Monday, July 7, 2008

Naming our Characters

I've been struggling to find time to write. Well, actually, I'm struggling to determine what to write. An editor has Miranda's Mistake so I'm wondering if I should jump right into the stories of two secondary characters in the book or if I should start something completely new. If dear editor rejects MM, then I don't know that I'll have an interest in writing books using Miranda's friends even though the stories stand alone. :) Then again, if I change the names of the characters, they won't be Miranda's friends. Make sense?

Isn't it funny how a name can change everything? When I wrote The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes, my hero was named Johnny. It fit him. Then an unfortunate thing happened. Author Cassie Miles published a Harlequin Intrigue series with books called Heartbreak Hotel, Are you lonesome Tonight?, and Don't Be Cruel. One of her main characters was named Johnny. So what did I do? I changed my hero's name--forever changing his personality. Dumb! Especially since my book hadn't sold yet, wouldn't be out for at least two years. Especially since no one in a million years would compare me or connect me to a writer like Cassie Miles. I should have left my Johnny alone instead of weakening his character with a name like . . . forget it. I can't even say it. :) Just believe me when I say I betrayed the poor guy.

Stick to your guns when you name your characters unless an editor makes the suggestion. Would you even dream of changing your child's name five years later, or ten? Of course not. Well, on second thought . . .

I knew a young man named Dean. His mom has been a best friend since our high school days. As it usually happens, there was a gap in our friendship and during that gap, Dean became James. He started using his first name. My thought is--he can use it. I won't. To me he will always be Dean because I've been calling him that since the day he was born.

How do you name your characters? Or your children? ha!
Do you ever change a name mid-stream? Why?
Does the name change affect your character's personality or am I just a weirdo?

Let's talk!

9 comments:

christa said...

Weirdo? Well, if so, I'm in great company!

Names matter. That's why I spent so much time selecting names for my own children.

As a teacher, I learned how names can determine impressions. I'd see a kid named Aaron Filibuster (I just invented this, so please don't slay me if this is anyone's real kid!), and I'd wait for a kid wearing a bow tie, black-rimmed oversized eyeglasses and a pocket protector to trod through the door.

Until I name my characters, i can't start writing. . .

Jess said...

Thanks Christa. Funny how names paint pictures. My mom thought she was being really different when she named me Jessica. I've always hated the name (for me)--but especially after I watched a Loretta Young movie where there was an insane character named Jessica. Someone went running through the house screaming, "Jessica, Jessica." Insane. I can still hear that voice. Gives me the willies!! So, that's why I prefer Jess. :)

I do have a character named Teemie. The name just popped out while I was writing the book and it seemed to fit the character so I kept it. :) On second thought, I wonder if I created the character to fit the name. Oh My...

Hey, thanks for posting. Now go write. Your agent is waiting for that fantastic next book. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

I recently had a novel in which there were three brothers, Nathan, Noah, and Nick, but my crit partners thought all the N names too confusing. So Nathan became Jonathan and Nick became Eli. I kept Noah because I liked that name and because he was a ship's captain. :)

Jess said...

If your crit partners had trouble keeping the brothers straight that's a pretty good indication an editor/reader would too. Kudos to you for being willing to change your guys' names. :)

Marcia Gruver said...

Have you ever tried to change a characters name, but he/she wouldn't let you? Now that's weirdo. But it happens.

What's in a name? My hubby nicknames every person in our family. So, Christo-far, Jus-stone, Chicken-lickin', Sample, Bubba, Little T, Little Nate, Tidbit, and Sami-joe (our grandchildren, who have perfectly lovely names) all answer when their pawpaw calls them. :)

Jess said...

Hi Marcia. I have tried to change a character's name and she objected. Her name is P.K. and it stands for nothing. When I tried to tell her it stood for Patricia Kay she wanted no part of it. Her dad named her. :)

Jess said...

BTW, grandkids always love their PawPaws. :)

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

I named my daughter after my dad. He passed away the year before she was born. His name was Allen. Simple enough? No, my mom who is french heritage felt left out so .... I give you Al'Lena. Pronounced Ahh Lena. We called her by her middle name Danielle until pre-k when she came home crying that some girl stole her name and she wanted a new one. Thus she has been Al'Lena every since. And you thought naming characters are difficult.

Jess said...

Debra, cute story. I think you could write that little anecdote up for a Cup of Comfort or Chicken Soup story. There's a place for it...we need to find it. :) Too cute for just a blog comment. Think you can stretch it out to 2-3 double-spaced pages using dialogue between mom, dad and kiddo?