2 Comments

What’s in a Name?

Too exclusive?

I have to name this blog.

That was on my to-do list two years ago and it’s still there. Which doesn’t bother me much — it’s not like it’s the sole task carried over year after year. I’ve lived in Quebec for two decades and haven’t made it past intermediate conversational French. An unnamed blog isn’t much of a burden for me.

But some generous people have given me blogger awards and before I put them up on this site, I should give the blog a proper name.

I have never been one to dig for character names when I write fiction. The names of my main characters just sort of come to me and they are usually common. Or at least I thought the names just “came to me.” I realized exactly where they originated a few months ago when I made a webpage for both of my middle-grade novels, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 and Walking Backward, and put the names of their two main characters together in one question, “Want to know more about Becky and Josh?”

Nah. Suggests that I like alliteration. Which I don’t.

Becky and Josh? Those are my neighbour’s kids. Seriously. Becky and Josh have lived next door to me for 15 years. I never noticed that I’d used their names in my books. And, um, Josh’s friend Max visits their house a lot. (Max is the name of the narrator of All Good Children.) So I was obviously glancing out the window while those names just “came to me.”

Maybe one day I’ll plumb the depths of my heart for a character name that really stands out. A doozy like Raskolnikov or Lolita, Scarlett O’Hara or J. Alfred Prufrock. But unusual character names often just annoy me. Instead of envisioning the character, I can’t help but see the writer, brow furrowed, lips pursed, scrounging for an original name. It bugs me. It seems so contrived. (And yes, I know all of fiction is contrived – but it’s not supposed to seem like it.) Maybe that’s why I don’t read much fantasy or sci fi. Not a lot of Steves and Jennifers on those shelves.

Nah. Sets the reader up for martini recipes.

I grew up in schoolyards full of Cathys and Lauras and Mikes and Daves. Parents did not strive to make their kids stand out from the crowd back then, and kids with unusual names hated hearing them called out. So maybe I choose common names so as not to burden my characters. (One of my fave fictional names is Micheal in Gentlemen, so named because his parents didn’t know how to spell Michael.)

Or maybe it’s because much of my early reading was of Russian novels. I got used to replacing the name on the page with a nickname in my head (like good old Al Karamazov). Ever since, I’ve only paid attention to the first letter of anyone’s name. (Both Katsa and Katniss were Ketchup in my mind.)

Most of the character names in All Good Children were taken from maps of the USA (Dallas, Washington, Montgomery) and my spice rack (Pepper, Saffron, Bay) – but this was not from laziness. I wanted a school full of future kids to show some trends in baby names. (And let me just say, if you are expecting a baby, towns and spices offer excellent prospects. I’m naming my next dog Wheaton.)

Makes me want to search my geneology.

The craving for a unique name is modern. And I share it. My kids are not Sam and Dave but Sawyer and Daimon. (Parents of other Sawyers always want to know how old mine is, to see which of us got to the name first. Parents of other Daimons just want to know why we spell it so funny.)

It’s a toss up for me between finding a good name for this blog and just calling it any old thing because the name is not important. Honest to god, a rose by the name of sorm would smell as sweet and a Raskolnikov named Rudy would be as memorable (that’s how I remember him, anyway).

I’m giving myself one week to decide on my blog name.

Those kids next door better do something interesting between now and then.

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2 comments on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I love that name origin story. X) The mind works in ways so mysterious, they sometimes come full-circle back to in-your-face obvious.

    I’m all for unique character names, so long as they look pronounceable. My head may not be saying the names exactly as the author intended, but there’s such a thing as “close enough”. A name that looks like the writer tripped and caught herself by slamming a splayed hand on the computer keyboard, looked at the mash-up of letters and symbols, and decided she’d lucked into the name for her next protagonist? No-o-o, thank you; there’s also such a thing as “nowhere near close enough”.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what blog name you come up with. (:

    • Well, you know, I’m open to suggestions…. I looked up a few possibilities and found them already taken, several times over. Much like book titles, just when you think you’ve got a good one, you see three books with that title already. But hey, I’ve never been one to celebrate originality for its own sake. Obviously. 😉 (That’s a smile with a wink, not a typo. Well, it started as a typo but then I liked it. I may try that technique in naming my blog – I’m not knocking the splayed hand on the keyboard just yet.)

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