a female is a sow.
I realize this is way too much context, but I want you to know that I do have what I consider an organic process when it comes to naming my characters.
A few days ago, I saw an NPR story about that The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The book is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. I read the article with interest because The Velveteen Rabbit is a book that I read numerous times to my children and loved the use of the word “scarcely” in it. Like so many of our books, I read it until the pages fell apart. Even though I had read it several times, I had forgotten there was a character called “the Skin Horse” in it until I read the NPR story.
Now I have to re-name the character. I’m leaning toward “Donkey Pete” but I have to think about it, which I’ll do tonight at Tuesdays@9 when my pages get read.
Speaking of Tuesdays@9, I better go get ready. Thanks for reading my blog. -Connie
P.S. The main reason I moved to Minneapolis after college was to pursue theatre, but I also moved there in hopes of seeing a black bear in the wild. I lived there 16 years and never saw one. Booooo!