Sunday, March 25, 2012

What’s in a name?

**This is a blog post I wrote back on November 16, 2011 before I even had this lovely writing blog, but I was doing some more naming today and found it to be appropriate, so I decided to post it and add to it a bit with some more recent perspective.**

By InverseHypercube (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Naming is annoyingly hard. What’s in a name? Well, a lot. A name can tell you quite a bit about a person/character. With a name comes history and meaning, and can set the tone of a novel. 

So back in November, when I was first starting to nail down all of the elements of my novel, I had been trying for days to come up with the perfect name for one of the main characters. Luckily the name for the primary character came to me instantly and easily one night while I was falling asleep, but this other name put up quite a struggle. I Googled, I brainstormed, I name generated, I crowd-sourced it on Facebook, polled my friends, but still nothing was sticking. But finally, somehow I landed on one I like, or rather, I landed on two. By then I had decided I needed two names for this character...of course. But with the perspective of the last few months, I know I settled on two that fit perfectly.

Reading Divergent author Veronica Roth's post about names yesterday got me thinking more about the fact that I had gone with two names. As she discussed, names can be very powerful and when a character has multiple names, "this usually signals the beginning of some kind of transformation, or indicates that a transformation has already taken place." This is precisely what happened with my naming look forward to that. ;)

But until I settled on the fact that the character needed two names and what those names were, it was just creating a wall for me. I couldn’t write anything more without knowing who I was writing about, and that started with the name. I could already see the character in my mind and knew their personality and physical description, the only thing that was evading me was the name. But after I got the name down, things fell into place nicely. 

For some of the other characters, the names came easily, but for others, I went through the same process, trying to figure out what name best suited their personality. Luckily, none of the other names were as much of a struggle as that one character's.

All of this happened right before finals. Finals are always my best time for productivity it seems. I always want to write the most when it’s the most impractical. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, maybe I just love a challenge. Despite exams being only two weeks away, I was in full-on writing mode and loving every minute of it. The good news is that both finals and book writing went quite well, so it worked out.

Back in the present, after finishing my draft, I still had a couple of pesky name gaps where I had just left a blank and needed particularly some last names to be filled in (one of which was for that same tricky character as before!) so I had to get back on the name train--Googling, brainstorming, name generating, researching. But I think I finally found names that I'm really happy with and that have a lot of significance too, which is always awesome. I just don't know how parents do it though--naming is hard!

How have your naming experiences been? What are some of your favorite unusual names or favorite names of characters in books? I still particularly love Mara Dyer of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Peeta of The Hunger Games (speaking of which--wasn't the movie amazing??). Oh, and Jace from The Mortal Instruments Series.

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