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Monday, July 4, 2011

Finding the Right Name

First things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA! And a happy Independence Day to all.

Now let's talk about names.

Last week I led you to a web source that discussed finding the right names for your characters. How do you find those names? And how do you know when they're the right names?

These are tricky questions for both parents and fiction writers. We name babies or characters and the kids or creations we name have to live with what we stick on them.

We want the names to be original, or we want them to be common. We want them to be memorable or less so. Mostly we want them to fit the character. And since most of us already know multiple people (and/or characters) with any name we're considering, and those people/characters display a world's worth of personalities, we can't always turn to the folk we know for examples.

So what do we do?

First hint (and I mentioned this last week): Surveys have found that most American readers have little patience with names they can't pronounce. Use a common name or one readers can easily figure out.

Second: Go with a name that works for you. Talk your character into it. Two examples:

1. A major character in the historical novel I'm developing "told" me her name is Felice, but Felice is not a name. (It means happy in Italian.) I spent several weeks wrangling with her. She finally gave up and accepted Lucia.

2. My main character in MAGGIE RISING has neo-hippie parents who stuck her with the name Eastern Star Rising. I had to give her a nickname both she and I can live with; hence, I found an excuse for her to be called Maggie.

Finally if you really want to publish with X NYC Big House and the editor there loves everything but your character's name, be prepared to change in the twinkling of an eye -- and to love that change as well.

Names have power. Getting them right makes all the difference.

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