18 July, 2017

Name That Character... #BadIdea

It Reeks of Thirst

I'm on a one-woman crusade to bring back David, Thomas, Michael, and Rory; Bettina, Louise, Susan, and Mary in Historical Romance novel Character names.

As for Contemporary Romance... this is even more of a problem and wouldn't mind seeing a return of the once-popular Jason and Jennifer overload.

Because I never liked my own name and didn't have a middle name to fall back on, names have always been something of a rawhide issue with me.

I adore some, cringe at others, and today, through social media, names have taken on even more meaning for me.

Name memories have a far greater impact on my psyche than I care to admit or even want them to do.

I think most of us can agree that when we meet someone (Laura) we can't help but be thrust back in time (Jr High) to that awful bullying period that ruined your Jr High experience AND your self esteem.

And, yeah, with time the wounds do heal themselves.

One of my favorite movies of all time continues to be Laura of all things.

I just don't know that I would ever be able to name a main character Laura as easily as I would like to give it to a bitchy antagonist in the same novel.

I have my personal list of lovely and awful names for guys and gals, but am afraid that if I list them here that people will take offense!

So, I'll use it in a vlog post.

About That Name You Chose for Your Latest Novel

A long, long time ago, when I first started out as an aspiring Romance novelist, I used to really, REALLY enjoy a part of the process known as 'name that character'.

I'd pour over Baby Name books (pre-online days) and pick out the most obnoxious, unheard of, and frankly, the dumbest names I could find.

Always with the notion that they were just too cool to ignore!

But as I'd start writing the actual story, doubts would begin to crop up about my choices, and then I would feel stupid and change everything.

So, Isolde became Betty, and Maximilian became Joe.

Yeah, that's about right.

Safer, and far less... out on a precarious limb.

Then, about half-way through the novel, I'd get another inkling to revert back to the wild and reckless names I'd set my heart on.

"Damn the readers! This is my work and I'm proud of my choices!"

And then, toward the ending of the novel, I'd come to my senses and Isolde became Irene and Maximilian became Mark.

Close enough.

Extremely safe choices I could be proud and content with having used.

But, as I got older, I started to realize that there is so much more to a name than like/dislike, or sound appeal, or even something as obvious as goes-with-the-face or personality.

I matured and so did my way of choosing Character Names for my novels.

Although I still tend to gravitate toward the unusual and rare among Character names.

I draw the line at popular, hipster, edgy, and now, though.

I became interested in origins, meaning, and variations on even the most mundane names, like... where DOES Betty come from, and why does no one get that Lori is short for Lorraine?

Names mean a great deal to me, as I'm sure they do with a few other authors out there.

If you are going to choose a pretentious name, it can't be helped that I, as a reader, am going to hearken back to my childhood days of delighting in the same types of ridiculous and haughty choices I found in that Baby Name book.

Most of us are painfully aware of the fact that 'popular' isn't always 'brilliant' in the permanent choice department.

23 Names Parents Regret

In my day, Popular included Lisa, Cindy, and Debbie, and then it was Heather, Brittany, Jennifer, Jessica, and Hailey.

Times change and so do people's opinions... about a lot of things, including name choice, and I just think it is wise for an author to steer clear of anything 'hip' for the simple sake of wanting their FUTURE readers to also enjoy their work.

And that using 'fad' (outlandish) names in Historical Romance is a really bad idea.

I've seen a lot of weirdness lately, and none of it is cute or acceptable -- more like I am so put off by your stupid choice that I am not going to read your novel.

Names like Ford and Casey, Chase and Whitney, Sterling and Megan

(MEGAN - According to a number of online sources about Name Origin, Megan is Welsh, originally a pet form of Meg or Meggie, which is a short form of Margaret. So, the woman's name in a Regency would be Margaret, with her family and closest friends referring to her as Meg. AND, in the English-speaking world, outside of Wales, Megan has only been regularly used since the middle of the 20th century.)

That's the 1950s, folks -- not Regency or even Victorian eras.

If you did your homework and discovered cars weren't invented, bathrooms didn't flush, video games weren't the rage, and pantyhose didn't exist yet, why aren't you also looking into whether or not a 'name' was in use at that time?

The history of names and surnames is fascinating if you bother to dig a little deeper into such treasure troves of information (online or otherwise).

Country origin, Meaning, Religious Significance, etc.

Despite how we feel about it today, it wasn't always 'a thing' to name a child.

99% of the time, a child was named after a relative and most assuredly had a Religious aspect.

A Last name (surname) being used as First name is relatively new as well and would not be a likely 'thing' back in the day, so to do it in a Regency means the author isn't even trying.

When I read Historical Romance, it always dumbfounds me how the H is presumably living in and a long-time descendant of Scotland, yet has a name like Colin McFly, or Willem McCool.

If said H is a true Scottish descendant and living back in the 17th or 18th Century in your story, he'd most definitely have the almighty A as in MAC and not a Mc (which happens to be of Irish descent) -- unless his ancestors were accused of horse thieving.

The British were in the habit of taking away that all-important A in a MAC-name if the MAC were thieving or doing something else illegal.

The first time I saw my father's birth certificate (he arrived here from Lithuania as a wee lad), I couldn't read his last name.

Pop told me that a lot of foreigners gave the immigration official their legal documents with surname in its proper spelling/pronunciation, and the Americanized worker simply wrote down what he heard or what he could devise from the legal documents he'd been handed.

Hence my 'new' last name.

Others were told by an immigration official what their surname meant in English, and the foreigner would decide to go with that name instead.

As was the case with my old friend's Grandfather, whose last name went from Norwegian Hull to English Hole (and, like me, she was determined to have her name legally changed back to Hull once she came of age).

Fascinating stuff, loads of history and backstory for you to delve into if you bother to look.

BACK IN THE DAY, people didn't just up and roam the continents, meet new folks, get married to a foreigner, and take up new roots along with a new surname.

That isn't how it was done (least of all with the British Aristocracy).

And when the Crusaders returned from The Holy Land, they weren't apt to insist their wives name their offspring Ahmed, Raheem, or Jasmine, either.

Using a trendy name in a Historical context is the equivalent of not having researched the time period for which your story is based.

Poor judgement = Poor readership

Yet, I'm sure seeing a hip name on the cover and peppered throughout a blurb is a surefire way to reach that all-important YA audience.

Popular has a way of blowing up in ones face if you aren't extremely careful.

Say, 3 or 6 years down the road? Someone picks up your book to read and sees Dax and Mallory in the blurb and proceeds to laugh herself silly, close to hysterical tears AND peeing herself in the book store.

Before I'm accused of being a snob, let me say that I still tend to gravitate toward the hippy-freak names when coming up with them for a story.

I can't help myself so don't really presume to be above anyone else in the name-that-character department.

I like unusual names but simply loathe, despise, and detest Popular Anything.

In my first novel, I chose Liv for a reason, and not because it's a trendy, cool name.

She isn't even aware of what her real name is.

It is a big part in the story line, which is for her to finally discover the truth about her past and about her real family still living in another country.

I chose Neal because I think it is a nice-enough Great Britain type name.

In my second Contemporary, I chose Kaisa because I searched online for girls names in a particular country where her roots originate, and again, because it is an integral part of the story's plot.

It is also quite common (today) in that region where her ancestors once lived.

Her and Perry's ancestors are tied together in a way that leads the two on a merry chase for much of the story, so I wanted to be as authentic as I could get about naming them both without their being generic American or Hipster annoying.

In the Contemporary Series I'm currently working on about 3 Brothers and a Sister, I again went with Origin first, Meaning second, and this time... ring the cliche bell for me please... they all begin with the letter I.

Iliya, Inigo, Ivan, and Ivy.

See, I can be ridiculous about names, too.

They are unique, but more importantly, UNpopular.

They also happen to be quite common in the region of the world where the lads ancestors originally hailed (except for hers, but there is a legit reason).

As for the plethora of abhorrent Contemporary names being tossed at us (and overused), I have yet to grow comfortable with any of them.

They are all so in-your-face and Look How Edgy I Am that it is a huge turn-off and doesn't help to sell your work to this particular reader.

And from a much more creepy viewpoint...

... please realize how uncomfortable it is to be reading a heady Romance novel by night, and then by day I'm taking care of a bunch of snot-nosed brats who share the same name as the Hero/Heroine in the novel.




I just think that if you are going to spend any effort on a novel of any type that you should also devote as much time to the naming of your main characters.

Resist the cutesy, over-used hipster names, please.

It is a PSA to all authors out there who are right now contemplating Cullen or Bowen and Kenzie or Diaphanous for character names.

Please don't.

Do yourself and your mature readers a huge favor and BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD.

Go get another cup of tea and spend a few extra minutes thinking just a little bit harder about those name choices you're so set on using in your latest novel.

Leave the edgy, will-soon-fade-away names to the clueless parents who will end up writing BuzzFeed articles titled "I So Regret Naming My Child xxx"

Don't be the sad, disillusioned author who writes a similar BuzzFeed article titled "I So Regret Naming My Characters xxx"

Don't do that to yourself (or to your Fed Up to Here With the Silly Name Choices readers).

Word cloud made with WordItOut

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