Shakespeare addressed this ageless question in the infamous play, Romeo and Juliet. He answered with, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But come on, with names like Romeo and Juliet, they were destined for a million versions of their story told and retold for centuries to come. The names bleed romance and unrequited love. Wouldn’t you say?
So, yes, a name is just a name, but when writers rack their brains for perfect names for their characters, it’s not too different from the grueling task of naming one’s children. Seriously. I often thought to myself, if I choose the wrong name, this character will be stuck with the destiny of waking up with bad name day—a much worse condition that bad hair. Because as much as we’d like to believe a name is just a name, the phonic sounds that reach our ears when we first read character names can actually determine if we will read on. Or put the book aside.
So as I sat down to name my characters a couple of years ago when I first started writing Swimming Through Clouds, I spent days searching for names that worked for my first fictional friends, taking into consideration their ethnic backgrounds, personalities, and physical appearances. And what the character’s name means played a huge factor in my decisions.
Talia’s name means “dew from heaven” and Lagan, pronounced La-gone, means “direction.” Funny thing is, I met a real live Talia that first week I began to pen my story, and I squealed in delight! “Do you know what your name means!!”
“Umm. No. My mom named me after Rocky’s wife.” [Actress Talia Shire plays Adrian Balboa.] Woman who worked at Boys and Girl’s club looks at me wide-eyed while backing away slowly.
“Dew drop from heaven!!” I am beside myself. Yeah, when I get excited, sometimes it’s hard to contain my emotions. Okay, I admit, a bit more often then sometimes. More like always.
“Great. Thanks for telling me.” She went back to minding the kids. I guess I can’t expect every person to jump on my enthusiasm train, but then again, maybe she was just weirded out that I gushed about a fictional character like she was real. Talia is real. In my head, anyway.
The name Lagan I simply loved from the get go. Until one day, I heard someone reading a scene from my book out loud. “Lag-in said…”
“Hold up. It’s pronounced, La-gone!” At which point I realized, I can’t assume everyone’s going to hit the syllable at the right spot. Makes a huge difference in how heroic his name sounds, so I cannot chance messing that up. So I did what any new writer would do in this situation: I edited a micro-scene into the book with a character who mispronounces his name. And then it gets corrected. Voila. No one will read it wrong now! Hopefully.
And with less than a month before release day, I had a name crisis. A very important reader, okay, I confess, we’re talking about my Dad, just finished reading an advance copy of my book and he had an issue with Lagan’s last name. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of why, I went ahead and changed it. I think in the end it works out for the best. The original name was to rhymy anyway, and now my Dad knows he’s made a significant contribution to my first book. And that makes me smile!
Had a much more trying name crisis right before Princess number two was born. Literally days before Nitha arrived, I scoured the internet for a new girl name. We’ve had the boy name in our back pocket since the beginning. Where it will stay since we’re happy with our four princess package. But Nitha, pronounced Nee-tha, was almost a Lydia. And I have to tell you, when Hubs and I first laid eyes on our Spring bundle of joy eleven years ago, we just knew. Yes. She’s definitely a Nitha. Which I tweaked from the name Anita, which means Grace. All our girls have Grace as a part of their names, simply because when it’s all said and done, nothing means more to me than Grace.
Swimming Through Clouds also has a mother whose name is Gita, which means “song,” and a brother named Justice. Which means, yep, justice. But he’s called, Jesse. Because he hates his name. Find out why on June 1st!
And you thought this blog was going to be about D. Rose? Didn’t you?
Have to admit, I was tempted to throw out a trash-talking one-liner to egg on Heat fans before tonight’s game. Game 3 in this playoff series [Bulls and Heat are tied at one win each,] but I’ll refrain. Wednesday’s game was a gulp-swallowing OUCH!
I’ll leave it at that.
And you? Have you ever read a book and thought, if I could rename this character? Have you ever had a name crisis right before your book came out? Or the contractions started? What name(s) screamed, “PERFECT!” from the very first pages of one of your favorite books?