Monday, December 1, 2008

The Name Game

Names are important. After all, how many times have you heard a name and instantly connected it to someone in your life or someone from your past? Or, how often have you heard a name and instantly, a vision of who the person was popped into your head--all based on their moniker?

For me (because of my age), the names "Cindy," "Bobby," "Marcia," "Greg," "Jan," and "Peter" all bring to mind a certain show...and the characters behind those names. And of course, there are people from my past who will always be the embodiment of their names--no matter how many other people I may meet in the future with the same names.

So, when I begin a new book and have to decide on names for my characters, I try to think of names that 1) will either make sense for that particular character OR is the complete opposite of what most people might think when they hear that name, 2) obviously, names I like or dislike--depending on the character in question and what their role in the book is, and 3) whatever "feels" right.

Unfortunately, many times I've come up with what I thought was the "perfect" name, only to have the character refuse to come out of their shell. The first thing I do when this happens is change their name. Seriously. Often, just by changing a name, the character is given life and suddenly, I know who they are and can write them that much better.

This is what I call "The Name Game." In my July release, A Stroke of Magic, the hero's name was originally Caden. But he wasn't becoming a fully developed character, and I wasn't connecting with him. So I changed his name to "Ian." Same thing--he was just this flat guy who was so not hero material. Finally, I renamed him "Ethan." Weirdly, even though it's similar to "Ian," the name "Ethan" did the trick, and all at once, he came into perfect view for me. Now, just like with my children, I can't imagine him with any other name.

Names are important, both in real life and in books. Can you imagine Harry Potter with any other name? I can't! And I can't imagine Alice in Wonderland being "Kathy" in Wonderland, or "Jessica" in Wonderland...nothing else fits as well as "Alice."

Naming characters is's the beginning of that character's identity. Sometimes, it just takes a while to find the perfectly right one.


Jillian Cantor said...

I know exactly what you mean, Tracy. Names are so important! And I like the name Ethan for your hero. Can't wait to read it :-).

Maureen Lipinski said...

Same here! Although I always seem to slip up occasionally and call my characters by their "first" names!

Lesley Livingston said...

It's interesting, isn't it, how some names are 'generational'.

For the record, I dig "Ethan", too!