"God must love the common man, He made so many of them..." Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Name Game

This week I had the chance to attend a reading by one of my favorite authors. Of course it was great and so was the Q & A afterwards. But I had a question and didn’t ask it – I was overcome by celebrity cowardice. My question is, I think, something any writer of fiction has grappled with and must, at some point, find an answer. So here’s the burning question – how are characters’ names chosen?

Names are fascinating and so is the process of choosing a name. Volumes of baby names have been published and every year the media shares the Top Ten most popular boy and girl names. Where I work, I run across new names on a daily basis. Some are great, some are not so great, and some…well…I just hope those poor kids will change them when they grow up. I’ve met babies named after seasons, colors, movie stars, foods, constellations, plants, cars, historical figures, and geographical locations. I’ve met babies whose names are in the II, III, and even IV recycling. After more than 20 years of meeting babies, I have come to learn that names don’t reflect their ‘owners’ so much as they reflect the parents. What were some of those parents thinking at that oh-so-crucial naming moment? It’s practically cruel and unusual punishment to tag a sweet innocent baby with an awful moniker in the hopes of being unique or distinctive.

That’s what I worry about when I name my characters. I want them to be memorable, but not because of a ridiculous name. I’ve had a female villain in mind for a while now and I just can’t find the right name for her. I must have been subconsciously stewing about it the other night because I dreamed about her and she was named Saffron. No kidding. So where exactly did that name come from? Too much Food Network before bed? Too many yellow paint swatches taped to the kitchen wall? It’s truly a name dilemma – but I just can’t have my evil villain sounding like a Spice Aisle Girl.

And so the burning question continues to burn.