What’s in a name? So much I hardly know where to begin. I have to admit, first off, that I come up short if I count on my own fertile imagination: John, Mary, Smith, Jones…I tend to blank out. Early on, someone recommended the phone book, but that’s too many choices. I was paralyzed after reading a whole page looking for a perfect name to steal. There are online name sites that can be fun and they are particularly good if you’re searching for popular names in a given year or decade (very few Ednas in 1991, but America was drowning in Ashleys that year) or foreign names, as I have been doing for my story set in France.
I like names that give off a whiff of the character, but didn’t realize how close I’d come in my first book with “Winship (Win) Thorne” until one of my sons, both of whom far surpass me in linguistic skills, pointed out that the man with the dark drive to score big and the prickly personality was well named.
Have you noticed what I realized after bonding with my series protagonist, Danielle O’Rourke, usually known as Dani, that many female protagonists have gender-ambiguous names? Georgie, Kinsey, Jerri, Munch…could go on, but I think the underlying and perhaps unconscious aim is to avoid rendering them too stereotypically soft to deal with murderers while allowing their voices to remain female.
Sometimes, I’ll be well into a manuscript when I notice the character name doesn’t fit the personality that’s emerging. I thank the writing gods for the Search and Replace function when that happens, when the character turns out not to be a charming Robby but a manipulative Leroy.* It's odd how much the wrong name gets me off balance. Sometimes I'm not even sure what's slowing me down until I type it for the hundredth time and suddenly realize I can't see this character - he or she has become opaque to me. And I had an annoying experience recently when the perfectly named character had to have her name changed. It was Cherry, which someone pointed out was too much like cherie, the French term of endearment everyone in scenes she's in tosses around. Oh, rats.
What's in a name? Everything.
*For all the non-manipulative Leroys out there, this is where I assure you that responses to names are subjective, fickle, and say more about the person having the response than the named subject.