What’s In A Name? – part one
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
How many times have we heard or read that line spoken by Shakespeare’s Juliet? It’s true that a rose, if it were called a boogerflack, would still smell the same. But really it would not be the same to us who have always known it as a rose.
The same could be said for the names of some of our favorite characters. Take Jericho Barrons. That name does one of two things: it either makes you cry out “what a jerk!” or it makes you cry out “forget Mac, take me instead!” But what if his name was Egor? Or Howard? I’m sure after a while the name would grow on you but I just can’t see myself daydreaming about being taken up against a building by a Howard. (Not like I do that with Barrons or anything… ;))
I don’t envy authors when they have to come up with character names. I feel like a character’s name can help make him or break him. If the name is perfect, it almost makes the character more believable and relatable.
I asked Jennifer Estep: Is it difficult or stressful coming up with the right names for your characters? Here’s what she had to say…
“It can be a little difficult and stressful trying to come with just the right name, especially for my main heroines. Since my books are written in first-person, readers are in one character’s head for the whole book/series, and you really want a name (and hopefully a character) that sticks in someone’s mind. So you want a name that’s unusual and strong enough to be memorable, but not so obscure that readers can’t figure out how to pronounce it.
Then, there’s also the consideration of how easy a name is to type. Because if it’s the name of a main or secondary character, then you are going to be typing it over and over again, and you don’t want something that you have a hard time typing – or remembering how to spell. LOL. That’s probably one of the reasons that I tend to use short first names for my heroines – Gin, Gwen, Carmen, Fiona, Bella, Abby. I think they sound and read strong on the page, and they are easy to type.
However, one of the things that frustrates me is having to come up with names for characters that I know won’t be around for long, something that happens quite often in my Elemental Assassin series, given that my heroine is an assassin. Sometimes, especially when it comes to some of the fight scenes, I wish that I could just call them Bad Guy #1 and Bad Guy #2. LOL.”
Sometimes while reading certain names, I wonder at the story behind them. What compelled an author to choose that particular name? I also wonder with all of the names from the multitude of literary names out there, what are some of their favorite character names? So to my email I went and asked a few author a few questions about characters.
I asked Gena Showalter: Why did you decide on the name Strider for one of your characters? (I asked about Strider because he is one of my favorites of her characters *grin*)
“To me, Strider from my Lords of the Underworld series was a stand out character from the very beginning. He had such a warped sense of humor, with no filter on his dirty, dirty mouth. He thrived on violence and lived for victory, and I knew he had to have a name that would do him justice. I’d heard the name Stryker while watching X-Men, and it really stood out to me. So, I played with the spelling, and eventually came up with Strider. He was like, yeah, Showalter, that’s me, and that was that. There was no going back.”
Strider comes from Gena’s Lords of the Underworld series and the next installment in that series, The Darkest Craving (Kane’s story) is due out July 30th 2013.
I asked Jenn Bennett to not only tell us about how she came about the name Jupiter (Jupe) Butler for her teenaged hero in her Arcadia Bell series and also to tell us about her favorite character name from someone else’s work
In the first Arcadia book, Jupe informs my heroine, Cady, that he was named after a poet—not the planet. The poet in question is Jupiter Hammon, the first African-American poet to be published in the U.S. (1761). He was a slave who lived in Long Island. Jupe’s surname, Butler, is taken from one of the colonists listed in the ship manifest bound for the Roanoke Colony. In this series, many (but not all) of the American Earthbound demons are descended from these colonists. So if you’re a history buff, you’ll find many other Roanoke surnames in the books—Dare, Bishop, etc.
Currently my personal favorite character name is Aida Palmer, who is a spirit medium in my new 1920s paranormal romance series for Berkley (2014). Her first name (eye-EE-da) is from my favorite opera, and her surname has a bit of a loose word association thing with palm reading.
Binding the Shadows, the third book in Jenn’s Arcadia Bell series, comes out May 28th, 2013
I asked Cecy Robson: Why did you decide on the name Celia for your main heroine in your Weird Girls series?
“When I originally struggling with what to name my hero, I had three requirements:
1. It had to be a name someone can yell loudly during danger. Seriously, this was of utmost importance. My WEIRD GIRLS series is packed with action and life and death struggles at every turn. Screaming and yelling often occurs. Hence the name couldn’t be too long that the “shouter” would trip over it. “Alexandra!” while beautiful, and one of my favorite names, is just too long to scream during a supernatural smack-down. Some would argue I could just shorten it. While I could, I didn’t want to have to.
2. My hero is the first child born from a Latina mother. I needed a name a little more ethnic to honor her heritage. But I also needed a name that an English speaker wouldn’t struggle to pronounce.
3. I also wanted name that had a significant meaning, and one that would fit my strong, kind, well-meaning protagonist.
I realize my insane requirements narrowed my selection significantly. But there was one name I always returned to: Celia. A Latin name, easy to pronounce, not overly common, and one I really liked. “Celia!” Now, doesn’t that have a nice ring to it when you scream it? Two things checked off my list. The only thing left was to discover the meaning. Would it fit a young woman that while flawed always tries to do the right thing? Turns out Celia means heaven, and that’s where she takes me every time I tell her story.”
Cecy continues Celia’s story in A Cursed Embrace, which releases July 2nd, 2013.
I asked Gini Koch: Why did you decide on the name Katherine “Kitty” Katt for your Katherine Kitty Katt series? I also asked Gini to tell us about her favorite character name from one of her books
“So, the question of the month, at least at his blog, is: why did I choose to name the hero of my Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series Jeff Martini?
I wish I had some really brilliant, clever, or witty answer. Sadly, all I have is the truth — that’s what the character told me his name was.
I know, I know, but it’s true. This series, Touched by an Alien in particular, is very organic for me. I sit down and Kitty tells me what’s going on. When I first met all the characters they told me their names as they came up in the story line, so I discovered those names at the same time as the reader does.
This includes Kitty’s name. Maybe Kitty’s name in particular. When she introduces herself as Katherine Katt, and shares that, yes, her parents call her Kitty, I actually stopped writing, turned away from the computer and said, “Kitty Katt? Your name is Kitty Katt?!?”
To which she replied, “Yes. My parents have a sense of humor. Now, keep writing.”
It’s a party in my mind.
And, yes, there is a little joke in the name Martini, seeing as all the A-Cs are deathly allergic to alcohol and so can’t drink. However, it was a joke my hindbrain came up with, not my forebrain, so I don’t have anything witty to share about that, either. Other than that I love Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante. So maybe that’s where the name came from. Yeah, yeah, that’s it! (Hey, I’ll take it.) I like the name Jeff/Jeffrey, but it’s not my all time fave, though I like it a lot more since Martini came on the scene.
Speaking of favorites, the other question is what’s behind a favorite name of mine, from any of my books. This is also hard, but not as hard as coming up with the whole lot of nothing about the thought process behind Martini’s name. I actually have something for you for this one.
James and Timothy are two of my favorite male names, ever, so I’m sure that’s why we have James Reader and Tim Crawford in the series. And, apparently I simply adore the name Charles, because Chuckie’s not the only Charles character I’ve ever written. To the point where I’ll be midway in a manuscript and realize I’ve done it again and named yet another character Charles. And no, I have no idea why I seem to just love that name, other than perhaps because it has so many nickname variations. But Chuckie’s my favorite Charles.
As the prior paragraph has clearly shown, I have a terribly hard time picking favorites, for anything (other than husband and daughter — I’ve got those down without a challenge). I tend to like all the names I come up with, or the characters come up with, depending, in part because I have to live with those names forever, so to speak, so I have to like them and they have to fit the characters.
However, I do have some names that are inside jokes for me and my family, me and my crit partner, or me and my beta team. One I particularly like is a supporting character who comes into the series in Book 5, Alien Diplomacy. I’m speaking of Guy Gadoire, who Kitty nicknames Pépé LePew because he fancies himself a great lover of men and women, and he speaks in a faked French accent.
He’s a total inside joke with me, the hubs, and the chicklet. We’re huge Pink Panther fans, and in our favorite Pink Panther movie, The Return of the Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau “disguises” himself to be undercover and proceeds to hit on the glamorous wife of the jewel thief he’s pursuing, in an incredibly bumbling and hilarious manner. The name he uses is, yes, Guy Gadoire. And yes, I giggle to myself every time Gadoire’s on the page.
Hey, what can I say? I’m a simple creature, me.”
You can keep reading Kitty and Martini’s adventures in Alien in the House. Gini’s seventh installment in her popular series hits shelves May 7th, 2013.
Come by tomorrow to see how Jaye Wells, Amanda Bonilla, Carolyn Crane and Sierra Dean answer my questions about character names 🙂
And be sure to keep reading about Gin and company in Jennifer Estep’s next Elemental Assassin book. Deadly Sting comes out March 26th 2013. (I’ve read it and it’s awesome!)