Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's All in the Name

When I wrote my first story, I named the heroine Stephanie. Yes, creative, eh? (hint: that's my own name). I couldn't think of any other names, so why not? And I named the hero Dave because, well, it was a good solid male name, right? Life was good. Life was simple.

Then I went to write my next book, I realized I had to think of more names. No problem. I had lots of family and friends.

My next several books were stocked with characters I was related to, and various derivations of their names. My brother's name is Benjamin Oliver Davis. I had a Ben, a Benji, an Ollie. It's amazing how much you can do with one name!

Then I had my friend Lori read one of my books. Let's just say, she wasn't too fond of the character I'd named after her. "Why do I have to be the stuck-up, idiot, b*tch roommate? Is that what you think of me?" Then someone told me that an author had recently been sued by a friend for using their name in a book without permission (I'm over-simplying the lawsuit, but suffice to say, it got me thinking).

Um... perhaps it was time to rethink my strategy.

Off to the bookstore for a baby name book. Do you have any idea how many baby name books there are? I decided I didn't need one with etymology or one-of-a-kind illustrations by famous authors, so I bought the cheapest one with the most names and got to work.

Brilliant! Life was easy again.

Until I realized that I kept picking the same names over and over again. They rolled nicely off my tongue. Why not?

Because if I ever sold all my unpublished manuscripts, the readers would think I was writing one long series with the same characters and that might get a wee bit confusing--"Why is this woman now a lawyer in Boston, when she used to be a blacksmith in Maine? That's quite the rapid career change." Hmm... time to regroup again.

So I created an excel spreadsheet into which I entered every manuscript I'd ever written. I had a column for the hero's first name, the heroine's first name, both their last names, and then first and last names of prominent secondary characters. Each time I started a new story, I checked my spreadsheet and updated it. Excellent. Name issues: over.

Until one day, I couldn't find my baby name book. (Translation: I could not reach it without hauling my butt out of my desk chair and standing up). So I did a google search and came up with some sweet baby naming websites. The only problem was that I couldn't simply browse the entire database. I had to do a search of some sort.

And this is when everything changed for me. I started doing searches by meaning, and a whole new world was opened to me. I used to roll my eyes at people who said they spent hours laboring over the right name for their heroine; not anymore. I have fallen in love with the naming process. I don't pick names until I have my characters fleshed out, and then I have to find the right name for them. I search by meaning, by how it sounds, by country of origin, how strong it is (I hate wimpy names for my women!) For the names of the otherworld entities in my paranormals, I do a lot of playing around on a latin translation site and searching by meaning on the name sites. It's a total blast, and once I settle on a name for my characters, I can't change it. The name becomes who they are as much as their personality and their past.

My name is Stephanie Rowe, and I am a name junkie.


Visit Stephanie on the web or read her blog.
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1 comment:

Trish Milburn said...

Neat post. I have a big Post-It on my desk that lists my heroes' and heroines' names so I can see them at a glance.