Monday, October 09, 2006

What's in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But we wouldn't be buying them by the bunch for our loves if they were called Cruelthorns, would we?

Today I'm trying to find a name for a character in the title-less novel I'm working on. Sometimes names settle gently in my consciousness as I develop the character, while other times it's more of a struggle.

The minor characters are often harder than the main ones. This is partly because the names have to work together. For instance, the character I'm trying to name right now is the mother of my protagonist. So in addition to the parameters of age and ethnicity (she's about 65 and Jewish), I have to be sure her name is different enough from "Marla" to keep the character distinct in the reader's mind. I asked some friends to help me out by telling me their mothers' names, and I got some great ones that I had to reject offhand. I can't use Norma or Ada or Eva, as much as I like them, because I don't want another name that ends in A. Someone else offered Geraldine, which I like for this character, but I have another main character named Gene, and I try hard to use different initials for everyone, unless I'm making a Frick and Frack point about similarities.

So right now I'm leaning toward Carol or Evelyn, though that could change at any time. One of the great things about writing a draft is that you can alter your choice at any time. Thank god for that search and replace feature.

If we could do that with children, it would be so much easier to name them, wouldn't it? Boy, did I suffer those decisions!

Speaking of children, today is a school holiday so I'm home with mine. And, I'm stranded without a car. That's a very big deal in the suburbs. But we planned it this way. My husband's car needed to be serviced, and since I don't have to do any carpooling today due to the holiday, we figured this would be a good day for me to relinquish my minivan while his Altima is in the shop.

So. The kids and I will finish the Halloween decorations, bake cookies, check over weekend homework. Doesn't that sound just perfectly domestic? Don't get too excited. The cookies are slice-and-bake. But I'm still allowed to call them homemade, aren't I?


Myfanwy Collins said...

Great post, Ellen! I find choosing names for characters so difficult. I almost often change them several times (and have been SCREWED by doing this with global search and replace before). I am always careful to choose names close to family members or friends. Have to choose names that fit the age and demographics of my characters, etc. etc.

It is something that really drives me NUTS!

Hey, hope you guys have fun decorating and baking today! xo

Susan Henderson said...

Well, if this is your way of asking if you can name the character after me, it's all right. You have my permission.

Or you can go here:

Lisa McMann said...

I like Evelyn. :)

I'll name all my aunts for you if you like... (I have an aunt Geraldine -- or Geri -- as we call her)

Rosalyn, Carolyn, Geraldine, Glenda, Carol, Lucy, and Kristi.

(okay, that was fun. Now back to work)

Ellen said...

Myf, thanks! Alas, the only one here who painted a pumpkin today was ME. But the cookies came out delicious.

Sue, you're letting me use your name in a book? Wuh-oh. You may be sorry ... :p

Lisa, thanks for those names! Of course, I already used yours in Applewood. :)