December 3, 2012

Monday Pep Rally: What's in a Name?

Monday Pep Rally is a weekly feature where the Misfits post a question for you, the reader, to answer. You can answer on your own blog and link in the comments, or just answer here!

Fun fact about my name: It belonged to my family's pet turtle, which ran away after my sister got bored watching it and went inside, leaving it to the wilderness of Queens. My parents planned to name me Yael, a considerably more common name in my particular world, but my brother begged to have his apparently beloved turtle immortalized in his baby sister.

And so it was written, and so it was done.

I'm not sure who I would've been if I'd been Yael Adler. Nobody would've called me "Dahl," "Dahls," or "Dahlface," my most common nicknames, which all sound inherently affectionate are therefore rarely uttered by anyone other than true friends. I would've probably gotten far fewer "That's such a pretty name"s! (No offense to any Yaels out there.) I certainly wouldn't debate with myself what name to give every time I went into a Starbucks.

It's a lot to think about, the names we give and what they do to a person.

The same is true for characters, perhaps even more so, since writers control (mostly, anyway) who they are and will be in the future, whereas parents can only hope. For me, I tend to choose character names I think fit the characters, haven't appeared in earlier manuscripts of mine (which helps me have only one mental image per name), and which have nicknames, since this is one of my favorite ways to illustrate relationships between characters. If the meanings fit, that's a bonus, but it doesn't affect the name I choose. 

In my current WIP, the main characters are named Reagan - so called because her mother thinks it's fancy to give kids your maiden name as a first name; Victoria, because I wanted a name that had two very different nicknames, in this case "Vic" and "Tori"; and Dave/Dev, because I wanted the character to have an Indian name which he Americanized.

So that's me and my imaginary people; what about you?

What are your main characters' names, and how did you choose them? And for readers, what main characters' names have really stuck with you and why?

10 comments:

Suzi said...

Ahh. So nice to hear someone else was named after a pet. My parents had a dog with my name early in the marriage. My dad loved the name and wanted it for me when I was born. (The dog was gone by then.)

Sometimes it's a pain to have a less common name (especially with a really uncommon spelling), but sometimes it's nice.

Usually I just pick a name because it resonates well. I look through names lists and something will usually jump out at me. For no specific reason really.

For my NaNo WIP, I have a Christian and a Kylie. I had Kylie first and went through a few boy names before I settled on Christian. I just like the match K-sounds. And now both names just fit.

Steph Sessa said...

I love names! I think it's the inherent linguist in me that is fascinated with their meanings. I've picked names based on meanings, scientists (cause I'm a nerd), and ones that I've made up just because they sound cool and went with the character and the setting.

Lydia Sharp said...

I love using nicknames in fiction, especially YA, because it happens so easily in real life. I've been called every variety of my (real) name you can imagine, from pre-K onward.

Simply shortening a name is the easiest. My real name is Olivia--the most common thing I'm called is Livi or Liv. Even Lydia seems to be too much for some people, and they call my Lyd.

In my latest novel, the main character is named Brighton. His dead brother used to call him Lite Brite (that is an actual light-up thing we used to play with for *hours* in the days before smart phones). And the people in his grief counseling group call him Rainbow Brite (this is another 80s reference, god I am so old).

I think that was one of the more fun character names to play around with, but I do this to all of them. :-)

Gina said...

Names are so important. I once critiqued a YA manuscript, set in 2011, where the teens were named Caroline, Timothy, Phillip, and Angela. It was nails on a chalk board. I could tell *exactly* how old author was, and it was not young.

My MC is named Anastasia. I picked it because it's pretty and feminine, but kind of regal. It fits in my fantasy setting, since it's an uncommon name in practice, but something everybody's heard before. I didn't want to name her "Emma" or "Mary" or something else super common, but I wanted it to be easy to read and identify. I've never met an Anastasia, but I definitely am familiar with the name.

The book I just submitted features a girl name Elisa. It started as Alyssa, but then I realized she was Hispanic, so I changed it to a Spanish version of the original name. And suddenly the stars aligned and it felt perfect.

Francesca Zappia said...

I am so anal about character names it isn't even funny. Lately I've been trying to match up name meanings with what the character represents, but it used to be that the names would end up having some weirdly coincidental perfect meaning, like "Ridgemont" being both the name of my mentally ill character and the name of the sanitarium that Michael Myers escapes from in Halloween 4. O.o

But definitely, names are very important not only because of what they mean but how the reader perceives a character because of them.

One of my favorite names from a recent WiP is Campbell Fisher, I think. "Campbell" means "crooked mouth", and he's part shark. Crooked Mouth Fisher. God, I'm so clever. *shot*

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

Since I'm writing an urban fantasy series with semi-immortal characters who range in age from about 600 to over 2000 years old, names are important. They had to fit the time and place they were born, or they had to be modern adaptations of those old names. A few characters changed or evolved their names over time.

Also, they had to fit the type of creature they are, as well as have meaning to me. I didn't want them to be so obscure they didn't seem like real names to the reader, either.

Oh, and my tortoise, Jimmy, regularly breaks out of his cage and goes walkabout. He always comes back when he's hungry, so I let him roam. I've found him in the bathroom, laundry room, under my bed, in my closet, and under my desk. He's such a funny little guy. If he's out, he chases barefoot people around trying to bite their toes. He can really motor for a creature that's supposed to be slow. :D

Carrie-Anne said...

I'm a major name nerd, and my taste tends towards the classical eccentric and classical unusual. (Think names that might be in the lower reaches of the Top 1000 or that haven't charted in awhile, but are still old, established names, like Octavia, Wolfgang, Ezra, Felix, Justine, Eulalia, Leopold, Roland, Aurelian, Zenobia, Nestor.) I write a lot of books set outside North America, and I like to use less-common names from those cultures and languages too.

It annoys me so much when a book, movie, or tv show tries to predate naming trends, like having a teenage girl named Madison in the 1990s, or a contemporary character's mother named Nevaeh (worst "name" ever), or 19th century characters named Kaitlyn and Brayden, or 1950s characters with names that were most popular 30-40 years later. I usually only give common or trendy names to secondary or minor characters, though of course when I was starting out many years ago, I didn't have the Internet and therefore had more characters with somewhat common names.

Morgan York said...

"I certainly wouldn't debate with myself what name to give every time I went into a Starbucks."

If your name was Yael? You would definitely still have this problem! I have a friend named Yael, and she always just says, "Jane" or something, because of the number of times they've written the wrong name on the cup.

"Reagan - so called because her mother thinks it's fancy to give kids your maiden name as a first name..."

Me, too! Except my mom gave me her mother's maiden name. I'm obviously biased, but I like it!

My characters' names generally just come to me--a name attaches to their face and personality and I just can't shake it off. My main character sometimes presents pronunciation issues--her name's Ama, which people like to pronounce incorrectly as Ah-ma. Technically, Ah-ma is the African pronunciation. But for my story, since her name originates in a fantasy land, it rhymes with the end of "banana." I slip that in pretty early in the manuscript, so hopefully readers won't be confused.

Rachel said...

I am a MAJOR name nerd.

I was named after a great grandmother, Regina. My parents were torn between Rachel and Rebecca, obviously ending up with Rachel. Mom and I just had a discussion about names bc I think all my cousin's baby names are stupid - Cece, Lola, Mimi, etc. But as my mom says "You can either go with a name you really like - like Rachel - and then it turns out to be the most popular name of the year OR you can go with unique names."

My first novel was a high fantasy so I was picky about finding the right names with the right meanings. Oof that took forever!!!

With VD, I started out with Jenna and "the boyfriend". He was named Cass off the bat but I didn't like it. I tried to get him to be Ryan, Tristan, Dave, Ben, anything I found 'hot'. But no it seemed Cassidy/Cass was there to stay. I had a few writer friends/one agent friend tell me Cass was too girly of a name for a guy, and that I should change it to Sid. For me Cass is nobody but. ;)

Adrianne Russell said...

The MC in my WIP is named Dasha (pronounced DOSH-a), but her nickname is Dash (like a dash of pepper). I heard a mother screaming that name at a kid in Target and thought it sounded cool.

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