Friday, July 18, 2014

What’s in a Name? by Cynthia Thomason

I obsess over names. Character names, children’s names, pet names. I think the moniker a person or animal is stuck with through an entire book or lifetime should be well thought out and chosen with an eye for accuracy, honesty, and longevity. In surfing the Net the other day I came across an article at centredaily.com listing the most popular girls and boys names so far for 2014. Here are the top tens: Girls: Imogen, Charlotte, Isla (Isla?) Cora, Penelope, Violet, Amelia, Eleanor, Harper, and Claire.  Boys: Asher, Declan, Atticus, Finn, Oliver, Henry, Silas, Jasper, Milo, and Jude. When I was debating the name for my own son many years ago, I came up with many creative and unusual choices, all of which my husband quickly vetoed. In desperation, I said, “Why don’t we just name him John?” My husband liked it and so it was decreed. No wonder I try to be more creative with my character names.

I have numerous naming references/books. I can tell you what a name means, what country of origin it is, how popular it is, etc. And still I never seem to be satisfied. I’ve often changed a character’s name midway through a book. Just wonder if any of you are as fixated on names and I am. Have you ever regretted any name you’ve given a child or a pet? How many times have you been completely delighted with a chosen name? How about your own name? I am a Cynthia. My mother saw Elizabeth Taylor in a movie with that name as the title a week before I was born and knew she was going to name me after that charming and beautiful teen character. Well, I’m no Elizabeth Taylor, but my mother was happy nevertheless.

I think this is such a fun topic that I’m going to choose a name at random and send the commenter a free copy of my May release, A SOLDIER’S PROMISE. If your name is unusual, I promise to spell it correctly on the mailing label.

Cynthia 

16 comments:

  1. Cynthia, I love the pick at the bottom of your post. I know of a few adults who wish they could have said just those words to their parents when alternatives were being considered.

    The most fun I have had with character names was when I asked my followers on Twitter to make suggestions. I was (perhaps surprisingly) amazed at all the excellent recommendations.

    A male name that I have heard often recently is Logan. One of our dogs is named Logan. My editor has a cat named Logan. The daughter of our friends in Texas will marry a Logan this December and MIRA author Elizabeth Heiter has a male protagonist in one of her upcoming books named Logan.

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  2. I had fun last week when friends on Facebook named an antagonist in my WIP. Like Kate, I got a ton of great recommendations.

    I like the name Cooper. Not sure if it's because I watched GENTLE PERSUASION lately or what, but I think it's a strong, gentle name. :-)

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  3. Wow that is some list of names. I feel sorry for some of those children that are going to be stuck. yikes. I always disliked my name growing up because I never met anyone with the name Sandra. Now as an adult, I meet them all the time. Where were they when I was a kid? lol. I love my name now btw. And like you, I have name books and really do enjoy picking a name for my characters. It is fun to match the personality. Of course that is what makes writing fun. We can come up with what tickles our imagination. Thanks for doing that today.

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  4. I am the youngest of five and my mom allowed my older siblings to name me! (Who does that?) They chose Carol after a favorite aunt. (And my middle name after our grandmother.) I wasn't too crazy about it when I was younger because I thought only old people were named Carol.LOL But I was always honored to share my beloved aunt's name. I love to name characters now but I seem to get myself into trouble by making too many of them sound the same (like ending in a "y" sound or starting with the same letters etc.) I change character names often....let's just say I'm very familiar with that find/replace tool in Word(:

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  5. I have always loved names. As a kid I used to sit around and write lists of names I'd someday name my kids. They're lucky I didn't choose any of the far-out names I picked. Like all of you I have a lot of baby name books. Some by ethnic origin. I spend a lot of time choosing a name, and it's hard when sometimes I'm asked to change a name when I send in an outline. I'm never sure why that is, maybe they've seen too many characters by that name or something. But the character has lived in my head as that so I sometimes goof up and type it midway through. I worked 12 years for 3 pediatricians and my favorite part was seeing what new parents named their kids. Few babies were ever homely, but one I recall was and I searched for something positive to say when the mom came to the window. I thought, oh, she'll have a cute name---no this was when girls were being named Dawn, Shelley, Kim and Shannon--well, you get the idea. This mother said her baby's name was Mabel Inez. I'll never forget how shocked I was. I hope she grew up to be beautiful.

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    1. Me too, Roz. A beautiful name can make a difference in a kid's life.
      Cynthia

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  6. I was introduced to a woman at a friend's party, and she shook my hand and said, "Oh. I have a goat named Muriel." It's a funny-sounding name and old-fashioned, and in literature and films it's often the name given a quirky old woman or a not very nice person. Remember Muriel in "It Could Happen to You?" I am the youngest of 15, so I think the parents were pretty desperate by the time I came along. I'm named after the friend of an older sister. I love naming characters, even though I've also changed names several chapters into the book. It has to feel right. Our children were adopted together when the youngest was four, so they came pre-named - Michael, Patrick, and Kathleen. (Yes, half Irish.) Cooper is a lovely name, but I've heard the caution that one should be careful what kids on the playground could rhyme it with. Fun to think about, Cynthia!

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    1. Oh my gosh, I never thought of the rhyming aspect--I think you just spoiled it for me, Muriel. :-)

      I read a book by Debra Clopton this week, in which the horse's name is Myrtle May--just like my grandmother. Grandma would get a huge laugh out of that--and so would Grandpa!

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    2. Too funny, Muriel! Poor Cooper the ... Youngest of 15! Wow.

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  7. I love names! I start out by looking up names with the same meaning as one of my characters personality traits. Sometimes it fits. Sometimes not. In my last story, my hero and the heroine's father both started with the same letter. Several people told me to change one of their names to avoid confusion, but I haven't been able to do it yet. In my head, that is their name. I couldn't tell my friend Lisa to change her name because it started with an "L". I'll just have to be much more careful next time!

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  8. One of my dear childhood friends received a biblical name. She is Dorcas. I know she'd rather have been a Nadine or Cindy. Do any other Heartwarming authors find they are drawn to use the same names over and over again? As I approach the 20 story mark, I have serious blanking issues when I name.

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  9. As a reader I find that books I've read lately contain similar or the same first or last names, and I've often wondered how authors come up with names for their books. Sometimes I think about what I'd name characters or pets if I ever wrote a book. Coincidentally, I've always loved the name Cynthia, I think because I like the nickname "Cyn". And I always felt that Cynthia sounds sophisticated. My daughter's name is Stephanie, and it fits her. My name, Laurie, is so common I want to scream sometimes!! My 2 dogs were named Kia and April, and my current cat is Kit-Kat. But I love the name my uncle gave his Shepherd/pit bull mix; Pebbles. She looks a little vicious to be named Pebbles, that's why I think I like it so much. ( :

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  10. I named my son Michael because I never taught a Michael I didn't like. Who knew it was number two the year he was born. There are Michaels everywhere.

    As a teacher, I can tell you that there are Brittney's in the early 20's age. And none of them spell it the same. There's Brittney, Britney, Brittany, Britany, and so on. My sister name one of her three girls an unusual name and the biggest complaint was she couldn't find jewelry with her name on it. True. She'd always get necklaces that said, SMART GIRL or CUTE GIRL while her sisters got their names.

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  11. Growing up I didn't like my own name - Marcella and the first day of school I made sure the teacher knew to call me Marcie.
    Now that I've been out of school a VERY long time, I finally like my name.

    And like Pamela said - growing up I couldn't find jewelry or anything that came with a name on it. Oh there's Mary and Marie, but never a Marcie or Marcella to be found.
    To this day with all the unusual names, I still can't find me.
    It used to bother me, but now I'm proud to be unusual!

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  12. I was born in 1976, and in the spirit of the bicentennial, my mom wanted to name me Betsy Ross--first name Betsy, middle name Ross. I don't mind the name Betsy, but that combination is a little much. Thankfully, my dad won out and I'm Christine!

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  13. When I was looking for a pen name after an editor didn't like the initials P. T. I wanted to keep the Bradley, so I was running names by my mother when she said, "Well, I wouldn't have named you Patricia if I hadn't thought it was pretty. So guess what my pen name ended up...

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