Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A rose by any other name . . .

I'm having a helluva time naming characters in my stories. Currently, I'm working on three different story ideas (either I'm quite the multi-tasker or I have ADD). Anyway, I feel like one of the things that's holding me back in developing the stories is my discomfort with naming my characters. I keep waffling between different names. A character without a name is a character that can't be fully developed.

Naming our children wasn't as hard as naming my characters. From the time I was a girl, I was sure I would name my daughter Samantha. Thankfully, my husband was fine with that name and up until the ultrasound, that's what we planned on naming our first child. Don't ask me why but after the ultrasound I looked at my husband and said "Call me crazy but I just don't think she's a Samantha." Strangely enough, he agreed and we eventually chose another name that I think suits her perfectly.

We didn't name our second daughter Samantha either. It just didn't seem to fit. My husband called me one day during my pregnancy and said "I was thinking about _____ for a name. What do you think?" I said "I love it. But her middle name has to be ________. With an "e" at the end." He said "Why with an e?" I said "I don't know. I just think it needs to be that way." He said "Ok." And we were done.

Given the ease with which we named our children - real people with real lives that could be negatively impacted by poorly chosen names - why am I having so much trouble naming fictional characters? I'd like to say that names don't matter but I know they do. I'm reading a book called Cross Bones right now and I don't particularly like the name of the main character - Temperance (she's called Tempe for short). For me, it doesn't particularly fit the character and just makes me think of Arizona which detracts from the story because, as you can imagine, the story has absolutely nothing to do with Arizona. The book's ok but I think it would be better if the character name wasn't so distracting.

So, all you fiction writers out there - how do you name your characters? Do you do an online search of "baby" names? Do you choose names that have a meaning that corresponds with your story? For you readers and writers out there, does a fictional character's name matter to you? What are some of your favorite character names and why?


landismom said...

Hmm, can't really help you there. Have I mentioned that I resorted to the internet to name my daughter?

There was a while, when I was in college, that I had a great time thinking up stage names for myself, but that never went anywhere.

Mouse said...

I have a special place in my heart for the names Sarah and Carrie, and while I have two stories in the works with those names, I can't really tell how I come up with names for stories.

Sometimes, names come to me in dreams. Sometimes, I do a little research. Sometimes, I try to be sarcastic about it (which hardly goes anywhere, really). They don't always have meaning.

One of the stranger names I've thought of is Justine Inez Casey - Just In Case. One of her friends will be named Nikki Mascarella. Strange, but true. That story has yet to be fully developed.

Don't ask.

Karen said...

A lot of times I actually begin with a name (I consult a baby book). Saying the name out loud a few times sort of forms their personality for me. I know it's a backwards way of doing things, but that's me. lol