All in the name

A reader’s perspective on characters. 

 

We have a cat named Kona and one named Gretzky. I know. A hockey fan is definitely in the family. Not that I “allowed” the name, but it was the closest name to a human one I’ve ever had a pet be called. My pet names always ranged from charactKonaeristics that described the animal: Fluffy for the shoGretzkyrt haired cat (I know but I was like five and didn’t know the difference), Velvet for the black lab, Tiger for the tiger striped tabby cat, Chase for the orange cat with way too much energy. For me, giving a pet a more human name just didn’t seem to fit for some reason. Not that I’m saying it is wrong. I knew a ferret named Dudley and that was the perfect name-animal combination, but it just seems more fun to be able to come up with characteristic style name that captured the pet’s personality. You can’t really do that with humans, unless it’s a nick-name I suppose.

I don’t have any children but I seriously wonder if that is struggle with which new parents are faced- the name! One of my co-workers was having a baby and it didn’t seem like the baby had a name until after it was born. My suggestion was to bid the name out to the highest family donor pending approval from the parent’s of course. But is it easier to have eyes on the child before a name comes popping out? Sort of like naming an animal and capturing their personality with the name? And the responsibility of the name! I mean parents need to check all possible initial combinations to make sure it isn’t spelling something inappropriate, or testing out nicknames to make sure they don’t rhyme with turd or something more tease worthy. Or if five other kids in their first grade class are going to have the same name as them.

On that last one I feel kind of lucky in that I was always the only Erin in my classes, though by the time I was in college there were three Erin’s living on my floor, myself included. Prior to that experience I could count on one hand how many Erin’s I had met. Maybe that is regional since I moved across country to go to school. Or maybe I had the most popular name that hadn’t hit California yet! It was strange though to turn around when hearing my name only to realize it wasn’t me who’s attention the caller was trying to get.

Names can be a burden too. I mean think of individuals who were named after someone else. Can any kid really be an individual with a name like Elvis or Cher? Or if you found out you were named after a fictional character like Bella or Edward? But it seems that names do have fads. You don’t hear of many girls being named Ruth or Mildred anymore but 100 years ago those ranked in the top 10 most popular. This past year Brooklyn (isn’t that a burrow in New York?) came in as the 34th overall most popular girls name and London (pretty sure I saw that on a map as well) squeezed into the top 100 by placing 95th. Does that mean in twenty or so more years we are going to be meeting a lot more Brooklyn’s and London’s? Maybe even in our lesfic stories? I wonder if that is going to be weird to read.

What is weird is reading my name in stories. I have to admit that I didn’t buy a couple of stories because one of the character’s names was Erin. Has anyone else had that issue? Sort of like not wanting to nam101_0275e your kid the same name as an ex. It just feels weird to read because instead of having that imaginary boundary with the characters it just gets so personal! I always think of a dorky, goof when I read the name Erin so when they are successful bankers who live in the city and wear fancy clothes I can’t really connect with the characters as well because, well, Erin’s should be goofs who make snow angels and play outside.  Sort of like someone calling out your name but really calling to the other person sharing your name. You keep responding but it just gets awkward. But then why am I so always fascinated with name auctions authors have?

So how do our authors choose their names? A lot of authors talk about their muses which I can understand to be very helpful in the creative process of putting story to paper, but do the characters come pre-named? Or what if they get the wrong name? Have you ever read a story where the name didn’t seem to fit the character? Or you get the two main characters backwards because the names work better that way? Or what about reading a character’s name and immediately falling in love with it? I mean don’t we live up to our names? If the first London you meet in the next 20 or so years is a strong, self-confident woman aren’t you going to just immediately start associating that name with strong, self-confident characters? So much pressure our lesfic authors have! Who knew it could be so hard to name a character?!

So all you wonderful lesfic readers out there, I am curious have you ever thought about the characters names and if they fit their characters personality presented on paper? Which one’s have been right on? Are your impressions of characters ever influenced by real people who share their names? And do you enjoy reading lesfic characters who share your name?

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10 thoughts on “All in the name

  1. I love naming my cats different names and finally when I had exhausted every person’s name I knew, I reverted to a baby name book for new character names. Is there an unwritten rule about recycling names, because I’m very tempted to do so!

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      1. I met this one guy who names every dog he had the same name. It just didn’t seem right!! It made sense but when you remember your pet how can you distinguish between them when they all share the same name? LOL!

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    1. Well it seems fair that you should be able to recycle names because there isn’t just one person out there with that name. But then your readers might flip because it is making them think of the former character with the same name. That’s a tough one!!

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  2. I try to listen really carefully when a character first appears so that I get the name right. And if I get a name wrong, I find it increasingly difficult to write that character. So, getting the name right is important to me, at least for primary and secondary characters. Right now, I’m writing a new character for the McCrumb County series and I don’t have her name right. At least not yet and it’s bothering me to distraction.

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  3. My sister and I named a stray Persian cat we found George after a bald uncle of ours. Our mother was not impressed. We thought we were brilliant.
    I avoid reading books if I see my name is one is used by one of the characters. I’d hate to turn out to be the villain or something. 🙂

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  4. I am fortunate to have an old fashioned name, and, until I began teaching at the ripe old age of 40, knew only one Sally who was in the same grade as me in elementary school. My third year of teaching, to my amazement, there were four Sallys, and we all taught fourth grade!
    It is rare to see my name in books and even rarer that the character is of major importance to the story. The only place I see a lot of Sallys is in British television.
    oh, BTW, my cat is named Domino because he is black with two white spots on his underside. Good thing I didn’t wait to see my kids before naming them . One them might have gave been called HugeHead!

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    1. That is interesting because I’ve heard Sally before but now that I think of it, I don’t recall having read it in any stories. Hmmm….interesting! And I am sure your kids are very thankful that they don’t have HugeHead as a name! Thanks for reading!

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