What's in a Name?

Our latest discussion in the HWG was about naming our fictional characters. I am a big fan of baby naming books and grabbing names that I hear out in the real world. Much like I grab tidbits of conversations or incidents that happen to use in stories.

I have to admit, I tend not to use trendy names, mostly timeless ones. Victoria is one of my YA characters, her cousin's name is Cameo. Lucy is my leading lady in Date with a Dead Guy, her leading man is Jad (short for Jaidev).

Kathryn Dean once gave me a critique on a chapter from The Bookstore Lady's Secret Life (also known at Take the Money and Run). Her main focus was on the name I had chosen for one particular character. The character's name was Jewish and I'm not. She starts off as an evil person which Kathryn was afraid could make me look anti-Semetic. Okay, I gave into that one even though the character had her own issues and perfectly good reasons for being nasty. (For the record, in the end she turned out to be a good person once her troubles were behind her.)

Another person who gave me a critique on the same book told me that one character's name was too close to a popular actor's name. It was, but the thought had never crossed my mind. Funny part was, he was the nasty woman's husband!

We did an interesting exercise in our HWG meeting yesterday. Richard gave us slips of paper with names on them and we had to make a character description and a bit of a plot around them. The first name I got was Robert. Robert Redford. That was where my imagination took me and stalled. I traded names and got Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Manley...stuck again. I didn't get any writing done until everyone else read their pieces. What did I end up with? Another Stereotype.

"Elizabeth had been groomed from the time she was a baby to be perfect. Her hair and makeup were flawless before she left the house each day for her job at Theodore, Eugene and Finch. Daddy always wanted her to be a lawyer. Mother tried to steer her into acting. Becoming a lawyer for actors was her version of middle ground.
On a shopping trip to Rodeo Drive, Elizabeth is taken hostage by Bill, a former client. He drives her across the country and she learns that perfect isn't always good enough."

And so ends our lesson on naming characters. I have a new story to write!


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