Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sophie Sophie, Bo Bophie, Banana Fanna Fo Fophie...


I remember being so proud of myself when I finally learned how to sing that song in, like, 3rd grade. And I also remember my class trying to con our music teacher into letting us sing it with the name "Buck." Good times.

So today I won't be talking about agents or publishing or any of those other things keeping me awake at night (although I will say that I got another request for a full manuscript today! That makes 4 agents who currently have my book in their hot little hands. Squee!) Today I want to talk about names, specifically character names and how you come up with them. I have a lot of names in my book, so I'll only be talking about my main characters.


Ah, Sophie. The only name that came easy to me. I knew when I started writing that I wanted my main female character to have a strong, goddess-y type name. We love goddess-y names in our house; my husband REALLY wanted to name our baby Artemis before we found out it was Small Son and not Small Daughter. Anyway, my goddess-y names were kind of limited to Diana and...um... yeah, see what I mean? So I went the Gnostic route and named her Sophia, or Sophie. Her name means "wisdom" and (MAJOR OVERSIMPLIFICATION AHEAD!) she was sort of like the most human of the divine beings in Gnostic mythology. She "fell" and in doing so created the material world. I kind of love that. A god who f#%&s up and in doing so creates humanity.(Also, Sophie's mom's name is Grace. Not an accident, that) Not that my Sophie is that awesome, of course, but it's as good a name as any for a girl who struggles with the "divine" nature inside her. Plus, I really, really loved Howl's Moving Castle, and sweet, stubborn, brave Sophie who is that book's heroine. I gave her the middle name Alice- also her great-grandmother's name- after my favorite female character in all literature, Alice from Alice in Wonderland. As for Mercer... that just came to me. Fit well, sounded good, moving on!


One day I will write an entire post on Archer and how he was such a gift from the writing gods. I really hate when writers say, "Oh, this character just appeared and took over the story! He/She wouldn't do anything I told him/her too!" I always find this a bit...precious, I guess. I create my characters; they do what I make them do (And in this way, I am GRAND EMPRESS OF THE UNIVERSE! MWA-HAHAHA!) But it is true that sometimes your Muse (mine's named Kira- see Xanadu post) just shoves this character into your book who is so much better than whoever you had initially, and that was Archer for me. He just seemed to spring onto the pages, leaning against a tree, saving Sophie from a werewolf, and snarking with the best of them.


Anyway, Magically Delicious Archer didn't have a name at first. Luckily, I was writing in Barnes and Noble the day he appeared and was able to mosey my way to the baby name books. I found one that dealt with unusual names, because I knew I needed something different for this guy, but something that sounded rich and classy. So, under a heading about last names for first names, I found Archer. I tried it on him and it just fit, as did the last name Cross. A last name that had orginally belonged to...


Poor Jenna. She started the book as a happy, ditzy Faery Princess named Lexie Cross and became loner, angst ridden Vampire, Jenna Talbot. Her transformation from Faery to Vamp had to do with plot purposes (I had to have everyone hold Sophie's roommate responsible for a series of attacks. Initially, people blamed Faery Lexie because she had a Vamp boyfriend. Then Kira the Muse choked me with her legwarmers and tortured me with hot shrimp from the barbie (just... go rent Xanadu. You'll have to if you ever want to understand this blog), and I realized that- DUH- the plot would be a helluva lot easier if LEXIE were the Vamp. Sigh. Occam's Razor and all that. But about the name. She got the Cross ripped away from her when Archer came in the picture, so I gave her Talbot because I'd once taught sisters with that last name. Then I realized I had a lot of "ie" names in the book, so Lexie had to go. I decided she needed a very simple, all-American name, and Jennifer- Jenna- she became!


Another easy name. I don't watch The Hills (it makes me feel sad. And angry. And old. They drink Red Bull for fun. That's a generation gap, right there.) However, I DO read the recaps on Television Without Pity, as they are snarky and fun. Apparently, there's a girl named Elodie somewhere in there. I just loved that name ( "like Melody without the 'm'" as Sophie comments ) It's pretty and flowy, and like Archer, it sounds rich. "Parris" was the last name of one of the main Salem Witch Trials accusers, and since the SWT feature in my mythology, I wanted to use it.


No first name for you, Cal! I know it, but I'm not quite ready to reveal it yet. Now, when you read the book, should the book ever come out in print (God willing!), you will think, "Wait... didn't Rachel say in that rambling blog post about names that Cal was a main character? He's in, like, three scenes. And he only talks in one!" To which I say, don't worry. Cal comes back in a BIG way in Books 2&3. Anyhoo, I did the whole "last name only" thing because I love it. I picked Callahan because it's a great last name. That and Shannahan are my two favorite last names ever. Well, those and LaFrance, which is the last name of a friend of mine, and AWESOME. When I was a teenager, there was a family we knew named Shannahan and I full on wanted to marry their son even though I NEVER MET HIM. I just wanted to be Rachel Shannahan. Oh, well. Hawkins ain't so bad.
So Cal. I went with Callahan over Shannahan because "Cal" is a FAR superior mnickname for a guy than "Shan." Plus,I have a wee obsession with James Dean (6 biographies of him on their own special shelf. Ahem.), and Cal is also the name of my favorite James Dean character ever, Cal Trask, in East of Eden. So Cal it was. Although Cal as a character is not even remotely James Dean-like. Much more like Dean Winchester from Supernatural. And that, too, is a post for another day...

So there we have it! The inspiration behind the names in Too Near the Glass. And now, a question: Do names ever affect your enjoyment of a book? If the name of the love interest is the same as a person you hate (or, god forbid, your parent) does that make the book harder to read for you? Have you ever NOT bought a book because of names?


Felicia said...

Hehehe I love my name...that's why I hyphenated. I think somehow I knew I would take it back. lol That sounds bad. I suck.
I love your method for picking names. I can't wait to read the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Okay I know this was posted like two years ago but I just feel like commenting:)
For me, the name of a character in a book has nothing to do with people I know in real life. It's kind of like someone else with the same name; I don't think of one when I read about the other.
Also, the only way names affect my enjoyment of a book is if they are either so close that I get characters mixed up or they are not pronounceable.

the Cookie Bunny said...

Oh, gosh, I'm going to pull the fangirl routine right now because I just finished reading your book and I'm brimming with sparkles and giggles and the sort. And yes, I am aware that this reply is two years late.
To answer your question, I'm both picky and non-picky about the names because reading in English ensures they are COMPLETELY different from those in my language, Romanian. What does bother me most of the time is when the main character has such a weird name that even the author feels the need to explain how it's supposed to be pronounced. It can be a real distraction-picture someone mouthing the name like a fish out of water every few pages to get used to it. I can't tell you how relieved I was that Sophie and the others have such beautiful names.