Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Naming Characters Is Not At All Like Naming A Baby

In case I haven't mentioned, I'm expecting.  This post makes a lot more sense with that info in hand.

To the point--naming babies is harder than naming characters.  I never considered I'd have such a tricky time pinpointing potential names for The Little Stranger, but here I am, a couple months out from zero hour, still dithering on the name front.  Completely unexpected--because character names are never an issue for me.

The Bean hanging with the Giant Bean in Chicago
Our temporary placeholder name, to avoid calling the baby "It" or "The Uterine Parasite" (for some reason that bothered my husband), is "The Bean."  This was easy to come up with, probably because it's not permanent.  We aren't stuck with calling another human being "Bean" for the rest of our lives (nor is the Bean stuck with being The Bean).  Plus I had just looked at one of those food-chart-fetal-growth comparisons and the Bean was, at that point, the size of a bean and I joked about it until it stuck.  (Can I just say I find those charts creepy?  I don't want to know that my baby is the size of a yam.  I like yams.  For eating.  I don't want to think about my baby slathered in butter with cinnamon-sugar topping.)

But that might be one reason character names are so much easier--you pick a name, you run with it, and if it's failing miserably, Word has this incredible function called "Replace."  Suddenly Rosalind is Ruby and Silas is Sawyer and you have a totally different feel in the realm of names.

I think the bigger issue, though, is that characters come fully developed (or you develop them...whichever your preferred manner of thinking about it may be).  They're full-fledged grown-up or mostly grown-up people with personalities, likes, faults, and plot arcs.  They practically tell you their names.  "Hi, I'm your headstrong female protagonist with a stubborn streak and a penchant for sticking up for the underdog but avoid conflict with my boyfriend by employing ill-timed humor and I pretty much refuse to be called something wimpy like Susie or Lily."  (I personally do not think Susie or Lily sounds wimpy, but clearly *somebody* here does.)

I've had to wait it out with some characters to spill it about their names; others blurted them out before I had even quite gotten a handle on whether they were going to be blonde or brunette. Occasionally they get a placeholder name while we suss things out.  But always at the back of my mind the search is for a name that fits the character already in place, a name that readers will identify with and strengthen the image I'm hoping they pick up on.

Yep, naming babies is kinda different.  She's not going to pick this one out for me--the husband and I have to do the hard decision making.  I guess my characters have spoiled me.

So--for fun.  What's your favorite character name you've come up with?  

1 comment:

  1. I have a hard time with character names. (Baby names weren't so hard--probably because my husband and I ended up choosing the only name that we both liked.) :)

    ReplyDelete