Monday, June 14, 2010
What's In A Name?
And I have a notebook with pages of names that I see (or hear) that I like, saving them for just the right novel or short story. I choose them for all sorts of reasons—they’re interesting, they sound cool when you say them, the guy was hot. I also find names in gobs of places—newspapers, magazines, books, movies, baby name books, friends, friends of friends, parties. One time I found an intriguing name in an obituary, but I’ll never tell which one. I’ve also been known to use a few names from family members. For example, one of my most favorite names for a male character is Joseph. It also happens to be my father’s name, my brother’s name, and even my brother-in-law’s name. We have a lot of Joe’s in my family. I'm pretty fond of that name.
And a name has to “fit” the personality of the character. Sometimes this is easy, but not always. For example, let’s say I need to choose a name for a nasty teenage girl. That’s easy. A name (and a very specific face, unfortunately) for that character will always come to my mind, loud and clear. But I can’t call my villain the same name in every book, as much as I’d like to. Taking it to the other extreme, let’s say I need to choose a name for a hot, hunky guy. Sorry, but names like Ed, Chester, and Cecil don’t scream hot, hunky guy but maybe that’s just me. These are extreme examples but you get the idea.
In my latest book CAPTIVE SPIRIT, I had a different challenge. All of the characters in this book, with the exception of three, are Hohokam Indians. Obviously I chose Native American names for the Hohokam Indian characters and I chose them because of their meanings. Aiyana is my lead character in the book and her name means “Eternal Blossom.” When I found her name, I knew it would be perfect for her. Honovi is her love interest and his name means “Strong Deer.” Love his name, too. Now whenever I think of Honovi, the Honovi in CAPTIVE SPIRIT comes to my mind’s forefront. He grew into his name. And he is a sight to behold, I promise you. ;-)
Even though I wasn’t initially familiar with all of the Native American names in CAPTIVE SPIRIT, as I started to develop and write the characters, their names became more alive for me. And after I finished writing the book, I couldn’t have imagined any other names.
Writers: How do you go about choosing names? Readers: Are names important for you or are we authors stressing over nothing? Bonus question: Are there names that have certain connotations for you?