Where do character names come from?

In a current WIP my main character’s wife is named Marta. I’ve loved that name since I met my first Marta in Esteli, Nicaragua, back when the U.S. government was funding the Contras in an attempt to destabilize the Sandinista government.

Marta was a young woman who’d been kidnapped by the Contras — according to what she told my guide. They had raped her a hundred times and used her as a pack mule to carry weapons and gear. Nobody in town knew her, she had just appeared wearing a muddy soldier’s uniform, shoeless.

I was on a layover between scouting missions with a Sandinista BLI unit and had three days off. I told my guide that we should pay for a room for her and make sure she had food and saw a doctor. But he was hesitant, saying two Americans — he was originally an aid worker from San Francisco — paying and caring for some Nica woman who danced into town late at night, claiming to be a victim of the Contras, might bring trouble. He worried she might turn on us, accuse us of hurting her.

We argued for a while and Marta ended up sleeping on the front porch of the small restaurant where we’d been having dinner. The owner brought her a blanket and we gave him some money to feed her in the morning.

But she was gone when we came back just after dawn. She’d left the blanket behind, folded on top of a table. That was the last I saw of the woman until I brought her name back to life on my computer screen.

About colealpaugh

Cole Alpaugh began his newspaper career in the early 1980's at a daily paper on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where he covered everything from bake sales to KKK meetings. He moved on to a paper in Massachusetts to specialize in feature essays, where his stories on a Hispanic youth gang and the life of a Golden Gloves boxer won national awards. His most recent newspaper job was at a large daily in Central New Jersey, where he was given the freedom to pursue more "true life" essays, including award winning pieces on a traveling rodeo, and an in-depth story on an emergency room doctor. The doctor's story ended when the physician brought back to life an elderly woman who'd once been his children's babysitter. The essay was nominated by Gannett News Service for a 1991 Pulitzer Prize. Cole also did work for two Manhattan-based news agencies, covering conflicts in Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and guerrilla raids conducted out of the refugee camps along the Thai/Cambodia boarder. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, as well as most newspapers in America. Cole is currently a freelance photographer and writer living in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he spends his afternoons watching his daughter hit fuzzy yellow balls and ski through slalom gates. You can find him online at ColeAlpaugh.com.
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