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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's In A Name?

I don’t have any children, but if I ever do, I hope I spend as much time considering their names as I did the names of the characters in my book.

(Although, naming children freaks me out a bit. At least with characters, you know the personality you’re attaching to the name. You can slap an Egor on a smokin’ hot dude and know he’ll turn out OK. For kids? Choose the wrong name and you could doom them to a lifetime of misspellings—see Tracey versus the ever-annoying Tracy—or worse. Fifteen years down the line you could be crying at night, Why didn’t I just stick with Kate?!?)

But, right, characters. I knew I had a point here. When I started brainstorming and taking notes on my current WIP, I knew the main boy character’s name would be Eli. When I got the spark of the idea, he was there as Eli. I never considered he might be a Mark or Luke or anything else. He was Eli.

My main character? She kind of went through an identity crisis. In all of my notes, she’s called Wren. I liked the name. It seemed to fit her. But as I went along, I realized she was not a Wren. In fact, I couldn’t even think of her as Wren anymore—it just didn’t fit. (That’s why half of my notes talk about her as Wren and the other half reference her as Alex—not to fool would-be idea thieves, as you might imagine.)

Once I switched her name to Alex she seemed real.

And it’s important. As much as I’d like to think I could name my goody-goody character Lucifer without having readers think of Satan while reading my book, I don’t believe that’s the case. We all have certain memories attached to names that color the characters before the author has a chance to.

That’s why it has to be perfect. That’s why it needs to be deliberate.

That’s why Wren didn’t belong in my story.

How do you choose your characters’ names? Ever misnamed one by accident? Even more important: Ever named your child something and wanted a takeback?

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