Sunday, August 17, 2008

Elena Does The Macarena From Morocco - OR - What's In a Name?

Anyone with access to television, radio, newspapers, or Internet during the past few weeks will probably understand the title of this blog post. If you don't get it, I almost hate to explain.

In a nutshell, a family-court judge in New Zealand recently made a nine-year-old girl a ward of the court in order to change her name, which was: "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii."

What were her parents thinking?!

When I was growing up, even the kids knew the importance of a name and that having one open to taunting would scar a person for life. Heck, even the wrong initials could be disastrous.

Various articles, newscasts, and blogs went on to list the rather...odd choices made by parents over the years. I won't go into them here.

But in view of the importance of names, I do want to say that finding the appropriate names for my characters is essential to me. I spend a lot of time choosing something that fits a particular character. (And that won't lead to teasing or offensive initials!) I even go so far as to make sure the heroine's first name works well with the hero's last, because in my books, you know she's going to wind up with him.

Trust me, if I pick something that doesn't fit, the characters are the first to tell me. And once they've wrestled me to the ground to convince me of what they should be called, it's a done deal--the names are approved, permanent, and going into print!

I'd like to ask what some of your favorite names are, and why, for both male and female characters. Since I'm so fascinated by the subject, I'll be very interested in your response.

And who knows--one of your favorite names just might find its way into one of my books.

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille


Anna Lucia said...

Timely blog, Barbara! I drafted a blog about my hero and heroine from my current WIP today, and suddenly realised I had no idea what my heroine's last name was!

Then, when I'd finished laughing hysterically about that, I realised her full name was Lisa Lynn MacGreggor.

Unfortunately, this means when she settles her differences with the hero, and incidentally deals with the danger hanging over them, she's going to be Lisa Lynn Lacy.


My favourite ever hero name of mine (as yet unpublished) was Henry John Edwin Grays-Stratton, Lord Lowick, otherwise known as Hal.

Edie said...

Barbara, fun post. I notice I like double consonants and specifically double L's: Holly, Hallie, Callie. And I named one of my characters Nora, because I admire Nora Roberts. :)

Barbara White Daille said...

Hi, Anna,

Sometimes that happens to me, too--all of a sudden I don't know my character's name.

I'm LOL about Lisa Lynn Lacy! I'd be inclined to rethink that one. (grin)

And I love the full-barrelled name that gets shortened down to Hal. It makes me feel I know a lot about his character just from that alone.

Thanks for sharing!



Barbara White Daille said...

<< Barbara, fun post. >>

Thanks, Edie!

I like names with double L's, too, and you've picked some good ones: Holly, Hallie, Callie.

I'll jump in and add Molly, Ellie, and Kelly. ;-)

In my current manuscript, my heroine is KeRRy, but I keep typing KeLLy. Hmmm.... Maybe she's trying to tell me something???

<< I named one of my characters Nora, because I admire Nora Roberts. :) >>

That was a fabulous idea--and a great tribute!

Thanks for all your thoughts.



Amy Atwell said...

Wonderful post, Barbara. Timely, too. I just got contest comments back where a final judge felt the need to tell me my character names were cliched. Tell me, if cliched infers "overused," CAN a name be cliched?

My characters have an annoying habit of showing up fully formed in my brain wearing nametags that end in that troublesome S. Joss, Lyons, Curtis, Iris. Makes me crazy. But I have yet to change any of their names--I just agonize over how to format the possessive (Lyons's or Lyons'?).

I did have a hero show up with the name Derek, a name I don't care for AT ALL. I tried everything to get him to change it, but no go. Finally, I surrendered, and I'll admit I've come to accept his name now.

I wish I could give you a favorite list of names, but my favorite names are the ones where I find, part way through the book, the name fits the character perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I am speechless (which is almost impossible) about Talula Does The Hula from Hawaii... Excuse me. The question isn't what were they thinking but what were they smoking!

Favorite names - I seem to grab hold of "J" names - Jackson, Jason, Josh, etc. I have a spreadsheet where I list the names I use.

Overused names - for heroines, seems like every newbie names her heroine Kate or Katherine. WAY too many of those.

But I hate weird names that I can't pronoun. Can't come up with one right now, but you know what I mean.

Good blog "food for thought"

Barbara White Daille said...

Hi, Amy,

Thanks for stopping by.

<< Tell me, if cliched infers "overused," CAN a name be cliched? >>

If this is not a rhetorical question (grin), I'll take a stab at it. In my opinion, no, a name can't be cliched. But I just had a conversation with someone about using names that are popular in fiction and movies. We're were talking about Bella, and the fact that it's become a household...well, name...due to the YA vampire series that's out.

To me, that still doesn't make it overused or cliched--I'd say it becomes more of a worry. Do you (or I or any writers) want to run the risk of using a well-known name that causes readers to have pre-conceived ideas about the character? (Think Scarlett, Hercules, Ahab, Gatsby.) Maybe not. Or maybe you/I/they do!

<< I just agonize over how to format the possessive (Lyons's or Lyons'?). >>

Again, if this isn't rhetorical... I follow the Chicago Manual of Style: apostrophe and S to singular nouns and apostrophe only to plural nouns. Generally works the same for proper names, too.

So your hero with first name Lyons would be Lyons's for possessive.

LOL about Derek. Those characters sure are stubborn about some things, aren't they?



Karin Tabke said...

I spent the last week trying to unearth the name of the heroine in my current wip. Since she is a Welsh princess I had to stay within certain perimeters. And nothing against the Welsh but they don't have the sexiest names. So, I dug deeper into old Celtic lore and lo and behold I found her!

I love names and the meaning behind them.

Estella said...

I prefer names like Michelle,Helene, Serena, Sasha, etc.

Barbara White Daille said...

Hi, Cyndi,

You're so right about those parents!

The list of "different" names I'd read was in a sidebar to the original article. It included a lot of parents who were in the entertainment field. You'd think, knowing they're in the limelight and their kids' names would get mentioned a lot, they'd want something more...standard.

I hear you on the hard-to-pronounce names. Oy!

I also love those "J" names, especially for heroes. One of my first heroes was named Jake and I have a heroine named Jenny. (Not in the same book, though. LOL)



Barbara White Daille said...

Karin - don't tell me you're leaving us in suspense about your heroine's name! ;-) In any case, congrats on finding her.

I love Celtic/Irish/Gaelic names. My work in progress has an Irish family in it, so I had fun christening the characters. (And they're all names that are easy to pronounce, too!)

Like you, I love names and the meanings behind them. I keep a baby-naming book on my desk and like to flip through it when it's time to find a new character--although I don't always worry about the meaning if it doesn't "feel" right or match what I need.

My own name means "dark, mysterious stranger"--and I'm *so* NOT! But I was an emotion-ridden pre-teen who LOVED reading mysteries, and when I found that out, it made me feel great! LOL



Barbara White Daille said...

Estella - I also like those S names for females.

You've got the double L's that Edie and I like, in Michelle. AND in Estella! ;-)

Thanks for sharing.



Ellen said...

I don't really have any names I really like but after teaching school for 35 years I've run across some that should never have been.
Any name that is difficult for someone to pronounce or spell should never be used because it will always cause trouble in school, especially by teachers.

Rachel said...

Barbara, I love naming characters! It's one of the exciting moments of starting a new story.

Amy, I know what you mean about the possessive s. I always do the Lyons's version (as in Bridget Jones's diary) but I try to avoid s names for the number of people who think it's wrong!

Great blog post thanks, Ms Dark, Mysterious Stranger!

Donnell said...

Barbara, what the other said, intriguing post. Character names are something I have trouble with. When I come up with a new plot I often spend long hours researching names to go with them. I've had characters named Merideth, Emma, Cynthia, Millicent, Melanie, Eden, Joe, John, Kevin, Lee, Brian, I tend to love older heroine names in women. I recently bought Sherilyn Kenyon'Character Naming Sourcebook. I'm finding it a fascinating research book.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Barbara!
I love names, too. My characters will definitely tell me when I've chosen the wrong name for them, because they tend not to tell me anything more about themselves until they get a name they can live with.

I have a baby name book, too, that is part of my craft section on my groaning bookshelf.


Barbara White Daille said...

Ellen, that is SO true!

I work at a school, and some of the names are so difficult to pronounce. It makes it harder for the teachers to remember.

I CANNOT imagine the job in the upper grades of memorizing almost two hundred student names each year!

I salute all of those teachers, including you!



Barbara White Daille said...

Rachel wrote:

<< Barbara, I love naming characters! It's one of the exciting moments of starting a new story. >>

It really is, isn't it? It helps them come alive for me when I know their names.

<< Great blog post thanks, Ms Dark, Mysterious Stranger! >>

LOL! You are very welcome.

And thank YOU for stopping by.



Barbara White Daille said...

Donnell - hi!

Yes, I like the older names for heroines, too.

Hannah... Patience... Sarah--which is the name of the heroine in my first published book, THE SHERIFF'S SON. ;-)

Isn't it nice that some of those names are coming back into style again?



Barbara White Daille said...

Hi, Linda!

You wrote: << My characters will definitely tell me when I've chosen the wrong name for them, because they tend not to tell me anything more about themselves until they get a name they can live with.

Isn't that the truth! LOL

Mine get like that, too. In fact, they tend to clam up if I get *anything* wrong and won't open up again until I fix it.