Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Monikers Matter!


What's In a Name?

For me, everything. I spend hours finding just the right names for the characters in my novels. Until I find the perfect names, I can't even begin to outline the book. Same thing when it comes to a book title. I must have a title before I can begin writing the book! Crazy, huh?

Oh, I have tried to push on without the names hammered down, but I don't get anywhere. I have even named a hero, written two chapters, decided the name wasn't right, stopped in my tracks to rename the hero, and then I had to write the two chapters over again because the hero changed completely in my mind when he had a new name.

Names conjure up certain images in my imagination. It doesn't matter to me if my friends don't like the names. I have had my best writer friend say, “I hate that name. You must change the heroine's name. It's awful.” But I shrugged and stuck to my guns. She had been christened and I was well pleased with her, name and all.

After I have the names, then I create a character profile for each one. Not just a physical description, but what makes the character tick. What is he/she frightened of? Where is the person most vulnerable? What happened in the past to shape this person? When this character looks in the mirror, what does he/she see? I might write a whole page on the main characters and half a page on the supporting characters. I add to the profiles as I write the book. That helps me to not forget story threads and character details.

Secondary characters can often benefit from a name that conjures up an image or goes well with their personality. For example, a short cowpoke might be dubbed “Shorty” and “Stumpy.” The wagon train cook could be called “Cookie” or “Skillet.” An auburn-haired saloon gal might be “Garnet” or a round-faced preacher could be named “Pastor Moon.” In this way, it becomes easier for readers to recall secondary characters who might not pop up in your story often.

If an editor asked me to change a name, she or he would have to possess an airtight reason for it, and chances are, the editor would lose the battle. Years later, when I hear one of my hero's names or my heroine's names, I can immediately see them in my mind's eye and I can hear them in my writer's ear.

I have caved in and changed a book's title at the request of an editor/publisher. And I rue each title that was changed. A couple of them are my least favorite and, frankly, are senseless. They could be slapped on practically any romance book.

I am genuinely fond of the hero and heroine in each of my novels and even a few of the secondary characters. They are my creations, names and all.

It is the season of giving. Give yourself more time this month to daydream and to write -- and to think of some lovely names!


Julie Lence said...

I have to like my character names, too, or else I cannot write the story. As the author, I think that's our most important connection to the story. I've been lucky in that I've chosen and kept my titles, and I did learn not so long ago, I had 2 characters with the same name in one of my books. Good thing one appeared at the beginning of the story and the other in the middle. Thanks for sharing Deborah.

Deborah said...

Julie, thanks for your feedback. By they way, you can call me Debby. :-)