CHRISTINA DODD ASKS FOR HELP NAMING CHARACTERS
Sure, you’ve done it. You named your kids or your pets. You know how important this is. You worry about it, argue about it and finally come up with the perfect name. But to date I’ve written 57 published books. I’ve named literally hundreds, maybe thousands of people. I’m constantly naming heroes (must sound manly) and heroines (feminine and distinctive) and secondary characters (should reflect their personality.) And don’t forget, the reader must be able to pronounce the names!
I’ll start a book in a mad fervor when I’m jerked to a halt by a character who requires some kind of moniker, something beyond the ever-popular INSERT NAME HERE. So I go to my trusty baby name book and start the slow torturous trek through the letters. J … J is good for a hero, it’s has a strong sound. How about Jagger, that sounds manly. No, wait, I don’t want to remind the reader of Mick and his lips. Jenkins … Jenkins sounds like the butler. (Note to self: save for butler.) Jensen … gads, no, Scott’s cousins by marriage are Jensens and I don’t want to start anything with the relatives.
So finally I find a great name and what happens? It rhymes with another of the names in the manuscript. Or names are two similar (Alan and Alanna, anybody?) Or I realize I’ve used the name before. In BECAUSE I’M WATCHING, the hero was named Samuel until I realized I had recently used Samuel. When I finished the book, I used a universal word search to make the change, and now I live in fear that when I speak of Jacob, I’ll use the wrong name.
When I wrote the novella WILD TEXAS ROSE, I named the heroine Rose and the hero Thornton. I got to page 80 before I realized what I’d done; at that point one of my kids asked incredulously, “Mom, are you really naming them Rose and Thorn?”
One great thing about social media is that I can ask the readers for input. They always come through. On Facebook, a recent appeal for a dog’s name (large black and brown stray mutt, steals the heroine’s banana bread), netted me over 1000 responses!
In the past when I was too lazy — er, I mean too involved in my prose — to get the baby name book … My first book, CANDLE IN THE WINDOW, was a medieval, and the heroine was Saura of Roget. Saura, okay, that sounds medieval. But you know, you know, how I came up with Roget, don’t you? I glanced around my office, and … Well, let’s put it this way. To this day, author and friend Susan Sizemore teases me about naming a character after my thesaurus.
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