What’s in a name?
I don’t have any special way of picking names for my characters. They’re random choices, a fixture I need so I can put my idea into the computer. I chose Emmy Lou, the character in “Just Like Em” because I liked the name. But typing a two word name was time consuming, so I reduced it to Em with the intention of doing a search later and changing Em to Emmy Lou. Well, my character balked. She liked Em and her ex-husband was the only one who used her full name, so I kept Em. Also, the hero called her “Auntie Em” after the aunt in The Wizard of Oz. At first it was a derogatory putdown because he couldn’t stand the brat who was destroying his love life. Eventually it became an endearment.
Did I start out with that idea? Absolutely not.
We’re not supposed to use similar names in our stories that might confuse our readers. The hero’s thirteen-year-old daughter is Samantha and Em’s seven-year-old son is Sammy. Red flags! But throughout the book, Sammy wants to change his name because Sammy is a girl’s name. Heaven forbid that he should be stuck with the same name as a girl. Happily my editor agreed and the two names stayed in the book.
My own, name
, has had a few problems. Marion is actually the
male equivalent of Marian and half the time people write my name with an “a”
instead of an “o.” Did you know John Wayne’s first name was Marion ? He didn’t like it and took the
nickname Duke. I have a male friend with my name, and he also uses a nickname.
In fact, it’s only recently that I even learned we shared the same name. Marion
Then there’s my married name, Ekholm. It’s Swedish. The German equivalent contains a “c,” and I have to constantly check my name to be sure it’s spelled correctly, especially on legal documents.
You’d think with all these problems I’d take a pseudonym, maybe even use my maiden name. No way. Can you imagine all the problems I’d have with Suess? That too is a German name meaning sweet. And it is not spelled the same as Dr. Seuss. My father was adamant about pronouncing it “cease” and my brother and I corrected people straight through my wedding day, when I could happily drop it. Everyone confused it with the famous writer and after my father’s death, my brother no longer corrected people.
I’m fascinated with names. When I find someone with an unusual name or a spelling different from the norm, I ask how that came about. And the stories I get are wonderful ideas that I can use in another book.
How do you chose your character’s names? Are you happy with your own name or do you prefer a pseudonym?