Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Name of the Game

Hello! I was content to let my little blog die and then wallow in the graveyard of the interwebs, but my amazing critique partner, Kate Karyus Quinn, convinced me to join this blog chain. So I've resuscitated this little space and now I'm back! Like a zombie blog.

I'll post every other week as part of the chain, and I'll try to do more than that, but my life is about to get crazy, so we'll see what happens. Kate chose the first topic of the chain:

What's in a name? What if Harry Potter had been Larry Snotter? What if Edward was Jacob and Jacob was Edward? What favorite books had character names that you loved or hated? And how do you come up with your own character names?
I've actually been thinking about names a lot lately. I'm expecting my first baby in a couple of weeks (hence the life about to get crazy thing). My husband and I went on a road trip and for hours did nothing but bounce names off each other. We wanted to choose a unique name and at some point we started joking and suggesting every word on passing street signs and bumper stickers as names for our son. We got to the point where one of us would say a name as a joke and the other would say, "Wait! I actually like that." Eventually we found one.

I think of a name matching an individual's personality but most of us don't choose our names. Our names are often more meaningful to our parents than to us. 

A lot of the time I don't pay attention to character names as I'm reading. There are tons of books I love, but I have no idea as to the main character's name. 
But sometimes a name stands out and that character and his/her name is forever burned into my brain. Hermione can only be the brainiac at Hogwarts and Katniss is forever the girl on fire. I love the name Lennon, or Lenny, in The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.

I recently read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. There are two narrators, a husband and wife. I can't remember the guy's name. (Actually, did he have two?) But Amy. It's a common name. I have multiple friends named Amy, there are tons of celebrities and characters with the name. But Amy. The way the male narrator said her name in my head with such emotion (whether it be love or hate or both). Amy is now imprinted in my mind as Flynn's brilliantly written character.

I'm currently reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and all three main characters are named after Shakespearean characters and they carry with them the burden of their namesake's story.

I don't get too attached to my own characters' names. I tend to like boy's names for girls. My first novel starred Sam (Samantha), my second had Alex (Alejandra), and now the girl occupying my brain is Jung. I found the name on a random name generator website. She's of Korean descent, so I looked up gender neutral Korean names and found Jung. It works because the story is about mental illness and so it also alludes to Karl Jung, the psychologist.

I think names, whether they be fictional or actual, are things we grow into rather than labels that define us. I have so many friends that when I first met them, I had a hard time pronouncing their name or thought it was a bit unusual, but once I got to know them, that was their name and I couldn't think of them as anything else. That's why we're not sharing our son's name until he's here. It might be a bit unsusual, but once he's born, he'll be so adorable no one will question it as he grows into it. I hope. :)

Check out Michelle's take on names from yesterday and tomorrow see what Cole has to say.


  1. Welcome to the blog chain! I have to admit I also often forget the characters' names after I'm done with a book. I think The Weird Sisters is on my To-Read list, but that's so long I can't keep track of everything on it either. ;)

  2. Hurray - long live the zombie blog!

    And Boo! What a tease, I totally thought you were going to reveal your baby name. But hmmm... is the James Bond sign a hint??? ;)

  3. lol now I can't wait to hear your son's name :D My mom said that she almost named me Stephanie. I like that name but I can't imagine myself carrying it around.

    p.s. I used to keep a notebook in the car specifically for jotting down names I found on street signs and billboards lol Sometimes you can find some really cool and unusual names that way :D