Friday, February 3, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Kim and I were having a conversation about character names, when I had the thought that this might be an interesting blog post. Which I told Kim. And for some reason she's still willing to have conversations with me.

I love coming up with names for my characters. In fact, it may be my favorite part of writing. I really enjoy the way the right name combination feels when you say it out loud. I like that click you get when you have the perfect first and last name combination, like Harry Potter or Nicholas Nickleby or Ramona Quimby. Sometimes I agonize over the perfect name for a character, going to baby name generators to get just the right meaning, playing with the sound of it until I'm positive--positive--it's the right one.

And sometimes I wing it.

I changed Quinn's name three times when I was starting Rosetta. In fact, for half the first chapter she was Bailey, and in the plot summary, she's still Becky. I then had to consciously stop myself from changing it again (this time to Dakota) when I was a few chapters in. I don't know why I had so much trouble, but nothing ever felt right. I'd been reading all these urban fantasy series where the main characters had really excellent names (Rachel Vincent's Faythe and Liv, Patricia Briggs' Mercy, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty), and I kept feeling like my MC couldn't live up to it. Eventually she settled into the name Quinn, and I grew to like it, but it was a rough road there.

Sometimes a name just comes naturally. In my first novel, three of the four characters' names flew from my mind to the page with no effort. I thought them, and they were perfect. I find this happens a lot more often with minor characters though, whose names matter a little less.

And sometimes a character will develop around a name. In Rosetta, one of Quinn's friends is a guy named Trick. With a name like that, how the character be anything but a bit of a joker? Sure, he can get serious when he needs to, but he's mostly just a light-hearted, fun guy.

I'm thinking about this a lot now, since I'm just beginning Defenders. The naming process has been slightly more difficult for this book because, for some reason, I have a lot more trouble with girls' names than boys'. In Rosetta, Quinn's world is split fairly evenly between males and females, maybe a little heavier on the male side. If that's so, it's because I love coming up with names for boys. But Defenders follows a group of six girls, who interact primarily with other girls, at least until book 3. Sure, there are some scattered guys there, but not enough to use up the well of names I have stored.

And now that I've basically turned this into an ode to names, I turn it over to you. Have you ever heard a name that's really stood out to you (something you've written or someone else has)? Are there names you absolutely can't stand? Do your feelings about a name influence the character you create? Personally, I don't like the name John, so any Johns in my story are usually boring guys. And once I found out Donovan meant Dark One (or something like that), it became my fall-back name for every bad guy I wrote. Do you have names like that?

No comments:

Post a Comment